Thursday, June 12, 2014
If you’re anything like me, you’ve survived the first week of summer vacation and now you’re thinking, “Ack! What am I going to do with these kids for the next few months?” Fear not! The Texas Nature Challenge will help you fill your days with adventures. Co-administered by the Texas A&M Forest Service and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, the Texas Nature Challenge kicked off back in April and continues through the end of July. Its goal is simple: to get families and kids outdoors.
The Texas Nature Challenge provides a great opportunity to explore new venues for adventure and to rediscover some old favorites through nature-focused eyes. Families who want to be contenders can register their teams here and begin downloading challenges immediately. In order to compete, teams should keep a journal or notebook of their experiences. (The minimum requirement is to keep printouts of the challenges with notes.) Those who are really serious can even document their accomplishments on the official participant blog.
There are over 20 challenges in the Central Texas Region covering a wide range of activities--from letterboxing and hiking to crafting and fishing--in locations as close as your backyard and as far as Inks Lake State Park. There are even a couple of upcoming events scheduled exclusively for Texas Nature Challenge participants. (Unfortunately for my team, these seem to have a recommended age of 10+.)
Here’s a sampling of my family’s Texas Nature Challenge feats thus far…
Westcave Preserve Scavenger Hunt:
Walnut Creek Greenbelt Geocaching:
Wild Basin Scavenger Hunt:
|"Take a photo in front of the tree. Instead of 'cheese,' say 'achoo'."|
Teams aren't required to complete all the challenges in order to attend the closing ceremonies or to win awards, which will be given for a variety of accomplishments based on the submissions received. To participate in the closing ceremonies, scheduled for August 9th at the Austin Nature & Science Center, teams are required to complete and turn in their submissions by the end of July. Final submissions can either be posted to the Texas Nature Challenge website, e-mailed to Central Texas coordinator Jennifer Chapman, or brought to the Austin Nature & Science Center.
Heck, there’s nothing saying you have to register or compete at all. You can just tackle the challenges at your leisure and enjoy a good excuse to get outside. Is your family road-tripping within the state this summer? Challenges from the other five regions would guarantee some fun outings to spice up your travels. My 7 year-old says, “It’s like a game, a hike, and a challenge all in one. I like getting out of the house and seeing nature.” So get out of the house and see some nature, y'all.
Note: Although participation in the Texas Nature Challenge is free, admission fees are charged at some of the challenge sites.
In her life before kids, Emily held jobs as a zookeeper, a middle school teacher, and a tour bus driver in the wilds of Montana--not one of which prepared her for the adventures of motherhood. Now she’s living the good life in Austin with her husband, two sons and a Great Dane. When she’s not off gallivanting with her boys, you might find Emily baking up a mean batch of cupcakes, recalling obscure 80s song lyrics, or dreaming of peace and quiet.