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Schroeder Earns M.O.L.T. Certification

Camping will be a part of the programming offered to afterschool students and their families after ACE director Steve Schroeder obtained his Texas Outdoor Families certification. The program was offered through the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and camping trips will be part of the program in April.
“Completing the certification gives me the tools to introduce others to the beauty and majesty of our state parks and pass on the passion for them,” said Mr. Schroeder.

The reason behind Texas Outdoor Families is to introduce parks and nature to people who might not experience them, especially youth since the average age of a park user is 47 and only about a third of visitors bring children with them. Children are spending more and more time indoors.
“We need to raise a generation that will protect our natural resources,” said Mr. Schroeder. “One of the best ways to get the next generation to care about the parks and all of nature is to build strong, happy memories of being in nature.”
Mr. Schroeder spent three days camping along with other participants and representatives from Partners for Education Agriculture and Sustainability, Latino Outdoors, Sierra Club, Texas Baptist Men, and Explore Austin, who taught various camping skills including knot tying, games to engage the kids, exploring nature, assuaging fears, using a Dutch oven, “Leave No Trace” cleanup, and event planning.
He also “toured the trailer,” with equipment for up to 20 families of six to camp for up to two nights, he said. The trailer included tents, cots, sleeping pads, cooking gear, lanterns, first aid, activity books, tools, fishing gear, a projector system for a presentation on sounds of the night, and an assortment of other items.
“It is the best professional development I have ever had,” said Mr. Schroeder.
There are several issues that Texas Outdoor Families aims to overcome, said Mr. Schroeder. Those include cost with gear provided so families do not need to make the investment in gear beyond sleeping bags or blankets, fear of nature with specific activities to raise awareness of how to care for nature so it does not bite you so you learn to recognize the sounds and enjoy them rather than fear them, inconvenience (the group reserves the park area), and awareness.
Mr. Schroeder is planning an April 21-22 family camping trip to Buescher State Park. Activities will include setting up campsites, a hike, fishing, a communal meal and the overnight stay.
He is also planning more outings in the spring and fall, and depending on location, the event may include horseback riding, swimming, birding, kayaking, flora and fauna identification and “whatever specialty the park might have.”
“The lessons will be mainly to develop a passion and appreciation for nature,” said Mr. Schroeder. “The main goal is that families have a good time and want to continue enjoying that park.”
The certification was paid for by a recent grant given to the city for outdoor activities for youth and families in a partnership with the ACE afterschool program. The grant also paid for the recent Outdoor Wildlife program, Falconry program and Buescher State Park youth trash cleanup, all programs presented to students in the ACE program.
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