Environmental education and outreach by the Galveston Bay Area Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists is expanding to Galveston Island schools for the first time.
The local chapter of the statewide environmental group, which spearheads numerous programs to educate locals about how to be responsible stewards of regional coastal environments and wetlands, is launching a new partnership with Galveston Island school district Friday, beginning with Oppe and LA Morgan elementary schools.
The new partnership will focus on art activities and other science-related programming that could ultimately help to bring in new members to the environmentally-focused organization.
“It’s all very well to have Master Naturalists who are adults,” Anne Hecht, a member of the Master Naturalists who is coordinating the new partnership. “But to spread the knowledge and the outreach and the passion to young kids, that’s where it’s at. That’s where the future lies.”
The Texas Master Naturalist program, which is sponsored by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, develops local teams of “master volunteers” to provide educational and outreach services aimed at the better management of natural resources and natural areas within Texas.
The local chapter has more than 200 members and has accumulated more than 40,000 volunteer hours in 2018, according to local program officials.
The new outreach program will begin Friday at Oppe Elementary Magnet Campus of Coastal Studies and in January for the Morgan School of Science and Engineering, Maureen Nolan Wilde, project lead for the Galveston Master Naturalist group, said.
The way the program works, at least in the beginning, is that members of the group will present skits to more than 200 students at both schools that aim to introduce students to how they can help keep local beaches clean, as well as about what kinds of pollution and other threats harm the environment in Galveston County.
Then the students will be regularly challenged to create artwork that will be presented next year at art exhibits the community can check out during the Galveston Arts Center’s ArtWalk and other events.
“We’ll be providing the spark with our performance at first,” Hecht said. “Then, we’re handing it over to the kids and their teachers. It’s not a case of us coming in and teaching them and then leaving. It’s us working together with the schools to make sure that education sticks.”
The school district liaison the group worked with to set up the program wasn’t available for comment.
The new partnership with Galveston Island school district, which the Galveston Master Naturalist group hopes to expand beyond Oppe and LA Morgan elementary schools in the future, represents a new chapter in the school outreach programs the group has taken on, Hecht said. The group has worked with schools on the Galveston County mainland, but never on the island itself.
“This is important because the coastal environment needs all the help it can get and these students are the next step in making that happen,” Hecht said.