Texas Children in Nature Network Q&A

Texan by Nature (TxN) is proud to partner with 105+ conservation organizations working to positively benefit Texas’ natural resources and communities through innovative approaches. TxN accelerates conservation by bringing conservation organizations and business together through programs that connect and convene diverse stakeholders and catalyze science-based conservation efforts and projects to accelerate impact.

Learn more about TxN Conservation Partner, Texas Children in Nature Network and how they are enriching children’s lives and futures through nature.

Q: Tell us about Texan Children in Nature Network and its mission.

A: The mission of Texas Children in Nature Network (TCiNN) is to ensure equitable access and connection to nature for all children in Texas. We do this through the support of a collective impact network with over 500 partners across the state working in eight regions. The network brings together educators and school administrators, nature and conservation professionals, health care workers, and communities all working to engage more children in the outdoors. 

What is the history of TCiNN?

Q: TCiNN was founded after the passage of SB 205 in 2009, which called for six state agencies in Texas, including Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, to work together to find a way to have more children spend more time outside. In 2010 TPWD gathered nature leaders from across the state and TCiNN was born. For ten years TCiNN was part of TPWD and in 2021 became its own independent non-profit organization. 

Q: How do you work to achieve your mission and who is your audience? 

A: The Texas Children in Nature Network’s mission is to ensure equitable access and connection to nature for all children in Texas. We serve an important role in the non-profit landscape of Texas, working as a collaborative model and focusing on helping partner organizations do great work. A key component of the collective impact model is a strong backbone organization guiding the work of the collaborative, TCiNN engages with over 500 partners across the state of Texas to fulfill this role. We are a place where health care professionals, teachers, conservationists, and community and business leaders convene to work together to accomplish our mission, with our partner reflecting a wide range of levels of work within their community. TCiNN works with our regional collaboratives across the state to increase the time children are spending in nature everyday, we work in local communities across Texas with a variety of organizations. While we are still a primarily white-led organization, TCiNN is making strides to increase our diversity in leadership to include more people of color, as well as working with BIPOC led community organizations on the local level. 

Q: What are some examples of your projects or programs? 

A: TCiNN’s programs include:

  • Cities Connecting Children to Nature: CCCN is a collaborative effort from the Children and Nature Network and National League of Cities to work towards creating a nature rich infrastructure and implementing systems change to create more equitable access to nature for children in cities across the United States. TCiNN is currently working with three cities in Texas (Austin, Houston and San Antonio). Recently TCiNN was chosen as a state collaborative to lead the efforts further in Texas, and take the model we have been working to create in our three CCCN cities in the state to more communities in Texas. 
  • OLE (Outdoor Learning Environments): OLE! Texas is a collaborative initiative in the state working with several state agencies, including the Department of State Health Services and Texas Tech University, to create nature learning spaces in early childhood centers across the state. This effort opens up nature spaces for children ages 0-5. OLE! Texas is currently working on ways to increase our outreach to more low-income centers and Headstart programs across the state. 
  • Professional Development: TCiNN commits to share best practices and professional development with our partners. Since October of 2020 TCiNN has been offering at least one webinar each month featuring topics in our new Strategic Plan. These webinars have been focused on how to create more access for children to the outdoors, and have highlighted many of our DEI efforts over the past year. Some examples of our webinars have been: “Austin’s Environmental Leaders: a youth led discussion on equity and adventure in the outdoors,” “Birdability: because birding is for everybody and every body,” and “Outdoor Adventure for Youth in Public Housing.” We offer these webinars at a “pay what you can” price point, we also share the recordings of all our webinars on our YouTube channel for anyone to view and learn from.

In addition, we also offer an annual Summit for our partners to learn from each other, nationally renowned keynote speakers, and network with each other. The 2021 Summit was held in Fort Worth and featured keynotes Angela Hanscom, author of Balanced and Barefoot, Lisa Carlson, Immediate Past President of the American Public Health Association, and an Equity Panel on the importance of equity in the outdoors. 

Brazos Bend State Park photo shoot emphasizing accessibility at Texas State Parks. Brazos Bend State Park photo shoot emphasizing accessibility at Texas State Parks.

Q: What are the ecological and economic benefits of your organization’s projects/programs? 

A: By engaging children in nature today we are instilling a love of nature in their lives. These children will grow to become the conservation leaders of tomorrow. 

Q: Tell us about the future of your organization. Do you have any upcoming initiatives, exciting events, or even challenges ahead? 

A: Texas Children in Nature Network is excited to announce two big projects for the new year:

  • TCiNN was chosen as one of five Regional and State Cohorts with the Cities Connecting Children to Nature (CCCN) initiative with the Children and Nature Network and the National League of Cities. This will allow TCiNN to provide support for more Texas communities who are looking to center nature in more of their municipal planning.
  • In conjunction with the work TCiNN will be doing with the Regional and State Cohort with CCCN, Texas Children in Nature Network will be bringing on three Health and Nature Liaisons to work in three metro areas in Texas to engage communities in using nature as a public health policy. Ultimately the goal of both projects is to engage on a community level to engage families in learning the barriers to nature near them, address those barriers, and create more access and connection to nature for children and families in Texas. 

Q: How can people get involved with and learn more about your organization? 

A: The best way to engage in the work of Texas Children in Nature Network is to join one of our regional collaboratives. These groups meet throughout the year and work on a local level to increase access to nature. 

You can also follow TCiNN on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Texan by Nature is proud to partner with 105+ conservation organizations across Texas. Through our Conservation Partner network, we connect conservation organizations with the resources and relationships they need to extend their initiatives’ impact. Partner benefits include on-going features on social media, monthly media round-up, quarterly meetings, aggregated resources on fundraising, marketing/social media, and more.