Outdoor Skills Training Offered To Texas Families

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AUSTIN, Texas — Watch a red-tailed hawk soaring over the desert with a child at your side. Glide over seagrass meadows in the mangrove-lined lakes near Aransas Pass. Watch a meteor shower from your campsite in the backcountry of Lost Maples State Natural Area.

Wherever you live in Texas, chances are there is someplace to engage in outdoor recreation within 100 miles of your home.

Research shows that it is not a lack of interest that keeps families from getting outside, but experience and time.

A Texas Parks and Wildlife Department program called “Outdoor Family” aims to change that. In partnership with local parks and recreation departments across the state, Outdoor Family workshops provide essential training in skills like camping, paddling, archery, fishing, geocaching, youth nature education and more.

An outgrowth of the wildly successful “Becoming an Outdoors-Woman” program offered by TPWD, Outdoor Family has so far hosted three workshops with between 60 and 80 participants each.

Four more are slated for this fall.

“The Outdoor Family program itself provides an excellent opportunity for families to create terrific and long lasting memories. Research has shown when families work together as a team in an outdoor environment, like camping or planning outdoor weekends, those positive bonds and communication skills spill over into other aspects of their lives,” said Ashley Mathews, program coordinator. “Plus, it is just plain fun. The families have a great time discovering their outdoor interests and learning together.”

Mathews said that the basic outdoor skills families learn in a weekend workshop equip them to safely strike out and have a great time on their own.

“All of our classes are geared toward beginners,” she said. “We don’t assume anyone has pre-existing skills or experience.”

The workshops are geared toward families with children between the ages of 5 and 13 and typically span a weekend, beginning Friday evening or Saturday morning and lasting through Sunday noon. Usually between six and eight classes are offered throughout the weekend. Family members may pick and choose those that most closely match their interests.

The workshops are open to all types of families, including grandparents and grandchildren and adults with nieces or nephews. Fees for the courses are set by the local parks and recreation departments with which TPWD partners, but typically average about $150 for a family of four. All recreational and safety equipment necessary to participate in the classes is provided.

Mathews said that the only limit on how often Outdoor Family workshops are held is the number of county and city parks and recreation departments willing to partner with TPWD.

“We’re actively seeking additional partners all over the state,” she said.

2007 Fall workshops are scheduled for:

  • Georgetown (Sept. 22-23)
  • Waco (Oct. 13-14)
  • San Antonio (Nov. 10-11)
  • Missouri City (Nov. 10-11)

For more information or an application, please e-mail or call Ashley Mathews at: (512) 970-9247 or BAOW@tpwd.texas.gov

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