The National Wildlife Federation’s Education and Engagement Programs in the South Central Region are guided by the belief that both people and wildlife benefit when all Americans have clean air and water, safe communities, easy and equitable access to nature, and protection from the threats of climate change.
Our Pre-K-12 education programs aim to develop the next generation of conservationists as “systems thinkers” who can understand scientific principles, discern truth from misinformation, and successfully address environmental challenges of the future.
Our community-based outreach programs aim to educate the public about the critical role urban habitat plays in helping wildlife survive and equip them to take action for wildlife in their communities. By participating in NWF’s volunteer trainings and webinars, citizens learn how to create climate-resilient native habitats—at their homes and places of worship, along roadsides, and even in vacant lots--that help wildlife species to adapt to climate change.
Developed in 1994 by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), Eco-Schools is a global sustainable-schools program operating in more than 50,000 schools in nearly 70 countries. The National Wildlife Federation has been the U.S. host for the program since 2008. Combining environment-based learning with hands-on experiences, the Eco-Schools program sparks action at Pre-K-12 schools that ripples out into the greater community and helps develop generations of sustainably minded, environmentally conscious citizens. The Eco-Schools Seven-Step Framework guides teams of students, teachers, and community members through work on up to twelve sustainability pathways. Progress on these pathways helps schools to save energy and water, reduce waste, increase biodiversity, green-up their campuses, and achieve other environmental goals. threatsEco-Schools USA recognizes schools’ achievements with a series of awards, moving from Bronze to Silver to the coveted Green Flag award. The ultimate goal of the program is to engage and empower students, teachers, and community members to live more sustainably..
Creating innovative outdoor classrooms: The National Wildlife Federation is a leader in school-based environmental programs, helping to develop Schoolyard Habitats® on school campuses in many cities in the region, including Austin, Houston, San Antonio, and Atlanta. Schoolyard Habitat gardens are essentially outdoor classrooms where students can learn about wildlife species and ecosystems, hone their academic skills, and nurture their innate curiosity about the natural world. In 2013 we created the Discovery Hill Outdoor Learning Center, a quarter-acre Demonstration Schoolyard Habitat at an Austin school district facility, which is now connecting kids throughout the Austin school district to nature and advancing students’science and math skills through hands-on experiential learning.
Developing a new generation of Conservation Stewards: America’s ability to protect its wildlife and wild places depends on developing future generations of conservation stewards. The National Wildlife Federation inspires youth to be good stewards of the environment through education programs like the Earth Tomorrow program in Atlanta or the Eco-Schools USA program, a nation-wide “green” management of school grounds, facilities and curriculum that fosters a culture of sustainability. Through our Eco-Schools program, students become more engaged in science and learn how their actions impact the environment. And as schools “green up” their facilities and school grounds, they see tangible benefits such as reduced energy costs and increases in recycling.
Engaging families with nature: American children spend half the time outdoors than they did 20 years ago, and obesity rates among adolescents have tripled. The National Wildlife Federation’s efforts since 2012 have connected more than 4 million new kids with nature. We are developing innovative nature play areas at Dove Springs District Park in Austin, Texas, and at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science in Jackson, Mississippi, partnering with municipal parks agencies to increase nature programming, and advocating for policy that brings nature to childcare centers.
In the face of rapid population growth and persistent drought, Texas' water resources have never been under such intense pressure. Since 2001 the National Wildlife Federation’s Texas Living Waters Project has worked to ensure that Texas manages and uses its limited water resources for the benefit of both people and wildlife. The National Wildlife Federation is committed to protecting the state’s precious rivers, streams, and estuaries streams, and estuaries to better preserve the Texas we love for generations to come.
The 2010 Gulf oil disaster had an enormous impact on the Gulf of Mexico. Lingering effects of the million of gallons of oil spilled are still harming local wildlife. Congress’s 2012 passage of the RESTORE Act, a landmark law that directs fines and penalties from the oil spill to Gulf coast restoration and recovery, represents the largest conservation investment in the nation’s history. The National Wildlife Federation’s campaign is leading efforts across the Gulf to make sure RESTORE funds are used to protect and restore the Gulf’s estuaries and coastal habitats. These resources are essential to restoring wildlife and fisheries.
The wetlands, estuaries, and barrier islands of the Mississippi River Delta provide habitat for migratory birds, waterfowl, economically important finfish and shellfish, and many endangered and threatened species. The delta is experiencing the highest rate of wetland loss in the U.S., losing a football field of marsh into the Gulf every hour due to short-sighted management of the Mississippi River, decades of oil and gas development, and rising sea levels. The National Wildlife Federation is working with national and regional partners to propel bold state and federal action on projects to restore this important coastal habitat for wildlife.
Before Europeans arrived in North America, longleaf pine forests dominated the coastal plain from eastern Texas to southeastern Virginia—as much as 90 million acres throughout the southeast, but today there is less than 3.5 million acres remaining. The loss of these forests has had huge impacts on the region’s wildlife. The National Wildlife Federation has a number of initiatives underway to protect and restore Southeast forests.
For more than 20 years the National Wildlife Federation has been working with colleges and universities through its EcoLeaders® program to improve their overall green educational programming and onsite sustainability. Our region supports statewide networks of staff, faculty and student sustainability leaders in Texas and Georgia who are on the forefront of implementing new solutions for environmental sustainability. The newly launched EcoLeaders® Initiative provides an online community for student leaders to connect and share environmental interests and projects. To join the community or check out what students near you are doing go to www.nwfecoleaders.org.
In addition, we have staff dedicated to protecting other important ecosystems in our region such as the Everglades, the wetlands in the New Madrid Spillway in Missouri, the Buffalo National Scenic River in Arkansas and the Apalachicola River in Florida.
The South Central Region of the National Wildlife Federation is mainly supported by grants and local supporters. We're grateful to have received a generous grant from the Gaynelle and Gene Rankin Endowment Trust of the San Antonio Area Foundation. This funding will allow us to expand the important education and outreach work we are doing to engage K-12 students and the San Antonio community in Monarch butterfly and pollinator conservation.
More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. The National Wildlife Federation is on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 53 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.