Community Outdoor Outreach Program (CO-OP) Diversifies Audiences Engaged with the Outdoors
AUSTIN – Communities in Texas will have more opportunities to explore their natural surroundings thanks to grants awarded through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Community Outdoor Outreach Program (CO-OP). These 41 grant partnerships, totaling $2,048,678, will support community-based conservation and outdoor recreation activities throughout the state and build on $22 million already awarded by TPWD over the past 25 years.
CO-OP grant recipients include churches, conservation groups, nature centers, non-profit organizations, school districts and municipalities. Funded projects range from physical education classes focused on mountain biking at Franklin Mountains State Park, to wheelchair-adapted vessels on the Laguna Madre Bay and Spanish language programs educating residents about the health of creeks and streams.
Communities build capacity by participating in Angler and Archery Instructor programs. Teachers and college students receive training in Project WILD to deliver hundreds of hours of environmental education lessons. Through these programs, Texas youth learn to hunt, fish, camp, and paddle, and begin a lifelong journey on a path to conservation stewardship. The benefits to Texas communities are endless.
TPWD established CO-OP in 1996 to help introduce environmental education, conservation, and outdoor recreation programs to underrepresented audiences. Grant funds may be used for supplies, travel, training, food, personnel costs and equipment for ongoing use.
The following organizations will receive funding:
National Federation of the Blind of Texas: $55,694
BOLD: Blindness Outdoor Learning and Developmentis a two-part program held at Ray Roberts Lake State Park, that provides blind mentors with specialized training to facilitate the inclusion of blind individuals in outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, campfire cooking, and canoeing. Participants will then assume the role of instructors to lead Camp BOLD, a three-day overnight campout for blind youth and their families.
Big Brothers Big Sisters Lone Star: $50,075
The Bigs Outdoors Nature Conservation and Education Program provides unique mentoring opportunities for pairs of Bigs and Littles (adult volunteers and the youth they serve) to learn new outdoor skills. Themed events include a clay shoot, Nature Day, and an Outdoor Extravaganza offering guided hikes, archery instruction, kayaking and fishing events, plus an introduction to various shooting sports. Bigs and Littles can also enroll in one of two TPWD Hunter Education courses and participate in sponsored dove and duck hunts.
Austin Peace Academy: $60,000
The Science Oriented Camping & Fishing for Middle and High School program will create the first campus fishing club for this East Austin Title One school, with day trips for hands-on practice to fishing spots at local and state parks. Science classes will also hit the road, transporting 110 students to six Texas State Parks for overnight campouts with geology lessons, caving, astronomy sky parties and native plant hikes.
Camp Fire of Central Texas: $60,000
Citizen Science and Stewardship Program: Youth in Nature is an extension of the Camp Fire afterschool and backpacking clubs, integrating Project WILD and the Texas Nature Tracker programs to deeply engage 150 elementary and middle school students in environmental science. Two long-term service-learning projects at McKinney Falls State Park contribute monarch butterfly and pollinator data to the iNaturalist program. Students and their families can also attend overnight camping trips and participate in backpacking adventures at state parks.
Partners in Education, Agriculture, and Sustainability (PEAS): $59,996
TheConnecting with Nature on Campus program supports four Title One schools with robust environmental education lessons. Students spend more than 2,800 hours in outdoor learning. The project includes adapting Project WILD and Growing Up WILD curriculum and support for 20 teachers. Summer programs also utilize the Archery in Schools program, with staff attending TPWD Archery Instructor training.
National Audubon Society — Audubon Texas: $60,000
Audubon’s Conservation Leaders Program for Young Women engages 36 high school students from diverse and socio-economically disadvantaged urban areas in mentorship and conservation leadership experiences. The 12-month program includes recreation and field experiences at state parks, water quality sampling, conservation action projects, and a career panel. A five-day capstone experience offers an introduction to the Texas Nature Trackers program and a citizen science project partnering with a TPWD biologist to gather dragonfly data.
Texas 4-H Youth Development Foundation: $59,909
Creating Advocates for Nature is designed to introduce low-income students at two College Station area schools to a weekly series of outdoor skill programs throughout the school year. Interns will attend comprehensive training to co-teach TPWD’s Angler Education, Aquatic Science, and Archery curriculum for 100 students. The program culminates with a trip to Huntsville State Park for an overnight camping program, with hands-on fishing, outdoor cooking, kayaking, aquatic science and wildlife ecology activities.
Flour Bluff Independent School District: $59,389
The Oceans Program increases existing wetland education programs to provide more students with experiential, TEKS-based environmental science lessons and recreational activities such as kayaking, fishing and bird watching. TPWD’s Aquatic Science curriculum is used to create a water quality monitoring program on the district’s wetland sites, as well as field trips to TPWD’s Marine Center, and Redhead Wildlife Management Area.
South Texas Botanical Gardens and Nature Center: $60,000
TheConnecting Children with Nature program will offer a series of day camps for children and a six-month Junior Volunteer training for teens, combining conservation education and stewardship projects to improve native habitat for pollinators and wildlife. Guest speakers include a TPWD Game Warden and a Park Ranger, and families attend a day trip to Mustang Island State Park to continue learning about coastal habitat.
Sustainable Education Solutions: $60,000
Destination Wilderness Youth Adventure inspires the next generation of conservation leaders, engaging 320 students and their families with outdoor skills, environmental education, and providing teachers with Project WILD, Archery, and Angler Instructor training. Day and overnight programs introduce kids to camping, hiking, fishing, mountain biking, outdoor cooking, and rock climbing at Purtis Creek, Caddo Lake, and Mineral Wells State Parks.
Texas Conservation Alliance: $49,491
Texas Conservation Action Teams increase the diversity of participation in citizen science from underrepresented communities, with12 hands-on service days. Activities range from planting longleaf pines in East Texas to conducting bird collision surveys for the Lights Out initiative in Dallas and removing litter pollution within Galveston Island State Park waterways. The TPWD Texas Nature Tracker program will provide training to support data collection and reporting.
Nature and Eclectic Outdoors: $60,000
Wilderness Kidspartners with historically marginalized inner-city Houston neighborhoods to create connections to state and regional parks, teach outdoor skills, inspire stewardship and encourage outdoor lifestyles. It provides field trips, day camps and opportunities for family camping workshops to more than 500 students, as well as an intensive Student Outdoor Leaders program that explores conservation careers, stewardship and service projects.
El Paso Independent School District: $60,000
The Bike On: Bike Safety and Outdoor Learning Program provides middle school physical education teachers with training to deliver a three-week bicycle education curriculum for 1,250 students. Instruction combines the fitness benefits of biking with riding techniques, safety and maintenance. The unit concludes by connecting students to nearby riding trails at Franklin Mountains State Park, with a group bike ride to teach trail safety, etiquette and stewardship.
A Rocha USA: $41,296
Picnics in El Arroyo provides a series of eight Spanish-language programs for 45 low-income Hispanic families, promoting awareness, education and access to local creeks and waterways in the Austin area. The program also provides career development for staff and interns in the field of conservation through TPWD’s Texas Aquatic Science and Project WILD curriculum training workshops.
The Artist Boat: $60,000
Driven by a mission to preserve and protect the Texas Gulf coast, the Turn the T.I.D.E program partners with Pasadena ISD and TPWD’s Boater Education program to blend science, art and kayaking adventures for 875 students. Students engage in ecology workshops, coastal restoration projects and gain a deeper understanding of the health and resiliency of Galveston Bay.
Williamson County Juvenile Services Division: $29,000
The GO! Programprovides opportunities for 150 youth within the Williamson County juvenile justice system to visit local, state and city parks, and learn new outdoor skills such as fishing, biking, paddle boarding, rock climbing, and outdoor cooking. A visit from a TPWD Game Warden will provide insight into careers in conservation, and youth also participate in a service project at Mother Neff State Park.
Hidalgo Economic Development Corporation: $57,050
The City of Hidalgo Community Outdoor Program will offer youth and families new programs to promote community engagement in outdoor recreation and conservation. For youth, two TPWD Angler Education workshops will teach fishing skills such as knots, casting and fish identification, and offer hands-on fishing practice. For families, a spring Earth Day celebration will provide opportunities to take part in service projects like tree planting and trash pickups.
Alief Montessori Community School: $24,458
The Adolescent Camping and Exploring (A.C.E) Program is a student-driven outdoor camping program, held at various Texas State Parks, for 46 low-income, minority students in 7th and 8th grade. Camping basics such as trip planning, camp set-up/take down, outdoor cooking and Leave No Trace principals are practiced in and out of the classroom, with returning campers acting as Camp Leaders for future trips with younger students.
By Our Hands: $54,522
Out of School Time Programs focus on providing a variety of TPWD volunteer and training opportunities for low income, minority, middle and high school students. The program also coordinates multiple overnight campouts at nearby state parks for students and their families, including a Mother’s Day glamping trip.
Forest Lawn Missionary Baptist Church: $59,990
The Outsiders Program eliminates barriers to the outdoors for minority youth and families by providing guided fishing, hiking, camping, equestrian, archery and nature photography events in a safe and friendly environment for participants that are new to spending time in the outdoors. Youth can apply to the new Outdoor Ranger program, a 35-week leadership and intensive outdoor skills training.
Houston Independent School District: $60,000
Project Adventure: Outdoors and Recreation provides fun outdoor learning experiences for students in Pre-K-12 grades. Participating schools will implement archery, angler, kayak and family camping education programs through their Physical Education curriculum and teachers will receive extensive professional development certifications through TPWD to teach these skills.
Nature Heritage Society: $59,900
The NHS Outreach Project will engage 500 at-risk students, enrolled in Houston ISD’s Ascending to Men and Resilient Outstanding Sisters Exemplifying Success (R.O.S.E.S) programs, with a variety of field excursions, overnight campouts and outdoor recreation activities, with visits to Sea Center Texas, Brazos Bend and Sheldon Lake State Parks. Families will also participate in two overnight camping workshops with the Texas Outdoor Family program, creating a natural connection between student learning and parental involvement.
This multi-generational Outdoor Recreation Program will encourage over 500 youth, veterans and seniors to visit a Texas State Park, many for the first time. A partnership with TPWD’s Texas Outdoor Family will provide two overnight camping workshops for families, and options for adults to participate in service projects at parks.
University of Houston/ Clear Lake: $59,686
A new residential Outdoor Ed-Venture program adds to the continued success of the Becoming an Outdoors Girl and the Youth/Family Birding Programs. All three programs introduce 180 economically disadvantaged girls from urban areas to Texas State Parks, providing immersive outdoor experiences such as fishing, geocaching, hiking and service projects.
Webb County: $60,000
The Webb County Outdoor Outreach Program removes obstacles for community youth to actively participate in outdoor recreation opportunities and to experience the natural beauty and facilities available through the state park system. Park interpreters will lead natural history programs and guided hikes at six unique parks, and students will complete a service project at Lake Casa Blanca State Park.
Stephen F Austin State University: $57,674
The East Texas Adventure Girls Environmental Science Academy guides 100 middle school girls from diverse backgrounds through a transformative series of East Texas outdoor adventures and overnight expeditions to Mission Tejas and Caddo Lake state parks. Female educators of color provide mentorship and girls build confidence by practicing outdoor skills like geocaching, paddling and fishing.
The Forever Foundation for Texas Wildlife: $59,270
Getting Texans Outside offers greater access for urban populations and people of color by increasing outdoor opportunities with private landowners. Two Huntmaster programs will train experienced hunters to volunteer as mentors on 10 amentored adult hunts and four mentored youth hunts. A new pilot program, Texas Nature Expeditions, will partner with community youth groups to engage families in ornithology and bird watching, water ecology, and wildlife photography.
Epilepsy Foundation of Central and South Texas: $52,594
EFCST Goes Camping: Epilepsy & The Outdoors is a new program created to provide inclusive outdoor camping experiences for 30 families in central and south Texas who have a child with epilepsy. The program will host three overnight campouts in partnership with the Texas Outdoor Family program at Government Canyon, McKinney Falls and Mustang Island State parks.
Eva’s Heroes: $23,630
Explorers with Hart! is a five-day camping excursion at Lockhart State Park explicitly designed for youth with intellectual special needs to introduce fully inclusive experiences in the outdoors to empower andeducate the lives of participating youth. Explorers will receive positive support to participate in adapted fishing, swimming, golfing, hiking and a camping experience.
Green Spaces Alliance of South Texas: $30,656
Picture Your World Youth Photography Program connects youth, ages 8-18, to the natural world using a camera lens. Through weekend workshops, outreach programming for low-income schools and a citywide nature photography exhibition, the program encourages a creative approach to digital photography while advocating a personal connection to nature and promoting environmental stewardship.
Northside Independent School District: $26,340
Project A.C.O.R.N (Area Children Organized to Replant Natives): Birding Adventures improves environmental literacy for students through inquiry-based science explorations at three low-income, urban elementary schools. Participating students will establish a bird-friendly habitat at their school, collect weekly data using iNaturalist, participate in three birding field experiences at local natural areas, and educate their community on bird preservation practices.
Our Lady of the Lake University: $60,000
Camp W.A.T.E.R (Watershed Activities to Train, Experience, and Recreate) will target 180 predominantly Latinx girls, from San Antonio Title I schools, for a series of summer camps focused on outdoor recreation skills and the exploration of conservation careers. Participants will learn fishing, angling, birding, hiking, kayaking, photography, water analysis, and wildlife identification skills, with a capstone trip to Guadalupe River State Park.
St. Luke Baptist Church: $10,000
The Wellness & Mental Health Outdoors Program promotes healthy lifestyles by learning new skills in the outdoors. Adult volunteers will attend TPWD’s Angler Education Instructor program and conduct four youth fishing days at area State Parks. A new partnership with the Texas Outdoor Family will also provided training and guidance to host two overnight campouts for families and build capacity for volunteers to lead future camping workshops.
Communities In Schools of Cameron County: $59,360
CIS Outdoor Education Program will facilitate seven field trips to Texas State Parks, with four overnight campouts for at-risk and first-generation CIS students. In partnership with Estero Llano Grande State Park, students will collect observational data using the iNaturalist app as part of a service-learning project. Campers engage in a variety of outdoor activities throughout the program, including archery, fishing and environmental education lessons.
Texas State University: $59,920
The Spring Lake Outdoor Education Project offers outdoor experiences led by university recreation students trained in TPWD’s Aquatic Science, Project WILD, archery and outdoor leadership curriculums. Activities include after-school and summer programs, outdoor sessions with the Discipline Alternative Education Program, opportunities for overnight campouts at Texas State Parks and backpacking trips at Lost Maples and Enchanted Rock State Natural Areas.
SOUTH PADRE ISLAND
Fishing’s Future: $43,900
I CAN (Introduction to Complete Angling Now) will provide the Family Fish Camp program to 30 youth with disabilities and their families in the Rio Grande Valley area. The program includes an online educational component, with interactive lessons to learn about fishing, followed by a guided fishing trip aboard a specially equipped, accessible vessel with Master Angler Shane Wilson.
City of Tyler, Parks and Recreation Department: $16,345
The Outdoor Adventure Series will partner with Tyler State Park to host a series of free workshops for low-income and minority families to teach skills in archery, fishing, orienteering, animal tracking, backpacking/hiking, kayaking, outdoor cooking, stargazing and birdwatching. For participants who attend at least three workshops, the series culminates in an overnight campout with the Texas Outdoor Family program at Tyler State Park.
Education Service Center Region 12: $52,060
Texas Teachers in State Parks is an innovative program that connects teachers serving in low-income school districts to regional state parks for intensive professional development that results in high-quality engagement with students in park-based field experiences. Training includes a family campout for teachers, and the opportunity to be a State Park Teacher Ambassador to support future workshops.
Waelder Independent School District: $27,487
The Waelder Outdoor Adventure Club is committed to providing positive recreational opportunities for youth with limited experiences in the outdoors. Weekly meetings offer students in grades 8-12 with training to gain confidence in basic campcraft and outdoor recreation skills, along with monthly State Park adventures to practice their abilities. Students take the lead in planning the ultimate west Texas adventure to Big Bend Ranch, Davis Mountains, Balmorhea and South Llano River State Parks.
IDEA Public Schools/ IDEA Palmview College Prep Academy: $53,832
Aggies Grow: Preservation of Trees and Wildlife in the Upper Rio Grande Valleyintegrates science, conservation and stewardship for 152 middle school students, with a year-long study of native species and opportunities to observe natural habitats at Bensen Rio Grande State Park. In addition to guest speakers and classroom lessons in dendrology, agronomy and entomology, students will learn to cultivate, care and grow select native species on their campus.
Northwest Texas Field and Stream Association: $29,150
The NWTFS Hunting Expansion Program seeks to increase underrepresented participation, with a focus on providing mentored hunts for economically disadvantaged youth and disabled participants. A TPWD wildlife biologist and game wardens, as well as Hunter Education will support hunting ethics, game laws and shooting techniques. The Youth Boys Deer Hunt, Girls Deer Hunt, and Hog Hunt for disabled Veterans include new ADA-compliant deer blinds and equipment to provide a positive first-time hunting experience for participants.
Visit the CO-OP program website for more information about grants and the program.