14:15 PM

Texas native plants help kids bloom

What can you do outdoors while keeping a safe distance from others during a pandemic? Clear Creek Independent School District teacher Tiffany Deschler says exploring nature and learning more about Texas' native plants is a wonderful way get kids off devices and back to the great outdoors.

Deschler, who teaches science at Westbrook Intermediate, says parents need to encourage kids' curiosity about the natural world. In her March 8 presentation to the Clear Lake Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas, held virtually and hosted by University of Houston-Clear Lake's Environmental Institute of Houston, highlighted the importance of outdoor play and discovery for kids of all ages.

Her presentation, entitled "Engaging Kids in Conservation and Appreciation of Nature from Climate Change to Native Plants," explored why there is such a decline in the connection of kids to their natural environment.

Especially due to the pandemic, Deschler said, teachers are competing more and more with devices for kids' attention — even devices used for education. "We need to get kids back outside and away from the device distraction," she said. "They need to be free to discover and wonder on their own."

Wendy Reistle, EIH's Environmental Education Program and Texas Envirothon coordinator, said the Native Plant Society of Texas has local chapters throughout the state.

"The Clear Lake chapter works in partnership with UH-Clear Lake as its venue, with EIH hosting the chapter," she said. "Its purpose it to educate the community about the importance of native plants. Each month, we have a member who speaks on a range of topics to the membership. Often, the speaker is a master naturalist. We encourage anyone who'd like to learn more to join a meeting."

Deschler said she hoped the audience would find value in working with kids in nature. "I would love to see people reach out to schools or afterschool programs to get kids outdoors," she said. "All teachers in all subject areas can benefit from taking their students outdoors," she said. "Showing other adults that they have the power to instill the love of nature in kids can be powerful."

Register online for the next Native Plant Society meeting, to be held via Zoom April 12 at 6:30 p.m.