San Antonio teachers join the first Outdoor School cohort and commit to bring outdoor education back to their home campuses.
Archery targets lean against the wall. Snacks and gift bags and free t-shirts await on a picnic table. Through the mist, a hiking trail beckons.
Even though it’s 7:45 am on a Saturday in February 2021, Alex Bailey, the senior director of Outdoor School, couldn’t be more excited. He joined the Foundation shortly before the COVID pandemic, and this day marks his first in-person event with teachers.
“Now I feel official,” he says, laughing, “one year later.”
Soon ten San Antonio ISD teachers join him here at the Herff Farm garden barn where drizzle and fog covers everything in a wet, otherworldly gray. Outdoor School staff from the H. E. Butt Foundation and from the The Cibolo Center for Conservation in Boerne, Texas, meet the teachers outside the Queen Bee’s office for a temperature check and COVID questionnaire.
This event is a milestone for the H. E. Butt Foundation, launching the first More Outdoors Cohort, a three-year program designed to help school communities regularly incorporate outdoor education.
Meeting at The Cibolo, rather than the H. E. Butt Foundation Camp, is another milestone. These schools and teachers will eventually get out to the Canyon, likely once a year for the next three years. But Bailey hopes to bring Outdoor School as close to their communities as possible. He dreams of the day when students on the East Side or West Side would get excited about the natural areas available to them even in their own downtown neighborhoods.
Margaret Lamar, executive director of The Cibolo and self-described “Texas ranch girl,” is an eager partner, and her vision matches Bailey’s.
“Experiences on our own campus,” she says, referencing 950 acres of farm and park on Cibolo Creek, “are catalysts to help guests have a relationship with nature in their communities.”