How do you connect urban kids to the land around them? That was the challenge for the Kids On the Land(KOL) program when a school in Dallas requested the KOL program for its 3rd graders.
When parents of students at Christ the King School called and wanted me to prepare a program, I said that first we needed a site. They already had the land steward’s permission to have the event on his family ranch about 70 miles north of Dallas. My next concern was who would help me with the event. Many of the Texas regulars, NRCS agent, Ricky Linex of Weatherford and Dr. Paul Martin of Seguin, Bryon Haney of Whitney, Katherine Dickson of Maryneal, Charlie and Suzie Davis of Sweetwater, and Karen McGinnis of San Angelo wanted to be a part. There would need to be training for the other volunteers. I call these folks LINKs (Learning In Nature with Kids). In all there were 20 parents involved, plus my regulars, and Peggy Cole, program director for HMI .
When April 27th arrived, everyone was ready for the 50 students who came by chartered bus. The program was called “This Land Is Prairie Land.” Students began the day by creating a timeline of historical events of the Blackland Prairie eco-region beginning 10,000 years ago. The theme of prairie land was designed to connect the urban students to the land beneath their feet, whether in Dallas or on the grasslands of the ranch. There was emphasis on the value of the once vast grasslands known as the Blackland Prairie which included much of north central Texas. The rest of the day was spent in different activities that included: learning about native plants while walking on the prairie and ending with a hayride back to the headquarters to continue the other activities; making wildflower seed balls after learning how nature disperses seeds; creating Native American talking sticks and learning about the Caddo Indians; and doing the work of a naturalist by creating nature journals about Blackland Prairie vegetation. Lunch time included a sing-a-long of songs of the prairie by Charlie Davis.
I was very pleased with the result because once again, the event showed how KOL program can go anywhere. The KOL program began in the Trans-Pecos Region of Texas where my husband, Joe, and I managed Holistic Management International’s Learning Site in Crockett County. We have expanded the program for students in the Western Cross Timbers, Rolling Plains, and now to the Blackland Prairie Eco-Region of Texas. It has worked with students from rural schools and now students from an urban school in Dallas,Texas.
KOL is unique among environmental programs because it is designed to teach children about their place where they live, using the property of local land stewards and since children have an innate need to be in nature and nature needs a new generation who are reconnected to the land to take us to a more sustainable future, we hope to see the program continue to evolve as it adapts to meet new environments. Since its inception in 2003, over 2450 students have been participated in the program. The KOL booklets for the Trans-Pecos Eco-Region are available as Free Downloads. There is also a guide called, “How To Develop Your Own Program” available. The program continues through the generosity of land stewards offering their property as a site, from in-kind donations for supplies and mileage, to the continued support of Holistic Management International.