Dr. Joe Frost
Parker Centennial Professor Emeritus, University of Texas at Austin
"When I was a boy in rural Arkansas, recess meant roaming through hills, woods, fields and creeks around the school, and we went out to play multiple times a day." Here in Austin, Dr. Frost creates outdoor learning environments that combines play and nature and is fully integrated with the school curriculum.
Dr. Joe Frost, a leading national expert on playground safety and 40-year scholar on child development, is an outspoken advocate of developmentally appropriate children’s play, with over 18 books and 100 articles to his credit.
Outdoor Learning Programs Manager, Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept.
I’ve always cherished the wonder and awe during those childhood moments of discovery in nature. It was as if I was the first human to see deep inside a flower, amaze at ant parades or thrill as river water pushed me high into the air. I can still experience that same childlike delight today. But how things have changed for our children! Today’s youth are so isolated from outdoor play and nature that the prescription for anti-depressants for children have doubled in the last five years, childhood obesity rates have quadrupled since I was a child, and for the first time in our history, our children’s expected life span is less than their parents. How can that be? How can we possibly let that happen?!
We have before us a solvable problem, with one of the solutions as simple as stepping outside the door, walking in the park, and playing in green spaces. We must provide nearby nature and green spaces for our children’s well-being. Playing and learning outdoors is an essential part of their development. With nature, children are happier, healthier and smarter. This is now not just a passion for me, it is a moral obligation. We must all get growing and keep going for the sake of our children.
Director of Westcave Preserve
John Ahrns is among a rarefied group of first rate naturalists and has been the sole preserve director and lead educator since Westcave’s beginnings in 1976. He began his work at the Preserve by hauling more than 100 full-size garbage bags of trash out of the Westcave canyon. Years later, when he had accomplished astonishing restoration and protection for the Preserve, John set out to build an environmental education program that now attracts more than 6,000 children each year.
Westcave conducts about 200 weekday classes for schools, clubs, universities, and offers over 400 weekend tours to the general public. Westcave offers special programs on plants, photography, star parties, spooktaculars, and much more!
Sustainable Food Center
At Sustainable Food Center (SFC), we cultivate a healthy community by strengthening the local food system and improving access to nutritious, affordable food. SFC envisions a food secure community where all children and adults grow, share and prepare healthy, local food. We accomplish these goals through three main programs - Grow Local, Farm Direct, and The Happy Kitchen/La Cocina Alegre, as well as Sprouting Healthy Kids, our Farm to School program. In Grow Local, we help start and provide ongoing support for community and school gardens, as well as offer a variety of free and low-cost gardening classes in both English and Spanish.
We also have a project called Spread the Harvest, a food-sharing program where low-income individuals and groups can receive resources to get started growing their own food. I love what I do because I connect people with the knowledge, skills and resources they need to grow their own fresh, nutritious food, creating not only health benefits, but also an increase in their overall quality of life. It’s especially inspiring and amazing to teach kids about gardening and watch them develop an interest in and appreciation for the food they eat.