After-school or weekend outdoor enrichment programs offer children the opportunity to discover new interests, develop new skills, hone existing talents, and learn valuable life lessons. San Antonio provides many opportunities for children of all ages and backgrounds to explore. The best part? Many of the city’s programs are free! In this four-week series, we will showcase activities designed to engage everyone from the preschool Picasso to the high-tech teen and every nature lover, sports enthusiast, and animal activist in-between. Read part one on STEM enrichment, part two on arts enrichment, and part four on volunteering.
The pandemic drastically changed the way we view “screen time.” Suddenly our children weren’t simply “allowed” to sit in front of the computer all day; it was a requirement. Even today, with in-person and hybrid learning approaches, children spend a large part of their time online for classwork and homework, not to mention social interaction and gaming. Now more than ever, kids need to unplug from the virtual world and plug into nature. Fresh air, sunshine, and time spent exploring and learning through outdoor sports, activities, and exploration are fun for children and teach them valuable life lessons beyond the classroom.
A FOREward Thinking Approach
At First Tee—Greater San Antonio, children learn more than how to line up a good putt. They learn values that will help them tee up for success throughout the rest of their lives. Through a carefully crafted curriculum comprised of nine core values woven seamlessly into each golf lesson, the First Tee Life Skills Experience program enables kids from ages 5 to 18 to develop skill sets that will empower them to take on any challenge on or off the green.
“We create learning experiences that build inner strength, confidence, and resilience that kids can carry to everything they do,” describes First Tee—Greater San Antonio CEO Carrie Kimbell. “Golf is just the vehicle we use to do it.”
Now in its 22nd year, the First Tee program serves more than 2,000 children annually. Students advance in levels based on mastery of life and golf skills and an assessment test. Each seven-week session is open to any child regardless of athletic ability or socioeconomic status.
“We want to dispel the myth that golf isn’t for everyone,” says Kimbell, adding that there are eight First Tee facilities across San Antonio, Seguin, and New Braunfels. “No child is ever turned away due to inability to pay,” she assures.
The fall 2022 program is open for sign-up from now until September 19. Visit firstteesanantonio.org for more information, registration, or volunteer opportunities.
A Diverse Path
In his 2020 TEDx Talk “Recolor the Outdoors,” Black Outside, Inc. founder Alex Bailey recalls days spent fishing with his grandfather in Ohio. There, he began to understand the physical and psychological benefits that being in nature provides to all humans, but most significantly, youth. As he grew older, Bailey noticed that, in his own words, “Outdoors is not typically a thing black people do.” In fact, only 1 percent of Texas state park participants identify as Black/African American. So in 2019, Bailey decided to change that by forming the non-profit organization Black Outside, Inc.
Through programs like Camp Founder Girls, the first historically Black summer camp for girls, the Bloom Project for youth impacted by incarceration, and Brothers with the Land, an immersive nature-based mentorship space for Black male high school students, Black Outside is reconnecting Black/African-American youth to the outdoors through culturally relevant outdoor experiences. According to their website:
“We intentionally craft experiences that build off of the powerful history of people of color in the outdoors and deepen the leadership skills of our youth. We firmly believe that each young person has immense talents, abilities, and skills to contribute to their community and the greater world.”
For more information on Black Outside, Inc., or to register for a fall program, visit blackoutside.org.
A Chance to Dig In
The Historic Homestead at Phil Hardberger Park (PHP) is home to one of the facility’s most popular fall programs, the Children’s Vegetable Garden. Here, children ages 5 to 14 can develop their green thumbs as they learn how to plant and harvest various crops. This weekly program features a hands-on activity and a related lesson that teaches essential life skills, including teamwork, land stewardship, and nutrition.
“I believe it’s paramount to instill a curiosity and respect for nature in children at a young age,” says David Jimenez, Education Coordinator for PHP. “This encourages them to be investigators, problem solvers, and develop empathy for the natural world.”
The program is just one of many offered at Phil Hardberger Park Natural Areas, designed to connect children and their families with nature. Other opportunities include art lessons, storytime, guided hikes, and more.
“By providing these opportunities for children and families to be outside and explore, play, and experience the wonders of nature, we hope to instill these values with the goal that they can be stewards and continue to hold a passion and appreciation for nature for the rest of their lives,” says Jimenez. “This is what we strive to do in our programs, and we hope our families take away these experiences and return for more with or without us.”
For information on the children’s vegetable garden and registration, visit philhardbergerpark.org/childrens-vegetable-garden-1. For a complete listing of children’s activities at PHP, visit philhardbergerpark.org/childrens-events.
More Resources for Outdoor Enrichment Activities
These are just a few ways to get your children disconnected from technology and reconnected to the great outdoors. For more ideas, check out:
San Antonio Botanical Garden
The San Antonio Botanical Garden has plenty of family-friendly outdoor fun, from gardening and cooking workshops to family night hikes where you can bring a flashlight and discover what happens in the gardens after the sun goes down. Find activities for children and families at sabot.org/learn/kids-classes-camps.
San Antonio Parks and Recreation
San Antonio is home to beautiful parks all across the city where you can hike, bike, or engage in a day of play. Visit sanantonio.gov/ParksAndRec for a complete listing and find a park or greenway trail near you.
San Antonio Zoo School
Preschoolers ages 3–5 can learn about nature and animals through hands-on activities at the San Antonio Zoo’s Will Smith Zoo School. Learn more at sazooschool.org.
San Antonio Astronomical Association
Explore the night sky at the San Antonio Astronomical Association’s monthly “Star Party,” held at the Guadalupe River State Park. Children ages 12 and under get in free. Learn more at tpwd.texas.gov/calendar/guadalupe-river/star-party-with-san-antonio-astronomical-association-1/.
Charter Moms Chats
Watch Carrie Kimbell, CEO of First Tee—Greater San Antonio, David Jimenez, Education Coordinator at Phil Hardberger Park, and Alex Bailey, Founder/Executive Director of Black Outside, Inc., speak with Inga Cotton on Charter Moms Chats on August 23, 2022 at 4:00 PM Central live on Facebook and YouTube.
Carrie Kimbell is the CEO of First Tee—Greater San Antonio, a youth development organization that teaching character and life skills through the game of golf. After attending Purdue University, Carrie spent 16 years in various roles in the golf industry: assistant golf professional, instructor, corporate sales manager, and buyer. In 2014, Carrie joined Rackspace, a managed services technology company in San Antonio as Enterprise Sales Executive. After six years in technology sales, Carrie’s passion for golf pulled her back in when the opportunity to lead First Tee—Greater San Antonio became available; she assumed the leadership role in January 2020. First Tee—Greater San Antonio has over 1,600 youth enrolled in eight different locations throughout the greater San Antonio area.
David Jimenez is the Education Coordinator at Phil Hardberger Park.
Alex Bailey is the Founder/Executive Director of Black Outside, Inc. From the fresh smell of mint leaves in his grandfather’s garden to fishing trips with his grandparents on the Clear Fork river in Ohio; Alex’s familial connection to the outdoors always inspired him to connect deeply with nature, particularly in life’s hardest moments. This foundational love and connection to nature led him to envision a program which radically transforms outdoor spaces and programming to be a beacon of joy and liberation for Black youth—later to be known as Black Outside, Inc. Between 2018 and 2019, founder Alex Bailey embarked on a journey to observe and shadow summer camps and outdoor programs across the country to better understand the impact outdoor programming has on youth. He took those learnings and, alongside an amazing community of people, began building a culturally relevant outdoor program in the city of San Antonio which today collectively serves 150+ Black youth across central Texas.
Alex is a proud fellow of the National Willd Gift fellowship and The International Echoing Green Fellowship, was a 2019 TedxSan Antonio speaker (Recolor the Outdoors), and currently serves as the Board President for Black Outside, Inc.
Read Our Four-Part Series on Enrichment Activities
- “STEM Enrichment Programs for San Antonio Kids,” Bonny Osterhage, San Antonio Charter Moms, August 9, 2022
- “Arts Enrichment Programs for San Antonio Kids,” Bonny Osterhage, San Antonio Charter Moms, August 16, 2022
- This post, about outdoor enrichment activities
- “Volunteering Enrichment Programs for San Antonio Kids,” Bonny Osterhage, San Antonio Charter Moms, August 30, 2022
Read More About Outdoor Enrichment Activities
- “Plan Your Visit to the Edwards Aquifer Authority Education Outreach Center (EAAEOC),” Sarah Valdez and Ann-Margaret Gonzalez, San Antonio Charter Moms, August 17, 2022
- “Nature-Based Education Helps Students Grow After the Pandemic,” Amanda McMickle, San Antonio Charter Moms, June 15, 2021
- “Water Purification at Confluence Park With the San Antonio River Foundation’s Nature of Art Education Series,” Sara Ramirez, San Antonio Charter Moms, December 7, 2020
- “Bird BINGO with the Witte Museum,” Colleen Ferguson and Helen Holdsworth, San Antonio Charter Moms, August 21, 2020
- “Explore San Antonio’s Greenway Trails System,” Brandon Ross, San Antonio Charter Moms, July 17, 2020
- “To Reconnect Black Kids and Teens to the Great Outdoors, San Antonio’s Alex Bailey Is Teaching Skills — and Confronting Structural Racism,” Bekah McNeel, 74 Million, June 17, 2020
- “Stay Green at Home,” Wendy Bradley, San Antonio Charter Moms, June 11, 2020
- “Appreciating the Blue Hole, the Source of the San Antonio River,” San Antonio Charter Moms, October 3, 2018