SAN ANTONIO – U.S. Army Environmental Command hosted a kindergarten nature day on April 21 to educate kindergarten students from Fort Sam Houston Elementary School about nature and wildlife through seven hands-on learning stations at Salado Creek Park in honor of Earth Day.
“USAEC is responsible for the Earth Day Program for all Army installations and tries to ensure the command implements activities to highlight Earth Day. Nature Day is a great event to get the youth involved with understanding nature and the importance of science,” said USAEC’s Command Sgt. Maj. Trey Robbins.
Approximately 150 kindergarteners had the opportunity to learn from some of the Army’s environmental subject matter experts through hands-on activities about mammals and amphibians, horns and antlers, archaeology, geology, recycling, insects, and soils.
Fort Sam Houston Elementary School is partnered with USAEC through the Joint Base San Antonio - Fort Sam Houston Adopt-A-School program.
“The partnership with USAEC is significant because it allows our students to spend some time with those who have background expertise in the environmental and science fields,” said Dr. Joseph Cerna, FSHES principal.
More than 20 USAEC employees volunteered to come out and share with the students their passion about nature and science.
“Nature Day gives our employees a chance to mingle with the community and also provide a service by relaying our environmental expertise to the younger generation,” said Nat Garza, USAEC environmental protection specialist in the USAEC programs and liability branch.
The staff was very energetic and engaged with the students. Bryan Davis, one of USAEC’s environmental attorney-advisors, assisted with the recycling station and mentioned that “USAEC is tasked to ensure that the environment is considered when we are making decisions.”
The school’s principal, teachers and parents routinely express appreciation for the opportunity FSHES children have to collaborate and engage with USAEC environmental professionals. One of the teachers remarked that the event seems to get better every year.
“The kids have the opportunity to hear from the experts, which gives them exposure to sciences that will hopefully peak their interest in working in those fields,” said Cerna.
Kindergarten has the largest group of students at FSHES, and kindergarten is the front door of the school. For the next 12 years we want to ensure that the kids will create memories they can share with other students, future teachers and their families going forward in their life.”
USAEC Commander, Col. Alicia M. Masson, said she enjoyed the event and is glad to see the command inspiring the next generation.
“Nature Day ignites kindergarteners’ imagination and wakes them up to what they can see and do. This is fascinating to me,” Masson said.
“Nature Day allows the children to learn and have fun at the same time,” said Sara Garza, FSHES kindergarten para educator assistant.
USAEC is a one-of-a-kind unit assigned to U.S. Army Installation Management Command and provides environmental services globally to enable Army readiness. The command prides itself on educating the next generation of future leaders.
“We are building the bench, and I see that as growing the future 'green eagle' team. If we can connect a young person to someone that is doing what they want to do -- now while they are in school -- that is a success. Even if they do not come to this organization, they come to a community of practice, and we build the enterprise,” said Masson.