One of our very own family nature clubs, Austin Families in Nature, received the John Covert Watson Award for Vision in connecting children to nature on Sept 17th in Austin,Texas, during the Celebration of Children in Nature at The Four Seasons Hotel. The Celebration of Children in Nature is an annual event hosted by Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center in Austin, to shine the spotlight on the importance of getting our kids outside into nature more often. Westcave is the leader of the Children in Nature Collaborative of Austin (CiNCA).

The John Covert Watson Award for Vision was presented to the founder of Austin Families in Nature, Heather Kuhlken, one of four award winners recognized by the Children in Nature Collaborative of Austin. These individuals and organizations represent the very best in connecting children to nature. Austin Families in Nature (AFiN) has organized dozens of both traditional (camping at Pedernales Falls State Park) and extraordinary (squid dissection) nature experiences for children ranging from 1 – 15 years of age. With five years of experience and more than 100 active participants, AFiN has a wait-list of families hoping to join. Heather is now working to attract, train and support other family nature clubs in Central Texas.



Austin Families in Nature is an organization of family nature clubs based on the book “Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louv.  AFiN is located in Austin, Texas and was started in 2008 by Heather Kuhlken. The founding group started 5 years ago with 10 families and is currently made up of 27 families and over 100 members with kids ranging in age from 2 to 13 years old. They have activities scheduled twice a month during the school year, including at least two to three weekend campouts per year. The activities include nature walks, hikes, creek clean ups, lessons in biology, ecology, conservation, and outdoor skills. Austin Families in Nature provides scheduled family time outdoors for parents and children to play, learn and volunteer together. Each activity also has time built in for unstructured play. It is amazing what a group of kids (and parents) will come up with when they have unstructured time outside together.

Austin Families in Nature is expanding! This fall AFiN will be recruiting new family nature club leaders to start new groups in Central Texas to meet the growing demand. The new leaders will receive a leader backpack filled with helpful supplies, and will have training and support from Heather Kuhlken throughout the year. 

This summer, Austin Families in Nature began offering trips to explore nature outside of central Texas. In August, 28 people went to Key Largo, FL to study marine biology for a week at Marinelab. Snorkelling in the sea grass beds, the mangroves and the coral reefs made it an incredibly educational and memorable trip for everyone.

AFiN will also be founding a group for middle and high school students called Junior Ecologist Training this fall. JET will be led by Heather Kuhlken in addition to 3 other instructors. The students will meet once per month to learn ecology through hands-on activities and to have more challenging outdoor experiences such as river rafting and camping on the TX coast to hopefully see endangered Whooping Cranes.



Leadership of the CiNCA was born out of concern for the growing disconnect between children and their natural surroundings. A regional partnership among environmental educators, health professionals, and a broad base of community leaders, CiNCA is dedicated to nurturing a love of nature among children in Central Texas. Their programs and support for new green spaces greatly increase opportunities for kids to play and learn in nature. The benefits of doing so go far beyond developing future ambassadors for natural conservation. Through CiNCA’s programs and activities, they help kids gain confidence, reduce stress and overall improve their well-being. CiNCA believes in the power of nature in improving health and quality of life for kids that explore, interact and feel confident in the natural environment.

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This is great news! Congratulations, Austin Families in Nature!

Congratulations again, Heather!!


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