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HOOVER’S VALLEY — Here’s a typical mantra: “Let’s get the kids and families outside.”

In today’s high-tech world, where there appears to be a disconnect between people and nature, getting outside is a way to reconnect with the outdoors and a plethora of benefits.

“But the problem is what to do once you’re outside,” said Leslie Kessner of the Texas A&M Forest Service and state representative for the Texas Nature Challenge. “We tell people that getting kids outdoors is a good thing, but they really didn’t know what to do once they were out there.”

Enter the Texas Nature Challenge.

The challenge provides families with specific activities to do once they are outdoors. The Texas Nature Challenge breaks the state up into six different regions. The Highland Lakes falls smack dab in the middle of the Central Texas region. Each region has certain activities geared toward it or the area parks, and not all regions are “active” at the same time.

For instance, during the fall and winter months, when it is flush with migrating birds, the Coastal Bend region makes a great time to explore that area of Texas. Here in the Highland Lakes, the area has lots of state and local parks, which makes it a great place to explore just about year-round.

The goal of the challenge is “to get families and kids outdoors by visiting as many participating parks and nature areas in Texas as possible.”

Each location has a series of activities or challenges to engage the entire family and get kids into exploring nature.

“The Texas Nature Challenge is mainly an entrance point,” Kessner said. “It’s all about getting kids outside and getting them active.”

The Texas Nature Challenge website at provides a variety of locations and activities. Some of the activities are site specific. For instance, families can accept the challenge to do some geocaching at Inks Lake State Park in Burnet.

The challenge will list a series of steps for the activity and what to do once you complete it.

Some of the challenges such as the “Backyard Birds!” allows families to explore the birds in their backyards.

The Texas Nature Challenge gives teams a chance to blog about their experiences and win prizes.

One of the great things about the Texas Nature Challenge is that participants can explore their own regions and then hit the road for other parts of the state as well. It’s a great way to enjoy parks and nature centers when on vacation.

So what are you waiting for? Register at and get outside.