Texas Brigades teaches teens about plants, animals, leadership and more.
By Alexandria Simpson
“Tell me, and I forget. Show me, and I remember. Involve me, and I understand.”
For 20 years, the Texas Brigades motto has resonated with teens from across the state who voluntarily give up nearly a week of their summer vacation to learn more about wildlife, fisheries and land stewardship. Each camp or “brigade” offers a special focus: Bobwhite Brigade, Buckskin Brigade, Bass Brigade and Waterfowl Brigade (coming in 2012).
I was a cadet of the 2011 Rolling Plains Bobwhite Brigade, 19th Battalion, and the hands-on involvement definitely left a lasting impression on me. Like the other teens in my group, I willingly gave up my electronic devices and stayed up late to work on “homework” projects. There was no idle time — every moment was filled with adventurous activities and games. I absorbed a large amount of information about plant and seed identification, anatomy and habitat evaluation.
Quail-related topics were not the only subjects. I learned interviewing skills, developed confidence and improved my ability to give presentations. Team-building activities encouraged me to work with my assigned group to win the “top covey” distinction.
Dale Rollins, Texas AgriLife Extension wildlife specialist, started the program in 1993 to develop wildlife ambassadors. It has expanded from one camp, the Bobwhite Brigade, to four, with additional camps in the planning stages. Current camps spotlight quail, white-tailed deer, bass and waterfowl. Private ranches throughout Texas host these outstanding camps. The programs are so successful that they’ve been copied by other states.
The Texas Brigades experience was a life-changing event for me. I became more focused on my goal — to become an ornithologist — and realized my responsibility to conserve wildlife and habitat. I hope to return as an assistant leader, a position that must be earned by giving presentations and completing projects that showcase the Brigades and skills I learned there. I will also compete for college scholarships offered through the Brigades.
As the Texas Brigades marks its 20th anniversary, be a part of the celebration.
“Parents should send their kids to the Brigades to fast-forward their youth’s leadership abilities, like communication and teamwork skills, and build confidence,” Rollins says.
Apply for one of the five camps at www.texasbrigades.org; the deadline is March 15. Not just for students 13–17, the Texas Brigades also encourages adult volunteers to serve as leaders and/or instructors. Other ways to help include donating funds and supplies to the program, recruiting new participants and purchasing prints and books that benefit Texas Brigades.