Summit Programming

Types of Programming:

The Summit features a Keynote Speaker with expertise in a topic relevant to nature and environmental learning center leaders.

The Summit offers half- and full-day Workshops on Thursday that you will pre-register for. They are led by one or two professionals and are designed in the more traditional conference style. Some of these workshops are "in-the-field" workshops. These ANCA In-the-Field Workshops will take participants to several nature sites in the Rio Grande Valley. The nature centers of the Rio Grande Valley have a variety of missions, priorities, and issues. These trips are designed to delve into a particular topic that these sites or organizations focus on particularly well. Visits to the sites will feature site staff discussing their history and expertise and will include some time for participants to explore the site on their own or talk to staff further about their operation.

Workshop Sessions allow participants the opportunity to learn about new programs and ideas. These 90-minute sessions allow for presentation time and dialogue among the group.

Facilitated Discussions are a hallmark of the ANCA Summit. The primary presenter is more a moderator, rather than a single voice, and guides the exchange of ideas based around the topic title. Participants will enrich the discussion by contributing ideas and experiences. The result is a synergistic dialogue that allows for an abundance of perspectives, possibilities, and energy. During the 90-minute discussion, participants will have the opportunity to explore various topics more in depth. Have an idea for a Facilitated Discussion? Interested in moderating? Apply here

Open Space Sessions provide an opportunity for participants to create their own meeting, continue a session that needs more time, or find a group to address an issue that was not presented elsewhere during the Summit. In the Open Space Meeting, Summit participants will gather and collectively design the session topics that will be offered during Saturday afternoon. We ask, however, that all attendees bring to the meeting those topics that they feel will be relevant and meaningful to themselves and the group.

Pre- and Post-Summit Field Trips. Don’t leave the Rio Grande Valley without time spent exploring the local flora, fauna, food, and culture of the area! ANCA Summit Field Trips offer the chance to add to your professional development experience while taking advantage of unique opportunities to visit additional nature education sites, spend time with local experts, and interact with your peers. These field trips were designed with ANCA members in mind and should not be missed!

2018 DREAM BIG Summit Keynote Speaker: Dr. Douglas Tallamy

Dr. Douglas Tallamy 2018 ANCA Summit Keynote Speaker

Wednesday 9/19 Pre-Summit Field Trips:

All field trips depart from the QM Parking Lot. 

Ethnobotany of the Rio Grande Valley – Rancho Lomitas
7:30am – 2:00pm, Cost $60, lunch included
Head to the western part of the Rio Grande Valley and learn about how local people survived in the arid brushlands of south Texas for centuries by using native plants and local landscapes. Local ethnobotanist Benito Treviño will take participants on a leisurely tour of his 200 acre ranch as he describes how his family used native plants to cope with the hardships of a harsh landscape. This trip offers a very unique look into the Rio Grande Valley's past and its unique culture. Rancho Lomitas is also a birding hotspot for the area. Audubon’s Orioles, Green Jays, and Roadrunners are known to frequent the ranch headquarters. 

Birds, Butterflies, and Botanas!
8:00am – 2:00pm, Cost $40, lunch included
Description: Get a taste of local culture through its nature and its food! Take a trip to the Rio Grande River at the Hidalgo Pumphouse and get a glimpse into the area's agricultural past and present state of affairs along the Rio Grande River. Photo op next to the section of border wall at the Hidalgo Pumphouse World Birding Center possible during this trip. The group will also visit the National Butterfly Center to view the wide variety of birds and butterflies in the RGV at this time of year.  Stop at a well-known restaurant for botanas (fajita sampler plate) or other local foods. Birds and butterflies possible during this trip include Green Jay, Plain Chachalaca, Altamira Oriole, Olive Sparrow, Malachite, Mexican Bluewing and many more!

South Padre Island Beach Goodies Trip
8:00am – 4:00pm, Cost $60, lunch included
Description: Dip your toes in the Gulf of Mexico OR jump in completely! Visit Sea Turtle Inc, a sea turtle rescue sanctuary in operation since 1977, and South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center. Kayak in the Laguna Madre or cross the street and do some beach lounging and birding. South Padre Island is the longest barrier island in the world, a popular tourist destination, and a vastly important stopover for migratory birds. Experience beach life with a variety of options during this field trip.

King Ranch Half-Day Trip
7:00am – 2:00pm, Cost $80, lunch included
Description: Explore the legendary King Ranch with the ranch's own resident naturalists! This bucket list tour will visit the remote & unique Norias division of the vast King Ranch in search of a variety of ranchland birds such as White-tailed Hawk, Greater Roadrunner, Vermillion Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Green Jay, and a rare south Texas resident: the Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl. While there is an abundance of native wildlife, you might also get a glimpse of an exotic mammal that roams this section of the ranch, the Nilgai Antelope. The Norias division is located within the south Texas sand sheet ecological area so the habitats encountered will also be quite special. Special pricing has been included for the ANCA Summit so don't miss this great opportunity. Picnic lunch included.

Thursday 9/20, Workshops:

ANCA In-The-Field Workshops

ANCA In-the-Field Workshops will take participants to several nature sites in the Rio Grande Valley. The nature centers of the Rio Grande Valley have a variety of missions, priorities, and issues. These trips are designed to delve into a particular topic that these sites or organizations focus on particularly well. Visits to the sites will feature site staff discussing their history and expertise and will include some time for participants to explore the site on their own or talk to staff further about their operation.

Habitat Management and Re-vegetation: Keeping the sub-tropics in Texas
Time: 8:00am-1:00pm
Location: Depart from Adobe Home: Visitors Center
Description: With agriculture and trade booming in the RGV since the 1920’s, quality habitat for the area’s plants and animals became an increasingly scarce resource. During the late 1980’s, there was as little as 1% native habitat left along the Rio Grande River and only 5% old-growth habitat in the rest of the RGV. This session will tour some of the areas that have been converted from agricultural land back to habitat by US Fish and Wildlife Service and local nature sites. This trip will also tour the US Fish and Wildlife Lower Rio Grande Valley NWR Nursery that grows thousands of native seedlings per year for re-vegetation efforts. If you choose this workshop you will return to Quinta Mazatlan in time to take an afternoon workshop.

Rio Grande Valley Environmental Education: Crossing barriers on the border
Time: 8:00am- 3:00pm
Location: Meet in the Discovery Center: Hall
Description: With almost 400,000 K-12 local students, several RGV nature centers and partners have robust EE programs. Begin at Quinta Mazatlan to discuss their vertical learning program for local 3rd, 5th, 7th grade and High School students before visiting the Edinburg Scenic Wetlands and WBC to learn about their 5th Grade Wetlands Program in its 13th year that serves 2,500 5th graders annually from the Edinburg ISD. A stop at the Pharr – San Juan – Alamo ISD will feature Schoolyard Habitats at local schools in partnership with US Fish and Wildlife. A stop at Valley Nature Center in Weslaco will highlight programs and camps for special needs students and other unique user groups.

Eco-tourism in the RGV: Marketing and managing birders
8:00am- 2:00pm
Location: Meet in the Adobe Home: Art Gallery
Description: Birders, butterfliers, nature photographers, and other eco-tourists visit the Rio Grande Valley from all over the world for a unique nature experience. While RGV eco-tourism is widespread, certain sites have become magnets for birds and eco-tourists. Visit well-known sites and get a behind the scenes look at interpretive programs, volunteer programs, and other eco-tourism based operations. Nancy Millar, longtime eco-tourism specialist with McAllen CVB will discuss RGV eco-tourism history and John Brush, Quinta Mazatlan Urban Ecologist, will share information on the economic impact of rare birds and designing spaces for birds and birders. Site visits include Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge and Estero Llano Grande State Park. Each of these sites will discuss effective ways to communicate and manage groups with a special interest.

Full-Day On-Site 

Strategies for Recruiting the Board You Need and Will Need
9:00am- 4:30pm
Location: Cottage: Business Room
Description: We expect most Board members to be “plug-and-play” leaders – all they need is a two-hour orientation session, and they’ll be good to go. Yet most of us realize that it can take months if not years for new people – even staff – to fully understand how the “business of our Nature and the nature of our Business” actually works. How can we compress this learning curve?
Join organizational development and fundraising expert David Allen as we examine every step of the board experience and explore succession planning and leadership development from the inside out. We’ll talk about how to find Board members, qualities of a good Board member, and the Job Description. We’ll share tools for approaching this important work objectively and systematically. We’ll talk about recruiting diversity – how to recruit a Board that represents the community in which you work. And we’ll offer and consider five fresh ideas for identifying, training, and empowering the Board leaders you need – both now and into the future.
Presenter: Development for Conservation helps environmental/conservation organizations raise money from individual donors by improving renewal, cultivation, and major gift systems. David Allen brings 30 years’ experience to the practice, including thirteen with The Nature Conservancy. He has devoted his professional career to helping conservation organizations, including several Nature Centers, pursue excellence in all aspects of their endeavors. David is a skilled seminar presenter, particularly in major gift fundraising. Specialties include Development Audits, Board training, and campaigns.

Half-Day Morning On-Site

Grassroots to Grasstops Advocacy Campaigns
9:00am- 12:00pm
Location: Discovery Center: Lab
Description: Advocacy is critical to influencing policy.  But advocacy takes on several different forms – some effective and some not.  We will explore how to channel your advocacy for your issues in an efficient way by maximizing your time and that of your organization. We will dive into the difference between different types of advocacy and their best practices. We will also discuss the role of communications and relating to the media. Finally, we will discuss all things social media and how to determine the best set up for your issue.
Presenters: Amber Hausenfluck is a Vice President of State Government Relations at McGuireWoods Consulting LLC where she assists clients with traditional advocacy, lobbying, and government relations services in matters before the Texas Legislature and regulatory agencies. She most recently worked as deputy legislative director for state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte. In her time at the Capitol, Amber staffed the Senator on the State Affairs, Business and Commerce, Transportation, and Intergovernmental Relations committees. Amber also has statewide campaign experience, having served on Senator Van de Putte's campaign for Texas Lieutenant Governor in 2014. Amber was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley.
Cait Meisenheimer is a Vice President of State Government Relations at McGuireWoods Consulting LLC where she focuses on executing elements of grassroots, public relations, communications, and digital marketing campaigns in addition to providing strategic content development services for clients. Prior to joining McGuireWoods Consulting, she served as deputy press secretary to Texas Governor Greg Abbott. In that capacity she acted as a chief spokesperson in the State Capitol. She has significant political and state government experience, having worked in various communications and administrative positions in both the Texas Legislature and other local, state and national campaigns.
Tony Gius is a Vice President in the MWC Advocacy group where he specializes in managing grassroots and grasstops programs for associations and corporations. He has managed campaigns for companies such as Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, and Disney, and campaigns for associations such as and the Texas Cultural Trust. He has vast political campaign experience including working on two successful presidential campaigns, several statewide campaigns, and at the White House Office of Political Affairs through the National Committee.

Generational, Cultural, and Personality Differences in the Workplace
Time: 9:00am-12:00pm
Location: Discovery Center: Hall
This workshop discusses Hofstede's Cultural Theory and how it relates to customer service issues and interpersonal issues that arise in the workplace. It discusses the different dimensions of culture comparing two cultures, the American culture and the Mexican culture and how the differences and similarities are rife for creating problems in the workplace. The Big Five (Factor Five) Personality Theory is discussed and how those dimensions of personality are so important in staffing decisions, promotions, job fit, and customer services. Traditional, Generation X, and Millennial Generations and the dynamics they bring to the workplace are also discussed.  Now you put all three into one model and you have an approximation of the complexities that is the workplace.
Participants will work through a case that involves all three components in one model and get a feel for the challenges that leaders face in the world that is the workplace.
You will learn:

  • Define, learn, and analyze cultural dimensions and how they can affect interpersonal and intrapersonal relations in the workplace.
  • Define, learn, and analyze personality dimensions and how they can affect interpersonal and intrapersonal relations in the workplace.
  • Define, learn, and analyze generational differences and how they can affect interpersonal and intrapersonal relations in the workplace.
  • Combining all three theoretical perspectives to address interpersonal and intrapersonal issues that ultimately affect productivity in the workplace.

Presenter: Dr. Ruben Flores is a Professor in the Bachelor of Applied Science in Organizational program in South Texas College. He also teaches in the Master of Business Administration program of a local university. His experience in teaching has been at the secondary level and at the higher education level. He has a Masters in Public Administration, Masters in Business Administration, and a Ph.D. in Business Organizational Leadership. He has worked in the criminal justice field both in law enforcement and corrections. He has also held positions in the healthcare field where he was an administrator in physician medical practices and in hospitals where he managed medical staff offices and physician-hospital organizations. He holds a license in insurance adjusting and owns an independent insurance adjusting firm. He is also a certified mediator and acts as the representing adjuster in insurance mediations working on behalf of insurance companies.

Half-Day Afternoon On-Site

Dreaming Big and Getting the Grant to Implement It
1:30pm- 4:30pm
Location: Adobe Home: Art Gallery
Description: This two-part participatory program will unpack the strategies, logistics, and best practices involved in preparing successful IMLS grant applications. With a sharp focus on nature center needs, we will examine the process in manageable units, from articulating a project justification, defining appropriately scaled activities, and drafting a budget to defining a strategy for measuring project results. Then we will switch gears, and using abbreviated examples of actual applications from nature centers, we will replicate peer review panel activities in small groups so that participants can develop a solid understanding of what’s involved in the analysis and evaluation of competitive, fundable applications. At each stage, there will be opportunities to brainstorm ideas, draft application elements, discuss our reactions, and ask questions. Bring your project ideas or plan to create them on site with your colleagues. Participants will receive sets of worksheets and PowerPoint slides for the day’s activities as well as for future reference.

Workshop participants will understand:

  • the nature and goals of IMLS grant programs for museums, including new initiatives and emphases;
  • how to assess the fit between their funding needs and the agency's opportunities; and 
  • how an application is reviewed and evaluated;

... and will learn how to:

  • write a succinct, effective project justification;
  • define appropriately scaled activities;
  • draft a high-level budget; and
  • define a strategy for measuring project results. 

Presenter: Connie Bodner is a Supervisory Grants Management Specialist at the Institute of Museum and Library Services and co-leads a team of museum professionals who coordinate IMLS’s discretionary grant programs in conservation, preservation, collections management, community engagement, and learning for museums of every size and focus across the country. She holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Missouri-Columbia as well as a B.A. and M.A. in Anthropology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her academic research interests have concentrated on the development of intensive agricultural systems in Southeast Asia and more broadly the coevolution of plants and humans through time and space. Her museum experience includes educational programming, collections care, and administration in science-, nature center-, art-, and history-focused environments.  

Building Organizational Capacity
1:30pm- 4:30pm
Location: Discovery Center: Hall
Description: Improving organizations is a surprisingly challenging undertaking. Even when we know what we want to be different, it can be immensely difficult to implement the change we seek. This workshop lays out a process for organization leaders who want to get better at getting better by systematically assessing seven research-based organizational capacities for improvement. This interactive workshop take a deep dive into two of these capacities, Leadership and Equity & Inclusion, and provides an overview of the other five capacities and a process for addressing them. Participants will also take part in small group discussion with peers and leave the workshop with the BEETLES Capacity Building Tool in hand.
Presenters:  Jedda Foreman is the Manager of the BEETLES project where she directs the BEETLES effort to advance equity and inclusion in environmental education. Kevin Beals is the director and co-founder of the BEETLES project. He has worked for the Lawrence Hall of Science since 1988 and published over 100 curriculum guides, children’s books, and professional learning resources. 

The Need for Nature Centers in Monarch Conservation
1:30pm- 4:30pm
Location: Discovery Center: Lab

  • To make the case that monarch conservation programs are fundamental to Nature Centers’ programming.
  • To provide tools and information that will help Nature Centers to engage in monarch and pollinator conservation efforts.

This workshop will illustrate threats to Monarch butterflies throughout North America and the conservation efforts that Nature Centers can implement to ensure healthy populations of these iconic butterflies. The workshop will emphasize resources that are already available to help Nature Centers accomplish their conservation goals.
Presenters: Ben Eldredge is the Director of Adult Education at the Cibolo Nature Center & Farm. In this capacity he oversees the adult education, citizen science programs, land stewardship, the creation of a nature-based school, as well as a significant program expansion to the neighboring Herff Farm, including agriculture and land restoration education. Through Ben’s efforts, the Cibolo Nature Center became a founding member of the Monarch Joint Venture and has facilitated outreach to over 15,000 individuals annually. Prior to working at the nature center, Ben was the manager of a 5,000-acre ranch in the Texas Hill Country. He has a degree in Environmental Studies from Hobart & William Smith Colleges in New York State.
Dr. Rebeca Quiñonez-Piñón has over 30 years of experience in forest and water conservation in Canada and Mexico. More recently, she worked on monarch conservation efforts through forest restoration and sustainable management within the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. In November of 2014, she joined the National Wildlife Federation as the Monarch Outreach Coordinator, and her main focus is on helping the different monarch conservation networks in Texas to accomplish the implementation of their monarch conservation actions.  

Friday 9/21 & Saturday 9/22 Workshop Sessions and Facilitated Discussions:

Friday, 9:15-10:45am

Successes and Challenges for Sustainable Development Goals for Your City
Location: Discovery Center: Hall
Description: This facilitated panel discussion will explore the important relationships and partnership possibilities between city, county, and state agencies and nature education facilities. We will discuss ideas on how to work together to benefit our communities.
Facilitated by: Colleen Hook, Manager, Quinta Mazatlan World Birding Center
Panelists: Carter Smith, Executive Director, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department; Dr. Cory Christopher, Director of the Center for Conservation at Cincinnati Nature Center; Glenna Holstein, Branch Manager, Menomonee Valley, Urban Ecology Center; and Dr. Parwinder Grewal, Executive Vice President for Research Graduate Studies and New Program Development for the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

Keeping Our Frontline Staff on the Cutting-Edge
Location: Discovery Center: Lab
Description: As nature center leaders, we find it important to stay up to date with latest trends and developments in the field. Likewise, it is important our staff are given the same opportunity to do so. However, we often face issues regarding cost, availability of training, quality of training, how would we implement the training, who really needs to go, where do I get funding etc… During this facilitated session we will share how we keep our staff on the cutting edge of what is happening in the nature center field and discuss topics such as how to make nature/environmental education a recognized and understood profession in the eyes of the world.
Facilitated By: Linda Dunn, Education Manager, John Bunker Sands Wetland Center

How to Turn Bitterness and Tension into High-fives and Laughter!
Location: Discovery Center: Anacua Tree
Description: Nothing jeopardizes an organization more than tension in the workplace. These words will ring true if your organization is suffering from a lack of team cohesion or low staff morale. Join us for a lively discussion on tips and tricks for creating the foundation of a high functioning team. Learn methods that will boost both team performance, attitudes, and maybe more importantly, your mental sanity!
Facilitated by: Jenn Wright, Executive Director, Grass River Natural Area

From Now to Wow! Improving the Nature Center Experience through Signage & Interpretive Graphics
Location: Cottage: Business Room
Description: This session will provide an opportunity to gain an understanding of the intricate processes of developing effective and engaging signage, wayfinding and interpretive graphics for Nature Centers and their related Green Spaces and Trails systems. Through presentation of proven analytical processes and how this translates into developing successful design direction, messaging, stakeholder consensus, contract documentation, and finally case studies of implemented projects attendees will experience a start to finish understanding of means and methods to achieve success on their future projects. Attendees will also have the opportunity to contrast and compare their past experiences, or current status of such programs, and participate in a peer discussion to identify challenges that are being faced and what solutions are available to them to improve their facility’s visitor experience and value perceptions of the respective Nature Center.
Facilitated by: Chris Frison, Associate Vice President, D|G Studios; Grady Brown, President, iZone Imaging

10 Years at the Leopold Legacy Center: Looking Back, Looking Ahead
Adobe Home: Art Gallery
Description: In Spring, 2007, the Aldo Leopold Foundation of Baraboo, Wisconsin completed work on its new 12,000sf headquarters. Designed by The Kubala Washatko Architects (TKWA), the Legacy Center was envisioned as a small complex of structures organized around a central courtyard with office and meeting spaces, interpretive exhibit hall, archive, workshop, and three-season hall. Built on the site where Aldo Leopold died fighting a brush fire in 1948, the Center provides a trailhead to the original Leopold Shack for visitors from around the world. In Fall, 2008, Leopold Legacy Center achieved LEED® Platinum and became the first building recognized by the United States Green Building Council as carbon-neutral in operation. Projected as a ‘zero net energy’ building, the Center was designed to produce over 110% of it’s annual building energy needs. Significantly, the Center introduced innovative approaches to sustainable site development, energy management, bioclimatic design, and the use of ecologically appropriate materials. The essential goal for this unique collaboration between the Leopold Foundation, TKWA, and a diverse team engineers, scientists, craftspeople, and artists was to demonstrate how human activity, the built environment, and the natural world are intertwined in a larger cycle of energy and life. In the ten years since its completion the Center has been published in over a dozen languages in more than twenty countries. This ANCA Workshop Session will consist of three parts: a) Creating the Center; b) Lessons Learned; and c) Program Impacts. The informal presentation will allow for audience interaction and discussion.
Facilitated by: Joel Krueger, Architect, TKWA

Leadership 101: Best PRactices for Achieving Impact
Adobe Home: Front Lawn
Description: In this session, we will discuss how to use iNaturalist, how to engage the public with this tool, and how the data can guide land management and public policy. iNaturalist is a platform for nature appreciation, and the free app can be easily taught to the public to engage them even more with nature. All of the nuts and bolts of iNaturalist will be discussed, as well as some of the concerns of using this tool.

Friday, 11:00am-12:30pm

Using iNaturalist at Your Nature Center
Discovery Center: Hall
Description: In this session, we will discuss how to use iNaturalist, how to engage the public with this tool, and how the data can guide land management and public policy. iNaturalist is a platform for nature appreciation, and the free app can be easily taught to the public to engage them even more with nature. All of the nuts and bolts of iNaturalist will be discussed, as well as some of the concerns of using this tool.
Facilitated by: Sam Kieschnick, Urban Wildlife Biologist, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department; Tania Homayoun, Texas Nature Tracker Biologist, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Rentals: How to Maximize Income AND Minimize Impact
Location: Discovery Center: Patio
Description: Hear all about Irvine’s experience with rentals as we transitioned away from managing these external events yet maintained it as a steady source of income. In this session, Irvine’s Executive Director and Director of Operations will share with participants the keys to success and pitfalls to avoid while also looking at the short and long terms benefits realized from making this change. We will share our current contract, what we have learned in year one, and how we plan to move forward as interest in using our space grows.
Facilitated by: Brooks Paternotte, Executive Director, Irvine Nature Center

Stronger Together - The Rio Grande Valley Nature Partnership Model
Discovery Center: Lab
Description: The TX Rio Grande Valley has over 20 staffed nature centers in a rather small area. Although most of these centers interpret the same resources and share similar programs and audiences, RGV Nature Centers have built a support system for sharing and collaboration. Learn the history of the RGV Nature Partnership, and how federal, state, city and non-profit nature centers, parks, and refuges have created lasting partnerships.
Facilitated by: Javier de Leon, Park Superintendent, Estero Llano Grande State Park; Marisa Oliva, Manager, Edinburg Scenic Wetlands & World Birding Center; Gisela Chapa, Refuge Manager, Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge

Can't See the Trees for the Forest
: Discovery Center: Anacua Tree 
Description: Advancing your organization through challenging times can require outside the box thinking. Have you ever thought you had your strategic direction in place only to find out that the bigger picture didn’t turn out the way you planned? Purposefully forcing a paradigm shift from focusing on the bigger picture to the individual details can reveal a path forward you would otherwise not notice. Share your ideas, concepts, and processes that shifted your perspective to achieve outcomes with substantial results.
Facilitated by: John DeFillipo, Executive Director, John Bunker Sands Wetland Center

The Benefits of Electronic Health Records at Camp
Location: Cottage: Business Room
Description: Camps are adopting Electronic Health Records (EHRs) now more than ever. Relying on handwritten instructions is a thing of the past; paper records can be cumbersome, illegible, and easily misplaced. Together we’ll explore how EHRs can help ensure the health and safety of your participants, help make your program more efficient, and help your staff avoid mistakes. Don’t get left behind!
Facilitated by: Alexander Goren, Director of Sales,

Weathering Disaster Response
 Adobe Home: Art Gallery
Description: It’s not always an issue on our mind to plan for. Natural disasters can devastate an organization, but there are things we can do to be ready ahead of time, and especially for the aftermath. We will look at the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory’s recent Hurricane Harvey damage, Stephen F. Austin State Park’s flooding, and other events and try to learn from them. Please bring any discussion along!
Facilitated by: Martin Hagne, Executive Director, Gulf Coast Bird Observatory; Martha Garcia, Park Superintendent, Texas Parks & Wildlife

Friday, 1:30-3:00pm

How Beijing Uses Parks and Traditional Chinese Culture as Comprehensive Education Resources
Location: Adobe Home: Art Gallery

  1. The Temple of Heaven is where Emperors used to pray to the Universe for good harvests. At the same time its architecture is an example of enabling architecture to serve an educational purpose. There is an amazing acoustic phenomenon, an echo, at each radius. It increases as the radius gets larger. Primary school students, as part of math classes, calculate and demonstrate these echoes. By experiencing the magic of the echoes, the students become aware of their relationship with the Universe.
  2. The Summer Palace for emperors became an urban park for the people after 1949. Primary school students study nature and architecture here and use this knowledge to give guided tours.
  3. Mid- Autumn Festival is a traditional Chinese festival and Solar Calendar. Chinese celebrate the harvest by enjoying mooncakes under the harvest moon. They share the ancient tales about Houyi, his wife Chang-e and the moon. This year the festival is on September 24th.

Application activity: creating ornamental dragonflies.
Facilitated by: Dr. Cunli Fan, Beijing Academy of Educational Sciences; Ms. Yuan Liu, Beijing Academy of Educational Sciences; Ms. Yang Wu, Beijing Academy of Educational Sciences

Community Based Partnerships for Wildlife Conservation
Cottage: Business Room
Description: Explore new innovative ways to engage communities and partners in wildlife conservation related projects. Facilitator will lead the discussion by sharing examples of non-traditional partnerships to engage communities in the outdoors and wildlife and habitat conservation.
Facilitated by: Gisela Chapa, Refuge Manager, Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge (USFWS)

Outdoor Classrooms – Design Dialogue on Purpose, Placement, Program, and Functionality
Discovery Center: Lab
Description: Outdoor “classrooms” and gathering areas can take on a variety of forms and be constructed of an array of materials. Some of the best, however, don’t even feel like a “classroom” at all. What elements of successful outdoor gathering spaces best deliver on mission and program while also being inviting and durable? How can these spaces work together to build a storyline and best engage visitors with the natural systems at your center? Bring your success stories and come share your “lessons learned.” Hear some perspective from designers who have worked on these facilities around the country.
Facilitated by: Mike Fraze, Principal, Studio Outside 

Extraordinary Personnel Issues
 Discovery Center: Patio
Description: Bring your challenges to this panel of experienced managers and we will discuss how you survive when dealing with difficult issues around your paid and volunteer workforce - including board members! We will discuss strategies and best practices for dealing with the initial shock of a situation to how to resolve your most uncomfortable situations.
Facilitated by: Amber Parker, Executive Director, Ijams Nature Center
Panelists: Suzanne Tuttle, Retired Manager, Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge; Iain McCloud, Executive Director, Squam Lakes Natural Science Center; Tim Sandsmark, Education Supervisor, Jefferson County Open Space 

Challenges and Opportunities when Diversifying Your Board or Friends Group
: Discovery Center: Anacua Tree 
Description: This discussion will include opportunities to examine challenges creating a diverse board, ways to overcome those challenges, and recruitment/retention of your board, volunteers, and/or friends group.
Facilitated by: Sara Beesley, Director, Mitchell Lake Audubon Center; Susie Creamer, Director, Patterson Park Audubon Center

Creating Meaningful Social Media
Location: Discovery Center: Hall
Description: In January 11, Mark Zuckerberg announced Facebook users would see more content from their friends and family over posts from business pages. This shift could have significant impacts on small businesses that use social media to advertise themselves. This session will guide you on how to efficiently deal with the Facebook changes by creating engaging content that keeps guests coming back to your page.
Facilitated by: Jessica Tanguma, Program Coordinator, City of McAllen- Parks and Recreation

Saturday, 9:00-10:30am

1, 2, 3, Ecology
Location: Discovery Center: Hall
Description: Nature is all around us and constantly at work. The presentation will review three processes of nature (photosynthesis, chemistry, and fire physics) and review the impacts and benefits they have on the built environment. Jacob will present design principles and economic outcomes that result from incorporating nature in design. The presentation is a primer on some of the aspects of science you learned but might have forgotten; and a look at the role of nature in design. The presentation illustrates how the process of nature impact designs.
Facilitated by: Jacob Blue, Ayres Associates Inc.

Budgeting 101: Making ‘Cents’ out of Budgeting
Cottage: Business Room
Description: Many of us began our nature/environmental centers as tree huggers and happy educators, but suddenly found ourselves leading our organizations and being tossed into the cold world of financial documents and budget spreadsheets. Learning how to navigate and guide your organization’s finances is one of the most critical things you can do to insure success. Whether you are navigating nonprofit or governmental finances, your organization needs a budget. Join your fellow leaders as we delve into the basics of budgeting and learn from each other the tips and tools for successful budgeting.
Facilitated by: Tim Sandsmark, Education Supervisor, Jefferson County Open Space

Say What You Mean: A Conversation on Inclusive Language and Practices
 Adobe Home: Art Gallery
Description: Does “citizen science” invite only American citizens to participate in collecting data? Do sweat-wicking, weather-repelling hiking clothes imply that only those who can afford the gear can go on the hike? Do the job requirements or the online applications create barriers for applicants without higher education or access to technology? Equity, diversity, and inclusion are vital to environmental sustainability and programs success in our multicultural world. We must be thoughtful and intentional in our daily approach. Join us for an informal discussion in a safe space to explore how each of us can create a more welcoming place for participants, volunteers, and staff.
Facilitated by: Susie Creamer, Director, Patterson Park Audubon Center

Fee Structures: To be Free or Not Free?
Discovery Center: Anacua Tree
Description: As debate rages on between whether we should build value in nature by charging for access to nature sites or make access free and available to all, let's discuss the merits of both perspectives, while learning what policies and practices sites have put into practice to meet the economic realities of their operations and the communities they serve.
Facilitated by: Marisa Oliva, Manager, Edinburg Scenic Wetlands & World Birding Center

Connecting Deeply with Nature Through Science
Discovery Center: Lab
Description: A scientific mindset is a deep way for learners to develop a life-long relationship with nature. Nature is filled with mysteries, and by focusing in on any part of nature using a well thought out approach of observations, questions, and connections, learners can become intrigued. We’ll model an activity that gives learners the opportunity to engage in practices and ways of thinking of science, while becoming deeply engaged with exploring and figuring out an intriguing corner of nature. Once this curiosity is ignited, and they’ve caught “inquiry fever,” they’ll be interested in and prepared to wonder and explore other parts of nature on their own. This session is based on one of the many free outdoor science resources developed by the BEETLES program at the Lawrence Hall of Science. Come “fall in love” with an intriguing aspect of nature.
Facilitated by: Kevin Beals, Director, BEETLES-Lawrence Hall of Science; Jedda Foreman, Project Manager, BEETLES-Lawrence Hall of Science

How to Ask for Major Gifts
 Discovery Center: Patio
Description: The truth about Major Gift Fundraising is that it IS hard – at least the ASKING part is. It is emotionally taxing for both the solicitor and the prospective donor. Building a stone wall is hard too. It requires muscles not everyone has. We can’t make either activity less difficult, but we can strengthen the muscles needed through exercise. And like physical labor, the more you do, the more you will be able to do.
Join organizational development and fundraising expert David Allen for a fast-paced, interactive workshop where we examine the nature of our organizational fundraising muscle and demonstrate several exercises we can take back to help us make that muscle stronger. We’ll look at motivations behind giving decisions from the donors’ perspective, how to find and qualify prospects, how to think creatively about and plan for cultivation activities, and the differing roles of staff and board. We’ll examine a foolproof outline for organizing the personal ask visit. And, we’ll identify three paradigm shifts in our thinking that can make a HUGE difference in our experience and our results.
Facilitated by: David Allen, Principal Consultant, Development for Conservation

Saturday, 10:45am-12:15pm

Retirement 101
Discovery Center: Lab
Description: There are three levels of preparation for retirement. 1) Preparing yourself financially. 2) Preparing your organization for the change. 3) Preparing yourself mentally. This session will focus on number 3. When you retire, you give up your responsibility, connection to many people you are close to, and, in many ways, your self-image. How does one prepare mentally for this new role? Now retired 2.5 years, Bob will lead a discussion. There are no right or wrong answers, so we will explore an array of options. What are you going to do?
Facilitated by: Robert Mercer, Retired, Silver Lake Nature Center

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Where Does Your Organization Stand?
: Discovery Center: Anacua Tree
Description: Just as ecosystems are stronger and more resilient when they are more biologically diverse, we know that in order for environmental efforts to succeed, they must be built by and for people who represent the vast diversity that we find across our communities. We also know that the environmental field in particular struggles to represent some dimensions of diversity, in particular racial diversity. In this session, we will share successes and strive to answer questions with our collective knowledge related to:

  • Removing barriers and building bridges
  • Building diverse staff teams
  • Meaningfully engaging diverse communities

We’ll also tackle the question of: what the heck do those terms “diversity, equity, and inclusion” mean, and are they the best terms to use for your work at your center?
Facilitated by: Glenna Holstein, Branch Manager - Menomonee Valley, Urban Ecology Center; Pam Musk, Board of Directors, ANCA


Building Power and Influence for Nature Center Directors
 Adobe Home: Art Gallery
Description: Leadership can be defined as taking responsibility for enabling others to achieve purpose in the face of uncertainty. What does leadership mean to you? How do you want to leverage your role to impact your cause? What are your leadership goals? Foundational to good leadership are qualities of empathy, compassion, open-mindedness, respect, and generosity. This facilitated panel discussion with six experienced nature center leaders will explore ways to invest in relationships to make an impact; identify behaviors that inherently build leadership and spheres of influence; and discuss ways to empower others within our organizations.
Facilitated by: Kitty Pochman, Executive Director, Linda Loring Nature Foundation
Panelists: Vera Vollbrecht Roberts, Director, Warner Park Nature Center; Mary McKinley, Executive Director, Ogden Nature Center; Merica Whitehall, Executive Director, Fontenelle Forest; Javier de Leon, Park Superintendent, Estero Llano Grande State Park; Saul Weisberg, Executive Director, North Cascades Institute; Bo Glover, Executive Director, Environmental Nature Center

Improving the Visitor and Staff Experience: Strategies for Evaluating and Planning Technology Solutions
: Cottage: Business Room
Description: With other attractions competing for the same visitors, nature centers must strive to deliver a unique and satisfying visitor experience that promotes loyalty and support. Nature centers often adopt new visitor-serving technologies as they became available, resulting in a mix of systems from a variety of vendors that may not efficiently meet an organization’s diverse and evolving needs. Technology strategies tend to fall into four general categories, each of which offers benefits and drawbacks. In this session, we will:

  • Present common technology models and strategies at nature centers, and discuss their benefits and drawbacks
  • Moderate a discussion about participants’ technology challenges and possible solutions
  • Lead a collaborative exercise in developing technology plans that meet the needs of constituents and staff
  • Share strategies for evaluating, selecting and implementing new technologies with minimal disruption

Facilitated by: David Ellis, VP, Sales and Marketing, Doubleknot; Ruth Lundin, Retired President, Audubon Community Nature Center

Nature Preschool, Right for You?
 Discovery Center: Patio
Description: What is a nature preschool? Is a nature preschool right for your organization? How do you decide? How do you start one? This session will help you decide if it is a good option for you and give you the background and steps to ensure a smooth start-up should you choose to go that route. The session will be an open discussion with focus on the areas that participants choose as priorities. Staff with existing nature preschools are welcome as well as those who are still in the decision-making process.
Facilitated by: Michele Cardinaux, Nature Center Director, Tacoma Nature Center, Metro Parks Tacoma

Social and Emotional Learning: Why Incorporating Best Practices in Youth Engagement Matters
Location: Discovery Center: Hall
Description: Raising socially and environmentally conscious children leads to lifelong stewardship of nature and community. Explore how incorporating Social Emotional Learning best practices in youth engagement at outdoor science centers creates transformative change in programs, teams, individuals, and community. Join the conversation and become change agents for your community.
Facilitated by: Nancy Patterson, Director, BLM Campbell Creek Science Center

Don’t see the topic you need? Come to Saturday afternoon’s Open Space to propose a session!

Further information will be available soon - check back often! 

Sunday 9/23 Post Summit Field Trips:

All field trips depart from the QM Parking Lot. 

RGV Bucket List Birding
Time: 7:00am – 6:00pm, Cost $60, lunch included
Description: Don’t miss this Rio Grande Valley Birding Big Day adventure with local birders. This trip will find as many Rio Grande Valley Specialty Birds and any migrating birds as they make their way south for the winter. Begin at Bentsen RGV State Park and bird the entrance gardens and nature center in search of Clay-colored Thrush, Olive Sparrow, Altamira Oriole, Long-billed Thrasher and Curve-billed Thrashers. Stop at Santa Ana NWR for more riparian and forest species before heading to Estero Llano Grande State Park for Least Grebe, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Pauraque, Green and Ringed Kingfishers. Enjoy a box lunch at Estero and then head to the coast for migrating song birds and shorebirds. Locations may vary according to where the birds are.

Palms and Parrots of Brownsville
: 3:00pm – 8:30pm, Cost $40, dinner included
Description: Visit one of the last Sabal Palm forests along the Rio Grande with past ANCA Board Member Jimmy Paz. Tour a recently restored plantation house and the Sabal Palm forest for a unique sub-tropical experience. Enjoy a picnic dinner before visiting Oliveira Park - known for its raucous nightly parrot spectacle. Over Two hundred parrots (Red-crowned, White-fronted, Red-lored, Yellow-headed Parrots) gather here every night in the trees above the park to the delight of many visiting birders. Learn about the efforts to protect Red-crowned Parrots, a native species to the area and possible endangered species candidate.

Monday 9/24 Post-Summit Field Trips:

All field trips depart from the QM Parking Lot. 

Fistful of Bucket List Birds
7:00am - 10:45am, Cost $20
Description: Before your flight back home, take some time to meet some of the Rio Grande Valley resident birds face to face as local bird banding legend Mark Conway continues his urban bird banding project at Quinta Mazatlán. Great Kiskadees, Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, Plain Chachalacas, and perhaps a bird rare to the area can be closely examined before being released back into the local habitat.

New this Year: Mini-Cultural Activities:

The Big Picture: Topo Map View of the Valley! 
Location: Discovery Center: Hall
Times: Wednesday, 4-5pm
Thursday, 4:45-5:30pm
Host: Carol Goolsby is the Supervisor of Environmental Education for youth and family programs at Quinta Mazatlan. Her specialty is creating environmental, hands-on, interactive, educational curriculum and nature experiences.
Description: Enjoy a unique “birds-eye-view” presentation of the Lower Rio Grande Valley on a large-scale topographical model of the region, followed by a look at some of the live and taxidermy creatures that can be found in the Valley’s six physiographic zones. See where the nature parks are in relation to the Rio Grande, Mexico, and major cities in this introductory “Welcome to the Valley!”

History Tour of Adobe Home
Location: Adobe Home: Historic Door
Times: Wednesday, 4-5pm
Thursday, 4:45-5:30pm
Friday, 4:45-5:30pm
Host: Victor De Leon is the Supervisor of Marketing & Adult Environmental Programs at Quinta Mazatlan. A Valley native and former school teacher, Victor spent two years avidly pursuing the history of the Quinta Mazatlan home and gardens.
Description: Join Quinta Mazatlan’s historian on a tour of the historic home, sharing its colorful past as it moved through the ownership of two families before being purchased by the City of McAllen. Learn about Spanish Colonial Architecture, Talavera Tile, and tour the smallest museum in South Texas—the Ann Moore Collection of Mexican Folk Art, housed today in a transformed children’s bedroom.

Palm Frond Painting & Rep-TILE Art!
Location: Courtyard: South Oak
Times: Wednesday, 4-5pm
Thursday 4:45-5:30pm
Friday 4:45-5:30pm
Host: Carly Tencza is an environmental educator at Quinta Mazatlan with a passion for nature journalism and sustainability who works with children’s nature programs. Carly is a recent arrival from New Mexico where she led a sustainability program for a national corporation.
Description: Bring out your inner “wild” and take back home a creative souvenir of the subtropics: a palm frond painting or a painted “rep-tile!”. Carly Tencza will introduce you to our live indigo snake, eastern rat snake, and Texas tortoise, and then challenge you to paint a unique souvenir.

Songbird Stroll
Location: Adobe Home: Visitors Center
Times: Thursday 7-8am
Friday 7-8am
Saturday 7-8am
Host: John Brush is the Urban Ecologist at Quinta Mazatlan’s Center for Urban Ecology. John grew up in the Valley as son of its premier ornithologist. Today he is considered one of the Valley’s top naturalists, who gives bird workshops and tours, as well as coordinates habitat conservation research through the Center for Urban Ecology.
Description: Join experienced ornithologist John Brush on a bird walk through the thorn forest, where you will get to see and learn about local specialties, such as the great chachalaca, green jay, clay-colored thrush, great kiskadee, as well as migratory species that visit the LRGV.

Thorn Forest Trail Walk
Location: Adobe Home: Front Lawn
Times: Thursday 7-8am
Saturday 7-8am
Host: Jorge Trujillo is an Environmental Educator at Quinta Mazatlan who works with toddlers, preschool, and school-age programs. Jorge grew up in the Valley and expresses his Bolivian family heritage and South Texas experience through story, food, and music, highlighting rich connections to nature.
Description: Unique plant and animal adaptations and cultural myths and stories can be found on every turn of the trail in this guided walk through a remnant of “Tamaulipan Thorn Forest” at Quinta Mazatlan. At the end of trail, have a sample “taste of the region.”

Yoga in the Park
Location: Courtyard: Awning
Times: Thursday 7-8am
Friday 7-8am
Host: Sabrina Lartz is a Quinta Mazatlan marketing coordinator, provider of adult history tours, and coordinator of Yoga in the Park. Sabrina moved to the Valley from Florida where she worked as a wildlife specialist in a nature preserve while teaching yoga in her spare time.
Description: Start your day with an hour of relaxation as Sabrina Lartz guides you through “Yoga in the Park.”

Gardeining for Wildlife 
Tour Meet at the Top of the Drive
Friday 7-8am
Silvia Barr is the Quinta Mazatlan horticulturalist and coordinator of the Mayor’s Monarch pledge. A native of Venezuela, Silvia has lived in the Valley for the past several decades bringing her knowledge of South American plant families to compare with their North American relatives.
Join horticulturalist Silvia Barr on a tour through Quinta’s butterfly and cactus gardens. Learn about programs such as the Mayor’s Monarch Pledge, festivals and workshops, and our work to fulfill Quinta’s mission to expand habitat gardens to urban areas to support wildlife and conserve water.

Nature Journaling
Location: Discovery Center: Patio
Times: Thursday 7-8am
Friday 7-8am
Saturday 7-8am
HostCarly Tencza is an environmental education with a passion for nature journalism and sustainability who works with children’s nature programs. Carly is a recent arrival from New Mexico, where she led a sustainability program for a national corporation.
Description: Start your day with an hour of soulfulness and nature connectivity as Carly demonstrates techniques used in creating a strong nature journaling program.

Prickly Pear Jelly Making
Location: Discovery Center: Lab
Times: Thursday 4:45-5:30pm
Friday 4:45-5:30pm
Host: Christa Lee from McAllen is proprietor of “Christa’s Pantry” selling locally made jellies and preserves in farmer’s markets throughout the Valley. An Illinois native, Christa moved to the Valley 3 decades ago with her “passion for preserving,” and has experimented with a variety of local fruits and Valley flavors.
Description: Watch Christa Lee, locally renowned jelly-maker, as she demonstrates the process of taking one of the Valley’s iconic fruits, the Prickly Pear Tuna, from the cactus through the flame-thrower, to pot to the jar. Then taste the unique flavors as she serves it in unique ways including Jalapeno Kettle Potato chips, and as Prickly Pear Lemonade!

Early Knowledge: Make Rope out of Yucca
Location: Discovery Center: Anacua Tree
Times: Thursday 4:45-5:30pm
Friday 4:45-5:30pm
Host: David Flores and Rick Guerra are Valley natives that work as environmental educators with Quinta Mazatlan’s youth education programming. Their strong connection to the land growing up led to a lifetime of knowledge about the Valley’s native plants and animals.
Description: Learn how early cultures along the Rio Grande used agave leaves to twine into threads that could be corded into rope during this hands-on demonstration. Take home a souvenir of the past.

Rhythms of the Rio
Location: Amphitheater in the Woods
Time: Friday 4:45-5:30pm
Host: Jorge Trujillo is an Environmental Educator at Quinta Mazatlan who works with toddlers, preschool, and school-age programs. Jorge grew up in the Valley and expresses his Bolivian family heritage and South Texas experience through story, food, and music, highlighting rich connections to nature.
Description: Enjoy an unforgettable hour of LRGV cultural heritage as Jorge Trujillo transports you with song and story-telling through the various people that have called South Texas home.

Evenings in the Park 

Time: 9:00pm-10:30pm; Wed-Thurs-Fri

Starlight Chats- bring a guitar and your stories

Cultural Dance Gathering- each evening will feature a different cultural genre (flamenco, country, mariachi)