Pockets of nature still thrive within San Antonio’s city limits, and often, in unexpected places. Only a few miles from downtown, the San Antonio River starts at a natural spring known as the Blue Hole, protected in the secluded Headwaters Sanctuary.
Over the summer, a class of 15 middle school students explored the 53-acre preserve managed by Headwaters at Incarnate Word. With photography, reflection, and writing, the students have prepared “Urban Nature, Hidden Culture,” a new exhibit for display at the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures.
With San Antonio’s Tricentennial celebrations continuing, the institute and Headwaters collaborated on a project to give a group of students the opportunity to contemplate the headwaters and how the San Antonio River would lead to a permanent settlement, which would grow and thrive for 300 years and beyond.
“The San Antonio River was the key to life in this area,” said ITC educator Melanie Schwebke, who oversaw the student workshops leading up to the exhibit. “When you walk through the preserve, slow down and appreciate the nature that is all around you. This is a chance for these students to feel that connection, capture it, and express it through their photos and artist statements.”
The institute shows two to three student exhibits each year, as they challenge classes to conduct more in-depth explorations of history and culture. The summer course included three workshop days, with instruction from a professional photographer, exploration of the sanctuary, and selection of materials for the exhibit.
“The Blue Hole has been a place of cultural connection for over 12,000 years, with people being drawn here by the rich natural resources the springs provide,” said Alex Antram, executive director of Headwaters Sanctuary. “Part of our mission is to offer the gifts of reflection and education to children, and we were thrilled to engage students in a project that took them out of their comfort zones, discovering wetland and woodland habitats they may not have realized are here for their exploration and enjoyment.”
Headwaters at Incarnate Word is the only nature sanctuary in the heart of San Antonio, with free access every day. Visit headwaters-iw.org for more information.
Urban Nature, Hidden Culture is on display Aug. 24 – Nov. 11, 2018.
The Institute of Texan Cultures is located on the UTSA Hemisfair Campus, 801 E. César E. Chávez Blvd., a short distance from the Alamo and the River Walk. Regular hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Saturday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $10 for adults (18-64); $8 for seniors (ages 65+) and children (6-17); children 5 and under free; free with membership, UTSA or Alamo Colleges identification. For more information, call 210-458-2300 or visit TexanCultures.com.