Just published online: A new resource for city leaders who want to take steps to connect more children to nature more equitably, from the National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education, and Families (YEF Institute) and the Children & Nature Network.
“Connect children with parks and open spaces and do it in a way that’s equitable… throughout the city, for everybody in the city. We have to make sure that all children have the opportunity to learn and play and to grow outside.” – Mayor Steve Adler, City of Austin, Texas
Across the ages and in every culture, childhood has included time playing in and exploring the outdoors. Yet over the last few generations, childhood has moved indoors, leaving kids disconnected from the natural world.
Cities, however, can be a driving force in reducing this trend and reconnecting children with nature. The YEF Institute and the Children & Nature Network offer two new tools, the Cities Connecting Children to Nature (CCCN) Municipal Action Guide (MAG) and CCCN Resource Hub, that provide cities promising strategies, action steps and planning guidance to ensure that more children experience the benefits of nature.
Pursuing strategies that prioritize access to nature can complement and reinforce ongoing outdoor play and health initiatives, awaken lifelong interest in nature, and afford numerous benefits, including:
- Improved health outcomes
- Higher academic achievement
- Increased social and emotional learning
- Strong social connections
- Increased creativity, self-esteem, focus
- A greater sense of environmental stewardship
These new tools draw from the experience of the pilot CCCN cohort, which includes the seven cities depicted on this map.
“Cities have a stake in improving the lives of young people and their relationship to the natural world. We are excited by the efforts already underway in the seven pilot cities and look forward to helping others take steps to close the nature gap,” said Clifford Johnson, executive director of the NLC YEF Institute.
The CCCN MAG poses three questions to city leaders seeking to launch an initiative to connect children to nature:
- Does my city offer enough places for children to connect with nature?
- What programs and partnerships can draw children and families to nature?
- How can my city integrate access to nature with other city functions?
The MAG also outlines strategies that respond to these questions to provide the benefits of nature for all children, such as:
- Welcoming all residents to parks, and enhancing natural features;
- Focusing on places where children already spend time, such as early childhood centers and afterschool time programs;
- Cultivating a new generation of leaders through youth stewardship activities; and
- Creating shared use agreements to add nature play and learning spaces to school grounds and vacant lots.
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The CCCN Resource Hub provides tools for cities and their partners seeking to develop an implementation plan and pursue strategies like those above. Resources include Citywide Planning Tools, a Metrics Toolkit and Project Sustainability Framework. With purposeful design, cities can push the frontier of national efforts to promote equity in nature access for low-income children and children of color.
For more information on the Cities Connecting Children to Nature initiative, click here or contact Priya Cook, Principal Associate for Cities Connecting Children to Nature at email@example.com. You can also view the “Lessons Learned to Date from the CCCN Initiative” webinar here.
About the author: Priya Cook is the Principal Associate for the Connecting Children to Nature program, the newest program of NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.