The continued efforts of NLC’s Cities Connecting Children to Nature initiative and the Children & Nature Network are geared towards providing children the most optimal opportunities to play, grow, and learn in the great outdoors.
The Cities Connecting Children to Nature (CCCN) partners have selected seven cities for the planning phase of our initiative to better connect children to nature. This phase involves activities as varied as conducting gap and asset assessments and participation in an international conference, and brings teams together from mayors’ offices, parks departments, and non-profit community organizations.
CCCN project partners the National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education & Families (IYEF), the Children & Nature Network (C&NN), Outdoors Alliance for Kids, and Wilderness Inquiry selected the cities of Saint Paul, Minnesota; Madison, Wisconsin; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Providence, Rhode Island; Louisville, Kentucky; Austin, Texas; and San Francisco, California; to participate through a competitive process. Cliff Johnson, IYEF Executive Director, highlights the importance of their pioneering work. “Cities already offer a host of opportunities for their citizens to experience nature, whether in neighborhood parks or larger public lands, but not all residents typically share in these benefits. Led by the efforts of these seven cities, CCCN aims to reduce current inequities and foster connections to nature among all children.”
Over the next seven months, the selected cities will receive technical assistance from the CCCN partners for a planning process to complete community assessments, and analyze equity issues, and will also have extensive opportunities for peer exchange and learning. Through this process, cities will develop implementation plans by August 2016, eligible for further CCCN grant funding and assistance through October 2017.
In addition to helping cities improve nature connections for children – particularly children who have had little access previously – the CCCN initiative employs funding from The JPB Foundation to test twin hypotheses: that cities constitute a valuable geographical unit for deepening the children and nature movement, and that fully engaged municipal leaders can advance efforts farther, faster, and ultimately more sustainably.
The seven-city planning cohort can look forward especially to significant learning opportunities among experts and peers gathered at the C&NN 2016 International Conference and Cities & Nature Summit. The Children & Nature Network extends an open invitation to a wide variety of additional participants to attend the Conference and Summit including other city leaders, planners, public health advocates, field practitioners, and thought leaders committed to advancing policies, partnerships and programming for connecting children to nature.
Sarah Milligan-Toffler, Executive Director of C&NN, who will host the event in St. Paul, notes that “We look forward to convening leaders from around the world to advance access to nature in low-income communities.”
The Cities & Nature Summit portion of the conference will build on CCCN leadership academies that took place in October 2015, including attendees from the seven planning cohort cities plus nine other communities including Seattle, Washington; Salt Lake City, Utah; North Little Rock, Arkansas; St. Petersburg, Florida; Columbia, South Carolina; Charlotte, North Carolina; Knoxville, Tennessee; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and New Haven, Connecticut. At the Leadership Academies, these sixteen teams joined with each other and national experts to explore strategies for providing children with equitable and abundant access to nature, with particular focus on children of color and low-income children.
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.