Closing the "Nature Gap" to Ensure No Kid Is Left Inside

July 22, 2015

A new initiative is taking shape to help children make stronger connections with the outdoors and nature, from the backyard to the backcountry. Cities and their local partners stand at the forefront of this movement, which has developed in response to the increasing amount of time children now spend in front of screens and the minimal time spent enjoying outdoor play. This has led to higher rates of emotional and physical illness, including childhood obesity.

The initiative also seeks to address concerns about the potential lack of informed and dedicated environmental stewards among the next generation of Americans. These young people will certainly be tasked with addressing the increasingly devastating effects of climate change and the mounting pressures on ecological balance. There is much work still needed to connect low-income and ethnically diverse children with nature, and America’s cities have an important role to play in closing this “nature gap.”

The three-year Cities Connecting Children to Nature initiative, led by the National League of Cities (NLC) and Children & Nature Network (C&NN), engages mayors and other civic leaders and community partners in these efforts through nationwide city scans, leadership academies, grants and technical assistance and by creating a Peer Learning Network.

The three-year Cities Connecting Children to Nature initiative, led by the National League of Cities (NLC) and Children & Nature Network (C&NN), engages mayors and other civic leaders and community partners in these efforts through nationwide city scans, leadership academies, grants and technical assistance and by creating a Peer Learning Network.

For example, Charleston, South Carolina’s vision for this initiative is similar to the aspirations of the 68 cities across the country that are actively participating in this program:

“A place where all children and families could participate in activities and programs that take them out of doors and to a place where mind and body can connect to the world. Not a world of noise and distractions but a place where sounds are new, smells are rich, colors are bright and they are transported to a place that is not home.”

Across the country, business leaders, elected officials and community stakeholders are recognizing that providing opportunities for youth to spend time outside is important to their personal development as well as the overall health of local communities and economies.

Across the country, business leaders, elected officials and community stakeholders are recognizing that providing opportunities for youth to spend time outside is important to their personal development as well as the overall health of local communities and economies.

This past spring, Washington State passed legislation creating the No Child Left Inside (NCLI) program, which was supported by a bi-partisan team of state legislators and a non-traditional alliance of outdoor recreation groups, civic leadership organizations, outdoor education groups and conservation organizations.

The NCLI legislation has already invested $1.3 million in a grant program for outdoor education, prioritizing funding for low-income children and programs that serve military children.

The Cities Connecting Children to Nature initiative and the Washington legislation provide great models we hope to amplify throughout our businesses in communities across the country.

Please join our panel at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market to learn what you can do to help your city or state connect youth to meaningful outdoor experiences.

Cities Connecting Children to Nature

Summer Outdoor Retailer – Outdoor Industry Association

Date:     Thursday, August 6 (Day 2)

Time:     2:00-3:00 p.m.

Place:    Salt Lake Marriott Downtown at City Creek Hotel

Keynote Speaker

Ralph Becker, Mayor, Salt Lake City and President, National League of Cities

Panel Discussants:

Juan Martinez, Director of Leadership Development and Natural Leaders Network, Children & Nature Network

Andrew Moore, Director, Youth and Young Adult Connections, National League of Cities

Martin LeBlanc, Senior Vice President, IslandWood

Chris Howe, Co-Owner, Denali & Trailblazer Retail Stores

Moderator

Jessica Wahl, Recreation Policy Advisor, Outdoor Industry Association

 

Key Action Items for Outdoor Businesses:

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