Call for abstracts is open now!

U.S. cities’ collaboration aims to give all children access to nature

By Ajay Suresh from New York, NY, USA - Central Park - The Pond, CC BY 2.0

A further 15 cities have joined a national peer network of 32 other U.S. cities committed to increasing access to nature for all children, irrespective of their ability, race or family income.

The National League of Cities (NLC) and the Children & Nature Network (C&NN) recently selected the latest group of cities that will participate in what they call a ‘learning community of practice’ to advance their Early Childhood Nature Connection strategies.

The new early childhood community of practice is part of the Cities Connecting Children to Nature (CCCN) initiative, and will see leaders from these 15 cities join the national CCCN initiative to advance policies, programs, and infrastructure that connect more young children to nature in their daily lives.

The fifteen cities selected to join the initiative not only includes high-profile cities like New York, Detroit, St Louis, Boulder, Houston and Fort Worth, but also those with smaller populations, like Imperial Beach in California, White Salmon (Washington) and Batesville (Arizona).

Andrew Moore, Director of Youth & Young Adult Connections at NLC, said: “We know that the first five years of life are crucial for children’s healthy development. Connecting young children to nature during 0 to five has many long-term benefits, such as improving physical and mental health, promoting connectedness with nature, and preparing children for school,”

By finding ways to bring equitable nature access to young children, these 15 cities will also help advance other city priorities related to health, school readiness, park expansion, and equity – NLC

The Early Childhood Nature Connection cohort will focus on creating programs, partnerships, policies, and infrastructure that help young children, regardless of race, income or ability, learn, play and grow with nature as a key part of their daily lives.

This can include adding nature to outdoor spaces at early childhood centres, enhancing parks and public spaces with natural elements, adding nature-based programs to city facilities or expanding nature-based preschools. Cities will play an active role in regular peer learning opportunities, and will receive specialised assistance to achieve their specific goals.

Monica Lopez Magee, Senior Vice President for Cities and Community Engagement at C&NN, said: “The COVID pandemic showed how critical easily accessible, daily access to green space is for families and young children to thrive. “These 15 cities join a growing network of cities across the country that understand the value of nature and green space for all children. It’s an opportunity to tap into progress achieved by other cities and learn how the lessons can apply to them, so they too can expand equitable access to nature for young children in their city.”

‘We want to connect youth to nature in their own neighbourhoods’

Multi-disciplinary teams will work across various city departments, such as parks and recreation, community organisations, libraries, early learning centres and health bodies, and also receive support from CCCN technical and national experts. The aim is to deliver ‘equitable and regular access to natural spaces and nature-based programmes’ to young children in areas of city that have traditionally been short on these opportunities.

Aaron Brocket, the Mayor of Boulder, said: “Six of our city departments have been working together for two years to take a city-wide approach to deliver nature programs for children. We want to connect youth to nature in their own neighbourhoods as well as give them the skills to reach the mountain tops. We envision a successful early childhood nature connection initiative for Boulder that may also serve as a model for others.”

His words were echoed by Serge Dedina, the Mayor of Imperial Beach:  “Connecting children with nature is crucial in Imperial Beach. With support from CCCN, we look forward to building strategic partnerships that connect young children with the outdoors and provide access to education and recreation while creating a lifelong love of nature.”

Click here for more on the work of the National League of Cities.

Author: Simon Weedy

Add your comment

characters remaining.

Log in through one of the following social media partners to comment.