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Research shows that connection to nature increases health, well-being and overall quality of life. With a majority of children living in cities, cities play a critical role in connecting kids to green spaces and outdoor experiences. As part of Cities Connecting Children to Nature (CCCN), cities nationwide made significant progress in improving nature access for children and families, reflecting strong mayoral leadership and the hard work of innovative cross-departmental teams. Here are highlights from 2019:
An Evolution of Mayoral Leadership & Vision  
Mayors continue to align nature connection strategies more closely with other top priorities, developing public-private partnerships and cross-departmental collaborations to accelerate progress in their cities. See what mayors had to say in 2019:
Building Momentum and Reaching City-wide Impact 
The 18 cities in the CCCN network used a variety of strategies to advance programs, policies and infrastructure for children’s equitable access to nature. Cities integrated nature in their parks, and also in schools, libraries, internship programs, childcare centers and more - finding additional ways to bring the benefits of nature to children’s daily lives.
  • Green Schoolyards - Austin, TX and Grand Rapids, MI opened the first in a series of green schoolyards, which combine easy access to outdoor classrooms and green spaces in neighborhoods that lack park access.
  • Nature-Smart Libraries - Saint Paul, MN expanded its Nature-Smart Library model to six locations. San Antonio, TX kicked off the first of several Nature-Smart Libraries with a launch event with over 450 attendees. The partnership between the San Francisco Public Library and the National Park Service continued to expand.
  • Early Childhood Nature Play - Madison, WI installed a nature play space in a city park to complement seven nature play spaces in child care centers. San Francisco, CA piloted a project to repurpose more than 350 downed trees and provide natural loose parts to support nature play at early education sites. Albuquerque, NM launched Family Nature Clubs as a means of engaging families in Albuquerque's open space. And, Albuquerque, Austin and San Francisco all hosted nature play training and professional development for early childhood providers.
  • Youth Leadership and Employment - Louisville, KY, Gary, IN and Houston, TX extended the number of children getting access to nature by training young leaders to facilitate nature-based programs as part of their summer youth employment programs. Louisville also launched a conservation corps.
  • Park Activation - The City of Saint Paul hosted a nature-based summer camp in the heart of the city for 150 children. The City of Madison created child-friendly nature nooks as a means to activate parks. And, San Francisco, CA designed and created the Rolph Nicol Nature Exploration Area and hosted a Nature Play Day with more than 350 people in attendance.
  • Out-of-School Time - Louisville, KY expanded its Louisville ECHO (Engaging Children Outdoors) program to include in-school programs for 3rd and 4th graders.
  • Planning and Programming - St. Louis, MO created a new Mayor's Office of Children, Youth, and Families which is taking leadership of local CCCN efforts. Seattle and Atlanta are using CCCN tools to undergo a robust planning process to inform their implementation plans.
Lessons Learned and Promising Practices: City Examples, Tools & Resources  
The CCCN staff team drew upon the experiences and successes of cities to create tools and resources to help other cities increase equitable access to nature. Any city, regardless of size, location or resources, may use these resources to achieve local impact:

Toolkits, Resources & Videos: Recorded Webinars:

The Cities Connecting Children to Nature (CCCN) initiative helps city leaders and their partners ensure that all children have the opportunity to play, learn and grow in nature, from urban parks and community gardens to the great outdoors. Check out our online resource hub, and join the conversation on Twitter with #citykids2nature!

Copyright © 2019 NLC's Institute for Youth, Education & Families, All rights reserved.

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