Children & Nature Network releases Natural Leaders Network Toolkit

C&NN

The Children & Nature Network (C&NN) was created to encourage and support the people and organizations working nationally and internationally to reconnect children with nature. The network provides a critical link between researchers and individuals, educators and organizations dedicated to children's health and well-being.

C&NN has just annnounced the release of the Natural Leaders Network Toolkit. This tool kit is a guide for all youth around the world who want to start Natural Leaders action groups or networks. It’s like a road map to figure out how to get started and where to go with your work. It offers some cool ideas and gives examples of how you might build your own Network. You will find stories of current Natural Leaders and the work they are doing, as well as the history of the Natural Leaders Network and how Natural Leaders fit into the greater movement to reconnect kids to nature. Go ahead, download it now and start reading.

The Children & Nature Network launched the Natural Leaders Network in 2008 to encourage young leaders to take decisive action against nature-deficit disorder. With founding support from the Sierra Club’s Building Bridges to the Outdoors, and the corporate support of The North Face, we are ready to take on this challenge.


Reports from the Children & Nature Network

June is the nation’s Great Outdoors month, proclaimed by the President of the United States and all 50 state governors. The Children & Nature Network (C&NN) is among those organizations celebrating and supporting Great Outdoors month. C&NN has chosen the occasion to announce the release of two major studies it commissioned with funding support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

The “American Beliefs Associated with Children’s Nature Experience Opportunities: Development and Application of the EC-NES Scale,” was conducted by the Maryland-based independent non-profit learning research Institute for Learning Innovation (ILI) at the request of the Children & Nature Network. Authors are John Fraser, Ph.D.; Joe E. Heimlich, Ph.D.; and Victor Yocco. This is the first study to establish a baseline measure of the attitudes of the American public concerning the importance of direct experiences in nature for children’s healthy development. Among its findings, the survey indicates that parents and others in the public see the benefits to children’s physical development and their love of nature from nature-based experiences, but do not tend to see the cognitive, emotional and social benefits from those experiences. The study also revealed a wide age differentiation—the younger the adult participating in the survey, the less likely he or she is to see the benefits for children’s healthy development from these experiences in nature.

While the public reports positive attitudes about children playing outdoors in nature, the respondents also reported barriers. The most dominant was concern about safety. Respondents reported significant differences between locations where they played as children, such as woods, and where they let children play today, such as indoors. They identified “wilder” places like woods, streams and ponds as the riskiest locations.

To C&NN, this discrepancy strongly suggests that the movement must develop new ways for parents to feel safer introducing their children to nature, such as Family Nature Clubs (http://www.childrenandnature.org/movement/natureclubs/).

“We believe this landmark study is the first but not the last of its kind,” said Cheryl Charles, Ph.D., President and CEO of the Children & Nature Network. “During the next five years, we hope to see the children and nature movement reach more people, of all income and cultural groups, and that, in the next survey, they report an even stronger appreciation for the importance of children’s direct experiences with nature for their healthy development —along with a greater willingness to make those opportunities possible for every child, every day.”

The second study, C&NN’s Grassroots Survey, developed by the Children & Nature Network’s national Grassroots Leadership Team with independent analysis of the results by professional evaluator, M. Lynette Fleming, Ph.D., provides a baseline measure of the growth of the “children and nature movement” as reported by grassroots leaders and representatives of the more than 70 campaigns working to reconnect children and nature. These campaigns are registered on the Children & Nature Network’s map of the movement (www.childrenandnature.org), located in more than 40 states—spanning cities, states and regions. These campaigns, in total, report between 900,000 to 1.5 million participants during 2009.

Among other findings, reported as changes since their children and nature campaigns started:
• 74% of the campaigns report an increase in community support;
• 71% report increased awareness of the importance of nature for children’s healthy development;
• 71% report increased media attention; and
• More than half report an increased number of people participating in events and programs.

In addition, Fleming reports a trend toward collaborative efforts to support the growth of the children and nature movement, rather than individual efforts by individual organizations and agencies—locally, regionally and nationally.

“This report is the first to quantify the numbers of people reached as well as the value of the resources that the Children & Nature Network provides in the effort to nourish and support this movement,” said Betsy Townsend, Founding Chair of C&NN’s national Grassroots Leadership Team and a member of the C&NN Board of Directors. “I am inspired by these indicators of progress—and compelled by how much work we all still need to do to reverse the trend that Richard Louv, co-founder and Chairman of C&NN, has called nature-deficit disorder.”

“I am heartened by the rapid growth of the children and nature movement, evidenced in part by these studies,” said Richard Louv, C&NN co-founder, Chairman, and author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. “However, more research is needed on a number of fronts. And we are a long way from reaching our goal of every child experiencing their birthright of experience in the natural world, which we believe offers better health, improved learning abilities, and a sense of wonder.”


2009 Independant Baseline Study
The “American Beliefs Associated with Children’s Nature Experience Opportunities: Development and Application of the EC-NES Scale,” is the first study to establish a baseline measure of the attitudes of the American public concerning the importance of direct experiences in nature for children’s healthy development.Download PDf

2009 Grassroots Survey
The second study, C&NN’s Grassroots Survey, developed by the Children & Nature Network’s national Grassroots Leadership Team with independent analysis of the results by professional evaluator, M. Lynette Fleming, Ph.D., provides a baseline measure of the growth of the “children and nature movement” as reported by grassroots leaders and representatives of the more than 70 campaigns working to reconnect children and nature. Download PDF

Health Benefits to Children from Contact with the Outdoors & Nature
The following is a synthesis of selected research and studies on health benefits. These studies, along with others, were originally published as part of C&NN's four volumes of annotated bibliographies of research and studies listed below. Download PDF

Children's Contact with the Outdoors & Nature: A Focus on Educators and Educational Settings
The following is a synthesis of selected research and studies that focus on education and educational settings. These studies, along with others, were originally published as part of C&NN's four volumes of annotated bibliographies of research and studies listed below. Download PDF

Children and Nature 2009: A Report on the Movement to Reconnect Children to the Natural World
Download PDF [1.1MB]

C&NN Community Action Guide: Building the Children & Nature Movement from the Ground Up
Download PDF [1.4MB]