“A movement moves.” — Rev. Gerald L. Durley
All of us involved with the Children & Nature Network recognize the challenges ahead, the miles to go, the promises and deadlines to keep. But for the children and nature movement, 2011 has been a banner year. Here are a few of the achievements accomplished during the past eleven months by the C&NN family – including many of you.
Launching New Campaigns and Initiatives
1. In 2011, C&NN launched its first month-long Let’s G.O.!(Get Outside) campaign, which inspired and networked more than 500 events in 44 states, getting over 100,000 people – approximately 50,000 adults and 60,000 children and youth — outside. Many of the events were service projects melding nature restoration with human restoration.
2. For health professionals who work with children and families, C&NN developed its Grow Outside! Initiative and tool kit. The initiative was launched during a keynote speech at the national conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics, encouraging health care providers to recommend nature time to the families they serve.
Developing Grassroots Leadership, Domestic and International
3. Among other accomplishments, C&NN’s Natural Leaders (young people 15-to-30 years old) guided the Let’s G.O.! campaign, published the first Natural Leaders Tool Kit in Spanish, laid the groundwork for a leadership training program, and helped lead the first listening session of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Forum.
4. C&NN helped grow the number and the influence of regional, state and provincial campaigns in the U.S. and Canada. At the current count, C&NN is tracking 96 of these independent efforts, engaging many thousands of volunteers – educators, health professions, business people, conservationists, coming together across political and religious divides.
5. C&NN expanded its international influence; including helping Western Australia (that country’s biggest state) grow its own Nature Play WA campaign. C&NN developed a family nature blog portal for the state program. Staff and directors also engaged with efforts in Denmark, the Netherlands, England, Scotland and other nations. (Currently, Last Child in the Woods is translated into 13 languages and published in 16 countries.)
6. Through C&NN’s annual Grassroots Leadership Gathering and C&NN Connect, an expanded online community, leaders of campaigns in the U.S., Canada, and abroad shared their knowledge and increased their effectiveness.
Empowering Families and Educators
7. C&NN’s Natural Families Network distributed thousands of free Nature Clubs for Families Tool Kits; there are now 100 Nature Clubs for Families, some with hundreds of member families. One club’s membership includes over 700 participating families. This year, C&NN also produced a Spanish version of the Family Nature Club Tool Kit. We’d like to see Spanish translations of all of C&NN’s publications.
8. With the help of some talented educators, C&NN launched its Natural Teachers Newsletter, encouraging, informing, and honoring teachers across the country who are getting their students outside to learn. Also this year, C&NN’s first recipient of our Natural Teachers Award was honored with a trip to the Galapagos provided by Lindblad Expeditions in partnership with National Geographic.
Encouraging Research and Public Education
9. As the best source on the Web for children and nature research information, C&NN is about to release Volume 5 of its annotated bibliography, including abstracts usually linked to the original research. The new volume will add 87 studies done since 2009, taking the total to well over 200 studies.
10. For the second time in two years, C&NN commissioned a national Grassroots Survey, which will give us a better idea of who and what is working, especially in the context of C&NN’s landmark Independent Baseline Study of the public’s attitudes about the importance of nature- based experiences.
11. C&NN also surveyed the results of its National Service Network: the numbers far exceeded our goals: During April’s Let’s G.O.! and September’s S.O.S. (Serve Outside September) campaigns, and throughout the year, nearly 200 service projects restored 211 miles of trail and 1349 acres of natural habitat.
12. This year, C&NN did a total re-do of the Web site, improving its look and employing more sophisticated web tools for tracking the movement to leave no child inside.
Expanding Support and Partnerships
13. C&NN’s Corporate Partnership campaigns included a collaboration with Clif Bar’s ClifKids to encourage children to play outside; and with the Muir project aired on PBS, creating and publicizing a tool kit to engage people outdoors in the spirit of the pioneer naturalist John Muir. C&NN continues to work closely with The North Face and REI, and, most recently, Disney.
14. Like most non-profits, we navigated through some tough economic challenges, but because of the help of individual donors, foundation support including the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, and corporate support, C&NN is healthier and more productive than ever. We’re grateful to many other organizations and programs working hard in this arena, and we hope you’ll support them, too.
15. This year, C&NN broadened its mission statement, “connect children, their families and communities to the natural world.” We believe that C&NN’s personal and electronic network, and the information, education, initiatives and leadership it provides, is essential if the movement is to be more than the sum of its parts — if it is to create lasting cultural change. We’re thankful for the support and personal engagement that many of you have shared in 2011.
But wait, the year’s not over!
Top Photo: C&NN Vice President Martin LeBlanc with future hiker, rock-climber, sky-diver, camper, spelunker, citizen naturalist, Natural Leader and C&NN program director.
Bottom Photo: by Brother Yusuf Burgess, member of the C&NN board of directors.
______________Richard Louv is Chairman Emeritus of the Children and Nature Network and author of THE NATURE PRINCIPLE and LAST CHILD IN THE WOODS.