About the Author

Cheryl Charles, Ph.D., is co-founder, President and CEO Emerita of the Children & Nature Network, a member of the Paul F-Brandwein Institute Board of Directors, and a member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Commission on Education and Communication.

Dear Friends of the Children & Nature Network,

Change can sometimes be difficult, change can often be challenging. And yet change is a constant in natural systems. Among humans, it can be a source of inspiration, vitality and hope. In nature, plants grow and seasons turn. A toddler learns to talk and rolls down a grassy slope, collapsing in peals of laughter at the base of a hill. Grandparents watch their grandchildren grow with hearts filled with gratitude in the light of fading memories from long ago.

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Change can be precious and healthy, often to be welcomed and genuinely embraced. In that spirit, the founders, Board and staff of the Children & Nature Network (C&NN) invite everyone who cares about the children and nature movement to join us in welcoming the arrival of a new executive for the Children & Nature Network, Sarah Milligan-Toffler.

As many of you know, I told the Board of C&NN in 2011 that I wanted to change my role in 2013, no longer to serve as CEO. I recognized that a change in responsibilities would be good for me as well as for my family, and a change in leadership would be good for the organization as we continue to move from start-up to new levels. As a result, after an extensive national search, Sarah Milligan-Toffler joins the C&NN community in July of 2013 to lead the next phase of growth and accomplishment as we all work together to re-connect children, youth and families with nature. We celebrate and welcome the opportunity to support Sarah and C&NN in this next phase.

From a personal perspective, I am profoundly grateful to be one of those who founded the Children & Nature Network. Our shared vision is a world in which ALL children play, learn and grow with nature in their everyday lives.

cheryl ecology 2
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I agreed to help in the early years of C&NN’s founding for the sole purpose of helping to reverse what C&NN co-founder, Richard Louv C&NN’s approach to building a social movement draws in part from decades of work that my husband of 40 years, Bob Samples, and I developed, which we have called “natural guides to community building.” These natural guides are core concepts derived, has named “nature-deficit disorder.” By focusing on one child, one young adolescent, and one family at a time, a growing number of us throughout the world are building a social movement, facilitating constructive and systemic social change.

from observation of natural systems. They have been intentionally applied to C&NN’s overall organizational development and the growth of the children and nature movement. Examples include: niche—every organism has a role, and that means each and every one of us has a contribution to make to the children and nature movement; self-regulation, which reminds us that this is a movement in which independent actions are celebrated in a “do it yourself, do it now” spirit; and diversity, an indicator of a healthy, resilient ecosystem and living human communities filled with wisdom and experience from many different perspectives.

We’ve also drawn from a body of work associated with “diffusion of innovations.” That research base indicates that when 20 percent of a population adopts an innovation, it tends to be self-sustaining. The irony, of course, is that our shared “innovation” is getting kids outdoors in nature, a birthright for eons that is at risk of disappearing.

C&NN’s Grassroots Survey results indicate a cumulative total of 8 million children and youth getting outdoors in nature in the period from 2009 – 2012, a growth from 1 million annually in 2009 to 3 million annually in 2011. With 75 million children and youth from birth to 17 in the U.S., that 20 percent threshold could be achieved by 2015.

These and other indicators of positive change are beginning to suggest that we are within reach of reversing the trend toward nature-deficit disorder that has dominated the last three to four decades in the U.S. and in countries throughout the world.

This is a time for hope, and a time to embrace change.

Cheryl Charles, Ph.D.
Co-Founder, President and CEO

More reading

About Sarah Milligan-Toffler, our new Executive Director

The Ecology of Hope, by Cheryl Charles

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