In his bestselling book Last Child in the Woods (2008), author Richard Louv spotlighted a phenomenon he called "nature-deficit disorder." Co-founder of the Children & Nature Network, Louv maintains that exposure to our natural world is integral to healthy childhood development and emotional and physical well-being. As Louv writes, "a growing body of research links our mental, physical, and spiritual health directly to our association with nature - in positive ways," yet at the same time children are spending less time in their natural surroundings.
Since 2010, the Northwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnership (NWRSDP) has worked with community and University partners to provide opportunities for children and families to spend time in nature through public nature play spaces. These spaces look more like woods, prairie, or garden than playgrounds, and encourage children to play with natural materials such as rocks, water, sand, leaves, and sticks. They encourage active and imaginative play as well as reflection and renewal. In the latest phase of work, partners are designing nature play spaces to be accessible to people with all levels of mobility. NWRSDP's support for nature play spaces has grown into a major body of work that has reached six Greater Minnesota communities and involved multiple units at two University of Minnesota system campuses.
"Our human lives are enriched by seeing ourselves as part of nature," said Linda Kingery, NWRSDP Executive Director. "The more we see ourselves as dependent upon nature and connected to nature in a very integrated way, that also makes…
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