Kansas Sees No Child Left Inside Groundswell

There's a quiet revolution happening in Wichita, a war in which the weapons are simple -- grass, dirt, water, sky -- but the goal is monumental: Saving childhood. A movement to reconnect children with nature -- some call it "No Child Left Inside" -- is gaining momentum in Kansas, with several bold new projects or proposals:

• A Rainbows United facility at K-96 and Oliver soon will unveil its 10-acre outdoor classroom and nature area designed to get kids back to nature.

• Botanica recently embarked on a capital campaign for its first major expansion -- a new children's garden expected to open in 2010.

• The No Child Left Inside Act, which would revamp No Child Left Behind guidelines and pump about $500 million in federal funding toward nature education, could come before Congress this year. More than a dozen Kansas groups have joined a coalition aimed at its passage.

• And Friday in Hesston, child care providers, health advocates, architects and others will spend the day planning and learning about "natural playscapes" -- green, growing, lower-cost alternatives to mass-market plastic playgrounds.

Author Rusty Keeler, who will lead the workshop, also will speak Friday evening at the Wichita Garden Show.

"There's definitely a movement happening," said Cathy Gray, director of Healthy Kids Kansas and one of the organizers of Friday's workshop.

"Research is showing -- and more and more people are realizing -- that children just need to play in the dirt…

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