Cities Connecting Children to Nature news from around the world
A new report from the 8 80 cities project, the Bernard van Leer Foundation and the Urban 95 program entitled ” Building Better Cities with Young Children and Families” offers tactics, strategies and principles for the participation and engagement of children, young people and their families in creating more child and family-friendly cities. The report used a mix of background research, place-based research and interviews with researchers, practitioners, policymakers and thought leaders along with snapshots and case studies of innovative and interesting projects. C&NN’s Jaime Zaplatosch, Director of Green Schoolyards for Healthy Communities, served as an advisor for the report.
The city of Abilene, Texas has plans for a new nature play and educational area for all age groups. The nature play area plans include a canopy walk that allows children to experience treetop ecosystems, sand pits where replica dinosaur bones may be discovered, bouldering hillsides, prairie and wildflower restoration, organic walls, and a bird blind for viewing wildlife habitats. A key component of the project will be the training of over 100 early childhood caregivers and educators using the nationally-recognized Growing Up WILD early childhood education program that encourages connections to nature as well as hands-on learning to improve school readiness.
A nature play program at the Denver Zoo has earned the Significant Achievement Award in Education from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The “Nurturing Scientists through Nature Play” program brings science learning to life for three target audiences — underserved preschool children, ages 3 to 5, their caregivers and their teachers. While at the Zoo’s 70-acre “classroom,” kids are able to use their exploration and discovery skills in largely unstructured play, using objects found in nature such as sticks, rocks and grass.
The Colorado town of Westminster is building a $3.7 million-playground for its community with the hope of bringing children back to nature by bringing nature to them. The nature playground, which is expected to open next summer, will feature a sand area, a water area and a series of tree houses connected by bridges, covering nearly a third of the park. The play area will be constructed almost entirely with natural materials.
Living near a park or other green space benefits city kids with severe asthma, especially older kids who are more likely to play outside on their own, according to a new study. The study included 196 children in the city of Baltimore, ages of 3 to 12 years, who had either visited emergency departments at least twice or had asthma-related hospitalizations during the past year.
A new declaration from the International School Grounds Alliance (ISGA) states that, while promoting risk-taking on school grounds may raise questions of liability for schools and concerns for parents, it is essential for the development of healthy young people. The declaration, which was made available in 13 different languages, cites research from around the world demonstrating the benefits of risk-taking and showing that an indiscriminate risk-minimization policy can be a source of harm.
Youth Outside, an organization which supports outdoor and environmental programs and organizations in northern and central California, has just released a case study on cultural relevancy, equity, and inclusion. The case study summarizes lessons learned by both Youth Outside and the program participants, and explores the potential of the model to support others in the field, in addition to a broader application in other sectors.
U.S. cities are increasingly making an effort to distribute urban recreation resources more fairly. To determine if cities are adequately serving their low-income communities, the Trust for Public Land’s (TPL) ParkScore rating ranks cities based on spending, acreage, and household access—whether there is a park within a ten-minute walk for those who make less than 75 percent of a city’s median income. In TPL’s most recent rankings, San Francisco came in at the top-ranked city.
In some U.S. cities, efforts to increase access to green spaces are leading to undesired higher taxes and more expensive housing in some cases. One example is Chicago’s 606 elevated-rail trail which has seen property values increase nearly 48% since 2013. Such new green areas can lead to gentrification that inadvertently displaces low-income populations intended to benefit from the green areas. However, city leaders with experience in such projects stress that effective cross-sector collaboration can help avoid such consequences.
The city of Philadelphia is investing $500 million to reinvigorate its parks, libraries, playgrounds and recreation centers, and spread opportunity into all corners of the city. The program, called “Rebuild,” is paid for in part by a new tax on sugar-laden drinks. Philadelphia is the first big city to pass such a “soda tax” bill.