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PlayCore and Children & Nature Network Team up to Promote Green Schoolyards

Organizations join forces to positively impact children, schools and communities.

PlayCore has joined forces with the Children & Nature Network to raise awareness and help scale the implementation of green schoolyards.  Studies have proven that children’s exposure to nature is beneficial in a variety of meaningful ways. Collectively, this body of research shows that children’s academic, social, psychological, cognitive, and physical health is positively impacted when they have daily exposure to nature.

Since students spend most of their weekday hours in school, greening schoolyards is a vital and logical step to support children’s’ overall health and well-being. The Children & Nature Network defines green schoolyards as multi-functional school grounds designed for and by the school community that offer places for students, teachers, parents, and community members to play, learn, explore, and grow. During out-of-school time, these schoolyards are ideally open to the community to use. A green schoolyard can include outdoor classrooms, gardens, traditional play equipment, nature play areas, trails, trees, and more.

To support a collective vision that, “all communities have access to green schoolyards to enhance children’s healthy development, community well-being and positive environmental impacts,” PlayCore and the Children & Nature Network will conduct a national survey as the first step in supporting communities across the U.S. in developing their own green schoolyard programs. To take part in the survey, please send your email address, name, agency/company, and title to You can also sign on to help advance the national Green Schoolyards Action Agenda, endorsed by the Children & Nature Network, PlayCore and dozens of green schoolyards leaders. In addition, you’ll find tools and resources for greening school grounds in the Children & Nature Network’s Green Schoolyards Resource Hub.  

About PlayCore PlayCore is a purpose-driven Company committed to building stronger communities around the world by advancing play and recreation.  The company infuses scholarly learning, through its Center for Outreach, Research, and Education, into its comprehensive family of brands.  PlayCore combines best-in-class educational programming with the most comprehensive portfolio of play and recreation products and services to create tailored recreation environments that match the unique needs of each community served.     

About the Children & Nature Network The Children & Nature Network (C&NN) believes that nature makes children healthier, happier and smarter. C&NN is a US-based non-profit organization leading a global movement to increase equitable access to nature so that children—and natural places—can thrive. C&NN achieves its mission by investing in leaders and communities through sharing evidence-based resources, scaling innovative solutions, and driving policy change. Learn more at

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News Releases


Children & Nature Network brings international advocates for nature connection to Oakland, CA, May 21-22, 2018 and May 16-18, 2019

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf declares a “yearlong love affair” between the
City of Oakland and the children and nature movement

OAKLAND, CA, May 21, 2018: More than 400 leaders and activists from 15 countries are gathering in Oakland, CA, May 21-22 for the 2018 Children & Nature Network International Leadership Summit, kicking off a yearlong partnership with the city of Oakland. Over the next year, the Children & Nature Network (C&NN) and East Bay area partners will work to advance local nature connection initiatives—culminating with the 2019 Children & Nature Network International Conference. Both the Summit and Conference will be held at the Oakland Marriott City Center and bring together the world’s leading voices on the importance of equitable access to nature for children’s healthy development.

The 2018 C&NN Leadership Summit was kicked off by Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf on Monday, May 21. “You are lifting up two of my favorite things: children and nature,” said Mayor Schaaf. “You are advancing a vision of what it means to be a healthy, resilient city. We welcome you to Oakland this year and next, and officially declare a ‘yearlong love affair’ between the City of Oakland and the children and nature movement!”

“We are fortunate to have a huge amount of nature and green space in and around Oakland,” continued Mayor Schaaf, “but we also have a huge need to connect our communities to these natural places so that Oakland’s children can benefit from the healing power of nature.”

“Children around the world are facing a quiet crisis, spending as much as 90% of their time indoors, disconnected from the natural world,” says Children & Nature Network Executive Director Sarah Milligan-Toffler. “This trend has serious implications for the future of our children, our communities, and our planet.”

“Science increasingly tells us that time in nature has the power to make children healthier, happier and smarter, and to make communities stronger,” continues Milligan-Toffler. “We are honored to partner with Mayor Schaaf, the City of Oakland and local partners like Youth Outside, Bay Area Children in Nature Collaborative, and East Bay Regional Parks to develop strategies for increasing equitable access to nature for Oakland’s children and families. And we are thrilled to bring our International Summit and Conference to Oakland in 2018 and 2019.”

Oakland-based Youth Outside CEO and C&NN board member Kim Moore Bailey also welcomed Summit attendees to Oakland. “There are incredible leaders working in Northern California and around to world to connect children to the natural world,” said Moore Bailey.
“I invite us to radically imagine what our movement can be: intentionally more equitable and inclusive. Let’s recognize the relationships that all cultures have with the outdoors as a way to authentically increase nature connection for children with the least access.”


What: Children & Nature Network International Leadership Summit
When: May 21-22, 2018
Where: Oakland Marriott City Center, 1001 Broadway, Oakland, CA
Featuring: Working sessions in six action areas: City Government; Green Schoolyards;
Nature-Based Learning Research; Next Generation Leadership; Grassroots Leadership; and Health Professionals


Comments and keynote addresses from:

  • Mayor Libby Schaaf, City of Oakland
  • Richard Louv, co- founder of the Children & Nature Network and author of the best-selling book, Last Child in the Woods
  • Kim Moore Bailey, CEO, Youth Outside
  • Dr. Stephen Lockhart, MD, CMO, Sutter Health
  • Sarah Milligan-Toffler, Executive Director, Children & Nature Network/

Break-out session panels and presentations from nearly 50 experts from the public health, conservation, education, urban planning, recreation and city government sectors. Full program information at

About the Children & Nature Network. The Children & Nature Network (C&NN) believes that nature makes children healthier, happier and smarter. C&NN is a US-based 501c3 non-profit organization leading a global movement to increase equitable access to nature so that children—and natural places—can thrive. C&NN achieves its mission by investing in leadership and communities through sharing evidence-based resources, scaling innovative solutions, and driving policy change. Learn more at

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New eeRESEARCH library offers free access to one of world’s largest collections of environmental education and nature connection research

APRIL 9, 2018: The North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) and the Children & Nature Network (C&NN) launched eeRESEARCH today, a joint research library designed to support and advance the field of environmental education and efforts to connect children to nature around the world.

Through this collaborative effort, eeRESEARCH provides free access to the combined and extensive research collections of both C&NN and NAAEE in a user-friendly online portal. Users will find more than 1,000 summaries of scientific articles, links to research syntheses, and, where available, access to full research articles with open access rights.

“We know that new and exciting research is being published daily, but that much of it is behind firewalls, making it inaccessible to practitioners, funders, parents, and others,” says Judy Braus, NAAEE’s executive director. “We are thrilled to launch eeRESEARCH and believe it to be one of the largest freely accessible collections of scientific literature focused on nature connection and environmental education in the world.”

“Advancing a research agenda for this field and translating scientific evidence for practical use are daunting tasks for any one organization,” says Sarah Milligan-Toffler, C&NN’s executive director. “By joining forces, we are improving the availability of research for everyone working to improve their practice and/or make the case for equitable access to nature and high quality environmental education.”

C&NN and NAAEE spent a year planning and designing the joint database, with support from the Pisces Foundation. Articles originating in the Children & Nature Network’s online research library are curated and summarized by C&NN’s research team, led by University of Minnesota’s Dr. Catherine Jordan; NAAEE partnered with Duke University to write research summaries and assist with database planning and development. A unique feature of the database is that one of its search options aligns with five broad search categories (education, conservation, health, social justice, human development) used by the funding community, allowing researchers, practitioners, and funders to use the same search taxonomy.

“Whether you are looking for research about environmental literacy, the benefits of connecting to nature, or proven strategies for fostering environmental behaviors, you’ll find a comprehensive body of peer-reviewed literature to support your work through eeRESEARCH,” says NAAEE’s Judy Braus.

Says C&NN’s Sarah Milligan-Toffler, “Through our combined efforts and with the strategic support of the Pisces Foundation, we’ve forged a new path for how organizations can work together to not only advance our missions and goals, but truly advance our field. We hope to add new partners in the future!”

ABOUT North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE)

For more than four decades, the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) has been dedicated to accelerating environmental literacy and civic engagement through the power of education to create a more sustainable future for all. NAAEE supports a network of 20,000 educators and 56 regional affiliate organizations working in environmental education in more than 30 countries. Learn more at

ABOUT Pisces Foundation

The mission of the Pisces Foundation is to advance strategic solutions to natural resource challenges and prepare the next generation by supporting environmental learning. We collaborate, innovate, and work respectfully in our community. Learn more at

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eeResearch news release (1)

July 07, 2017 |NEWS RELEASE|

REI Foundation awards Children & Nature Network $150,000 grant to grow and mentor national network of young outdoor leaders working to increase outdoor engagement and stewardship

MINNEAPOLIS, July 7, 2017: The REI Foundation has announced funding support for the Children & Nature Network’s Natural Leaders initiative. The Natural Leaders Network trains, mentors and empowers young, diverse leaders to better connect their communities to nature, explore outdoor careers, advocate for positive change in their communities and #OptOutside through a lifetime of healthy, outdoor activities.

The REI Foundation’s $150,000 grant will support training of a national network of young, diverse outdoor leaders through Legacy Camp, the Natural Leaders Network’s signature youth leadership development program —and expand Fresh Tracks Leadership Expeditions, an outdoor leadership cultural exchange piloted successfully in 2016.

Legacy Camp trains and mentors regional teams of diverse community organizers, ages 18-29, in providing and advocating for equitable opportunities for children and families to experience nature’s many benefits. The intensive, four-day training helps young leaders increase outdoor engagement and stewardship, with a focus on community organizing, civic engagement and using the power of personal narrative to create lasting change in their communities.

Fresh Tracks Leadership Expeditions was inspired by President Obama’s nationwide call for bold new programs using the outdoors as a platform for broadening connections to our shared outdoor heritage for young Americans, especially young people of color. This unique leadership development program, launched in 2016 with REI Foundation support, engaged emerging leaders from Los Angeles and Arctic Alaska in a two-week cultural exchange focused on civic engagement, cultural competence, outdoor recreation and hometown stewardship, resulting in life-changing experiences for participants. REI Foundation support for Fresh Tracks in 2017 will help cultivate key partnerships with My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, The Aspen Institute and others—and host a Fresh Tracks Summit designed move this program from pilot program to ongoing implementation.

“We are grateful not just for the REI Foundation’s significant and ongoing financial support, but for their vision and partnership in empowering new generations of outdoor leaders,” said Sarah Milligan-Toffler, Executive Director, Children & Nature Network.

“REI is proud to support the Children & Nature Network in developing young leaders who will create bridges to the natural world for those not traditionally engaged in—or who face barriers to—outdoor activities and lifestyles,” said Laura Swapp, Vice President, REI Foundation.

About the Children & Nature Network. The Children & Nature Network (C&NN) is leading an international movement to increase equitable access to nature so that children and natural places can thrive. We power the movement by investing in community leadership, sharing evidence-based resources, scaling innovative solutions and driving policy change. C&NN is a 501c3 non-profit organization. For more information, visit

About the REI Foundation. The REI Foundation has a long-term goal of engaging and nurturing the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts and environmental stewards. The Foundation’s focus has sharpened in recent years to engage members of the millennial generation. The Foundation seeks to make the most of its community investments in a way that creates the greatest impact and scale. The REI Foundation is a private corporate foundation funded and operated by REI.

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April 13, 2017 |NEWS RELEASE|

Children & Nature Network International Conference Brings 800+ Leaders Working to Connect Children to Nature in 22 Countries to Vancouver, BC

MINNEAPOLIS, MN, USAApril 13, 2017:  Children around the world today spend as much as 90% of their time indoors, and for the first time in human history, more people live in urban areas than in the country. This trend has serious implications for children’s healthy development, and the health of natural places.

To address this growing lack of nature connection, more than 800 leaders and activists from 22 countries will gather in Vancouver B.C. for the 2017 Children & Nature Network International Conference and Summit. This premier gathering of the children and nature movement brings together the world’s leading voices on creating a world in which all children benefit from nature in their daily lives.

“Science increasingly tells us that time in nature has the power to make children healthier, happier and smarter,” says Sarah Milligan-Toffler. “We are thrilled to bring leaders, advocates and activists from many disciplines to explore programs, policies and promising practices for creating equitable access to high-quality natural places for children, families and communities around the world.”

The conference is co-hosted with the Canadian Wildlife Federation, one of Canada’s oldest and largest conservation organizations. “We are proud to co-host the Children & Nature Network in Vancouver, B.C., during Canada’s 150th anniversary year,” says Rick Bates, Executive VP and CEO of the Canadian Wildlife Federation. “Connecting new generations to the natural world is critical to the success of wildlife and habitat conservation and restoration efforts today and in the future.”


What: Children & Nature Network International Conference and Summit

When: April 18-21, 2017

Where: The Westin Bayshore, 1601 Bayshore Drive, Vancouver, B.C., Canada

Schedule: -Wed. April 19, 8am-5pm PT, Summit on Connecting to Nature in an Urban World

-Thur. April 20, 8am-5pm PT, Conference, Day 1

-Fri. April 21, 8am-noon PT, Conference Day 2

Register: or on-site at The Westin Bayshore

  • Full conference registration: $385.00 | 1-day registration: $175.00

Featuring: Summit on Connecting to Nature in an Urban World; nine conference tracks; workshops, walkshops and action labs; and keynote addresses from:

  • Richard Louv, co- founder of the Children & Nature Network and author of the best-selling book, Last Child in the Woods
  • Scott Sampson, President & CEO, Science World, Vancouver, and creator of the popular PBS show, Dinosaur Train, in which he plays “Dr. Scott”
  • Chloe Dragon Smith, Canadian Parks Council, Connecting a New Generation with Nature
  • Guillermo (Gil) Penalosa, internationally recognized urban planner and founder, 8-80 Cities
  • Additional presentations from nearly 200 experts from the public health, conservation, education, urban planning, recreation and government sectors; find full program information at cnc2017/schedule-of-events/

With special guest appearances from:

  • The Honourable Judith Guichon, OBC, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia
  • Ta’Kaiya Blaney, singer and environmental activist from Tla A’min Nation, B.C.

About the Children & Nature Network. The Children & Nature Network (C&NN) believes that time nature makes children healthier, happier and smarter. C&NN is US-based 501c3 non-profit organization working to connect children, families and communities to the natural world by investing in networks of diverse leaders, driving systems and policy change, and curating and broadcasting knowledge. Learn more at

About the Canadian Wildlife Federation. The Canadian Wildlife Federation is a Canadian not-for-profit charitable organization dedicated to fostering awareness and appreciation of our natural world. By spreading knowledge of human impacts on the environment, carrying out research, developing and delivering education programs, promoting the sustainable use of natural resources, recommending changes to policy and co-operating with like-minded partners, CWF encourages a future in which Canadians can live in harmony with nature. For more information visit


September 23, 2016 |NEWS RELEASE|

Children & Nature Network Announces Launch of New Research Library and Research Digest

The Children & Nature Network (C&NN) is pleased to announce the launch of its new online Research Library, containing more than 400 peer-reviewed research articles relevant to the children and nature movement. This expertly curated, free online resource offers robust search functionality to help users find scientific evidence about the benefits of increased nature access for children, families and communities. To keep readers informed of the latest additions to the Research Library, C&NN is also launching a monthly Research Digest on Monday, September 25, 2016.

Articles in the Research Library are international in scope, represent a variety of research methodologies, and are drawn from the scientific literature of different disciplines, including public health, urban design, education, psychology, conservation, architecture and more.

Since its founding, C&NN has been committed to building evidence-based tools and resources to advance the children and nature movement. In 2007, C&NN co-founder and CEO Emerita, Dr. Cheryl Charles, developed the first volume of scientific literature on children and nature and established the C&NN website as a “go to” resource for evidence-based information. Two years ago, C&NN demonstrated its continuing commitment to the science behind the benefits of nature by launching a Research Library—an online, searchable database of the scientific literature collected since 2006. Since then, the children and nature movement has grown, as has the need for evidence-based information, and the need for a more sophisticated and robust online search experience.

“The Children & Nature Network was founded with the belief that science-based evidence about the benefits of nature connection (and the risks of not being connected) is crucial for advancing the children and nature movement,” says C&NN’s Executive Director, Sarah Milligan-Toffler. “We hope that the studies and peer-reviewed literature now available in our Research Library will help community organizers, parents, educators, policy makers and more make the case for increasing equitable access to nature for all children.”

C&NN’s Research Library team curates and summarizes peer-reviewed literature exclusively, and updates the collection regularly, with guidance and support from an expert Scientific Advisory Council. Foundational funding for the Research Library was provided by the Turner Family Foundation.

Tour the new Research Library | Subscribe for the Research Digest

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July 8, 2016 |NEWS RELEASE|

Children & Nature Network Launches Green Schoolyards Initiative to Increase Equitable Access to Green Space for Children

MINNEAPOLIS, July 7, 2016: Growing evidence indicates that green schoolyards can improve academic achievement, physical and mental health, and social-emotional learning. Green Schoolyards for Healthy Communities, a joint initiative of the Children & Nature Network (C&NN) in partnership with the National League of Cities Institute for Youth Education and Families (IYEF), will engage education leaders, cross-sector practitioners, policy makers and community leaders to promote green schoolyards across the nation. This three-year initiative is funded by a $750,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

“Only a small fraction of public schoolyards in the U.S. have natural spaces for learning and play,” says Margaret Lamar, C&NN’s director of strategic initiatives. “By creating more access to nature on school grounds—the only public lands specifically allocated for use by children—we can have a lasting impact on children’s health and well-being, especially the most vulnerable children in economically challenged communities.”

Green Schoolyards for Healthy Communities came about after an initial planning phase, funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, received significant cross-sector interest. To date, the initiative has facilitated focus groups of education and schoolyard experts in 16 cities, interviewed 75 multi-disciplinary professionals, convened experts from around the world at C&NN’s international conferences in 2015 and 2016, and synthesized best practices from successful green schoolyards in a new C&NN report titled, Building a National Movement for Green Schoolyards in Every Community.

Moving forward, the initiative will develop a research and policy agenda; create a cross-sector Green Schoolyards Network; curate research and resources for practitioners; and build a shared measurement framework for evaluating the success and prevalence of nature-rich schoolyards.

In addition, Green Schoolyards for Healthy Communities will select five to seven cities to receive technical assistance for building city/school partnerships for planning and implementing school-based green spaces to enhance the health and quality of life for children and families in urban communities.

“Green schoolyards can strengthen the social fabric of the wider community,” says Lamar. “During the school day, they provide opportunities for children to play and learn in nature. Outside of school hours, these green oases provide families, elders and neighbors places to spend quality time together and enjoy the many benefits that time in nature brings.”

C&NN’s new report, Building a National Movement for Green Schoolyards in Every Community, is available now. The report covers the proven impacts of green schoolyards on academic outcomes, physical and mental health, and social-emotional learning as well as examples of successful models and promising practices. The report also introduces a framework for advancing green schoolyards through the development of a national green schoolyards network; coordinated policy, partnership and funding strategies; and research and metrics to increase the evidence base.

“In too many neighborhoods, the standard play space is an asphalt playground surrounded by a chain link fence. Children are experiencing high rates of stress, depression, obesity, diabetes and other health conditions associated with sedentary lifestyles. And schools across the nation are struggling to close the achievement gap,” says Lamar.

“A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that the creation of nature-rich urban environments, including schoolyards with natural play spaces and gardens, can help improve physical and mental health, cognitive skills, creativity, and, according to new longitudinal studies, standardized test scores,” continues Lamar. “In addition, children in low-income communities appear to benefit proportionately more from access to green space that those in higher-income communities.”

For more information on Green Schoolyards for Healthy Communities and green schoolyards report, visit

About the Children & Nature Network. The Children & Nature Network (C&NN) is leading a movement to connect all children, their families and communities to nature through innovative ideas, evidence-based resources and tools, broad-based collaboration and support of grassroots leadership. C&NN is the only organization focused solely on building a national and international movement that reconnects children with nature to optimize their healthy development— cognitively, emotionally, socially and physically. C&NN builds awareness, provides access to state-of-the art resources, supports the grassroots with tools and strategies, develops publications and educational materials, synthesizes the best available research, and encourages collaboration to infuse the connection of children to nature in policy, programs, and partnerships across the world. C&NN is a 501c3 non-profit organization. For more information, visit

About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.

The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti. For more information, visit

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February 11, 2016 |NEWS RELEASE|

NLC and Children & Nature Network Choose Seven Cities for Planning Cohort

The Cities Connecting Children to Nature (CCCN) partners have selected seven cities for the planning phase of the initiative to better connect children to nature. This phase involves activities as varied as conducting gap and asset assessments and participation in an international conference, and brings teams together from mayors’ offices, parks departments, and non-profit community organizations.

CCCN project partners, the National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education & Families (IYEF) and the Children & Nature Network (C&NN), selected the cities of Saint Paul, Minnesota; Madison, Wisconsin; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Providence, Rhode Island; Louisville, Kentucky; Austin, Texas; and San Francisco, California; to participate through a competitive process. Cliff Johnson, IYEF Executive Director, highlights the importance of their pioneering work. “Cities already offer a host of opportunities for their citizens to experience nature, whether in neighborhood parks or larger public lands, but not all residents typically share in these benefits. Led by the efforts of these seven cities, CCCN aims to reduce current inequities and foster connections to nature among all children.”

Over the next seven months, the selected cities will receive technical assistance from the CCCN partners for a planning process to complete community assessments,  analyze equity issues, and will also have extensive opportunities for peer exchange and learning. Through this process, cities will develop implementation plans by August 2016, eligible for further CCCN grant funding and assistance through October 2017.


In addition to helping cities improve nature connections for children – particularly children who have had little access previously – the CCCN initiative employs funding from The JPB Foundation to test twin hypotheses: that cities constitute a valuable geographical unit for deepening the children and nature movement, and that fully engaged municipal leaders can advance efforts farther, faster, and ultimately more sustainably.

The seven-city planning cohort can look forward especially to significant learning opportunities among experts and peers gathered at the C&NN 2016 International Conference and Cities & Nature Summit. The Children & Nature Network extends an open invitation to a wide variety of additional participants to attend the Conference and Summit including other city leaders, planners, public health advocates, field practitioners, and thought leaders committed to advancing policies, partnerships and programming for connecting children to nature.

Sarah Milligan-Toffler, Executive Director of C&NN, who will host the event in St. Paul, notes that “We look forward to convening leaders from around the world to advance access to nature in low-income communities.”

The Cities & Nature Summit portion of the conference will build on CCCN  leadership academies that took place in October 2015, including attendees from the seven planning cohort cities plus nine other communities including Seattle, Washington; Salt Lake City, Utah; North Little Rock, Arkansas; St. Petersburg, Florida; Columbia, South Carolina; Charlotte, North Carolina; Knoxville, Tennessee; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and New Haven, Connecticut. At the Leadership Academies, these sixteen teams joined with each other and national experts to explore strategies for providing children with equitable and abundant access to nature, with particular focus on children of color and low-income children.


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