We have within reach the hope and capacity to reverse the trends of the past 30 years in which so many people of all ages have become sedentary, isolated, and disconnected from the benefits, beauty, and bounty of nature’s gifts. At the same time, a growing body of research indicates that nature play positively impacts every area of children’s health and development – physical, psychological, intellectual, social, and emotional.
Healing the divide between children and nature is the work of the Children & Nature Network (C&NN), which is leading the 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. The Children & Nature Network connects more than 3,000,000 children and youth to nature annually.
The Children & Nature Network was created in 2006 to encourage and support the people and organizations working nationally and internationally to reconnect children with nature. The Network promotes fundamental institutional change by providing a critical link between researchers, individuals, educators, and organizations dedicated to children’s health and well-being. The C&NN news service and portal provides access to the latest news and research in this field, success stories, and practical advice.
C&NN was started after the 2005 publication of C&NN Co-Founder and Chairman Emeritus Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods, which addressed the issue of Nature-Deficit Disorder. C&NN recently welcomed Executive Director Sarah Milligan-Toffler, a creative, mission-driven leader with more than 20 years’ experience in developing, funding, and implementing outdoor education and adventure programs that provide a deep connection to nature for people of all backgrounds and abilities.
In 2009, C&NN launched the Natural Leaders Network, with Juan Martinez as its Founding Director. Today, the annual Natural Leaders Legacy Camp trains leaders ages 18-30 from around the world. A Natural Leaders Curriculum Guide is available, as is a Natural Leaders Toolkit in English and Spanish. Major funding for the program is provided by REI.
C&NN recently expanded its C&NN Worldwide movement with the support of the Disney Conservation Fund. Popular resources such as C&NN’s Nature Clubs for Families Tool Kit and Together in Nature guide are available in Spanish, French, and English, with Chinese editions forthcoming. C&NN is continually expanding its Worldwide Movement Directory and Map, as well as its C&NN international online community forum.
Other C&NN initiatives include the Natural Families Network and the Natural Teachers Network. C&NN’s Nature Clubs for Families Tool Kit provides inspiration, information, and resources for those who are interested in creating nature clubs for families. C&NN’s Natural Teachers Network eGuide contains tools and resources to help teachers “put more Vitamin N into their classrooms.”
Part of C&NN’s new strategic focus is improving community health by supporting and encouraging increased free play time in nature.
C&NN is forming partnerships across the U.S. to train community health coalitions in promising practices in nature-based solutions to health disparities, such as green schoolyards and community/school partnerships.
Through the generosity of multiple partners and donors, C&NN has helped ensure a world in which all children experience nature in their everyday lives. We urge you to join the movement, to help children now and in generations to come.