Cities Connecting Children to Nature
Cooperative efforts among IMPACT Independence County and the City of Batesville’s Parks and Recreation department are underway to improve access to outdoor play and learning opportunities for area youth. Spending regular time in nature improves young children’s mental, emotional and physical health, and better prepares them for school. Joining a national initiative that involves more than 40 cities nationwide, leaders will learn about policies, programs, and infrastructure to connect more young children, ages 0 to 5, to nature regardless of race, income or ability.
Batesville is one of 15 cities nationwide that recently joined an early childhood nature connection project through Cities Connecting Children to Nature (CCCN), a joint initiative of the National League of Cities and the Children & Nature Network. A team from the City of Batesville Parks & Recreation Department and IMPACT community leaders will work closely with CCCN national experts to bring access to green spaces and nature in areas where young children live, play and learn, while also addressing other city priorities such as health, school readiness, park expansion, and equity. Research shows that spending time in nature is critical for children’s healthy development. And while time outdoors benefits all children, access to nature has the greatest positive impact on marginalized youth and those in poverty. The effort prioritizes communities where children lack access to parks and greenspace and will engage organizations that represent communities underrepresented in the outdoors.
“During the last 2 years, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of access to safe, outdoor green spaces within walking distance of residents’ homes. Nature has become more critical than ever,” said Jeff Owens, Director of Batesville Parks and Recreation. “Early childhood nature connection is a way to recover more equitably from the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in communities that lack nature access.”
The city joins a growing network of CCCN cities connecting children to nature in green schoolyards, early childhood settings, libraries, and natural play areas in parks and other city facilities. Through the new Early Childhood Nature Connection Community of Practice, Batesville will receive support from CCCN’s national experts who will provide technical assistance for planning citywide early childhood nature connection efforts.
Batesville’s team will learn about core fundamentals for equitable early childhood nature connection efforts, including building and forming cross-sector teams, analyzing the local early childhood and nature connection landscape, assessing equity gaps in early childhood access to nature, funding resources, and best practices in family and community engagement.
A key resource for cities is a toolkit published in April by CCCN. The toolkit includes a wide range of resources from peer-reviewed research to a state policy brief, to resources on the four “pathways” that cities can take to incorporate nature into young children’s daily lives where they live, play, and learn, all with a focus on equity.
“This is just yet another progressive step in the right direction of improving quality of life through placemaking and healthy living and well-being, with specific connections to early childhood education,” said Jamie Rayford, Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce’s Chief Operating Officer. “Our community collaborates at an expert level and we are so excited to learn new best practices to inspire future collaborations.”
About Cities Connecting Children to Nature (CCCN). Longstanding systems of inequity have influenced the design and distribution of green spaces. Cities Connecting Children to Nature, a joint initiative of the National League of Cities and the Children & Nature Network, with funding from The JPB Foundation, supports municipal leaders and their community partners in shifting planning, policies and programs to connect children to the benefits of nature more often and more equitably.
About the National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education & Families (YEF Institute). The YEF Institute at the National League of Cities is the go-to place for city leaders seeking to improve outcomes for children and families. With expertise in early childhood success, education & expanded learning, promoting a culture of health, youth and young adult connections, and economic opportunity and financial empowerment, the YEF Institute reaches cities of all sizes and brings together local leaders to develop strategies via technical assistance projects, peer learning networks, leadership academies, and Mayors’ Institutes. Learn more at nlc.org/iyef.
About the Children & Nature Network (C&NN) 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 childrenandnature.org.