We are proud to begin the year with a report on our progress in 2014. We invite you to read the full report to learn about our work, including:
- - Pathways to Health: Leave No Child Inside’s first pilot project, launched in partnership with the Evanston Community Council and Safe Routes to School. The project was inspired by the words of New Urbanist Gil Penalosa, who said “Children are an indicator species. If we can build a successful city for children, we will have a successful city for all people”. This innovative project is designed to spark neighborhood-wide physical activity by focusing attention on children’s health and well-being;
- - Broad-based community outreach, including work with Safe Routes to School, the Ohio Occupational Therapy Association, Interact for Health, the Cincinnati Health Department, Cincinnati Public Schools’ Community Learning Centers, 4C for Children and more;
- - Highlights of major national efforts, including a new partnership with the National League of Cities to ensure that a connection to nature becomes an integral part of city priorities, planning and policy-making.
Read the report
TREES!!! Filmmaker wants your stories
“I remember having a low-branched mulberry tree in our backyard as a child. We would throw sheets over its branches and it was instantly transformed into base camp for the neighborhood “archaeology dig” where we found shards of china that we were certain must have fallen off the wagons as the pioneers travelled west in their wagon trains. By night, it became the site of many a ghost story as we huddled close with our flashlights, wrapped in blankets to stave off the chill. Imaginations ran wild and friendships grew strong in our ‘tree tent’. “
Do you or your children have a story to tell about trees? Filmmaker Andrea Torrice is filming a documentary about America’s urban and community forests. The film, Take Root, will delve into the history of these forests, their importance to our health and well-being, and the threats they now face. Says research assistant Keith Rutowski “We are looking for an eclectic group of individuals, ranging from those who plant trees, appreciate them or even despise the leaves they have to rake. The stories can be about trees in yards or the neighborhood park. These can be happy, humorous, or sad.”
If you, your children or grandchildren have a story to share, please contact us and we will pass the information on to Mr. Rutowski. He will meet with you briefly to talk about your story(ies), then send the pre-interviews to Ms. Torrice. If chosen, Ms. Torrice will set up a mutually agreeable time to film your story. You can see more information about the film here.
TAKING ROOT: Plant a legacy for our children and grandchildren
Academy of World Languages students planting tree
Did conjuring up memories about trees cause you to reflect on the beauty of our region’s majestic trees? At one time or another, all of us have bemoaned the loss of trees in our neighborhoods. Losses from storms, disease, or the chainsaw mean fewer shady places for children to play, fewer groves of trees where imaginations can run wild and streets that look, well, somehow naked. Even worse, non-native pests like the Emerald Ash Borer and Asian Long-horned Beetle now threaten to kill literally millions of trees in our region. But there is hope and you can help assure that future generations are able to enjoy their beauty and a healthy environment. Taking Root is an initiative to plant 2,000,000 trees in our region by 2020. Join in – plant a tree (or trees – how about one for each child?) in your own yard or “sponsor” a tree at your neighborhood school or park by donating to Taking Root. It’s fun to watch them grow and you will have made a ‘tree-mendous’ difference for future generations!
If you are reading this, odds are that you care deeply about children. You probably have fond memories of playing outdoors as a child – exploring the neighborhood with friends, building forts and letting your imagination take you to exotic worlds. You probably would like to see your children and grandchildren have the experiences that brought joy and wonder to your own childhood. And, you’ve probably noticed that this way of life has all but disappeared from the lives of today’s children because of safety concerns, reduced access to nearby play spaces, overly structured lives and the appeal of electronic media. As a result, we are seeing children with unprecedented levels of physical health problems like obesity, poor muscle development and near-sightedness, as well as reduced cognitive development and socio/emotional problems. The good news is that we are reversing this trend and you can help! Whether you are a parent or grandparent, a teacher or politician, or even just a neighbor, you can give a child the gift of outdoor play. How? Here are a few ideas:
- Limit screen time! The average American child spends 7 hours a day plugged into electronic media. The AAP recommends no more than two hours a day, and none for children under the age of two.
- Give kids ideas for outdoor activities to get them started, but be careful not to hover. They will derive the greatest benefit from self-directed, creative play.
- Make sure that your own backyard is child-friendly.
- Take a child to the park, nature center or zoo.
- Send a child to camp.
- Understand the problem and talk about it with others – family, friends, teachers, neighbors, church and co-workers.
- Encourage a school, pre-school or church to build a nature playscape, school garden or outdoor classroom, then volunteer and/or help fund that effort.
- Make others aware of the resources available on our website.
- Advocate – be a voice for the right of a child to play in a healthy environment.
- Support parks, nature enters, camps and other organization that are connecting children with nature by volunteering and donating.
Are you a grandparent? Congratulations! Check out Grand Ideas for fun ways that you can build a closer relationship with your grandchild while connecting them with nature.
Reflecting on the successes of the prior year is always a great way to start the new one. Last year saw continued progress in the movement to reconnect children with nature – here, nationally and internationally. We hope you will read full details in our 2013 Annual Report, but local highlights include the addition of helpful resources for families and educators with the launch of Green Umbrella’s Meet Me Outdoors website and our own School Program Finder. Nationally, the expansion of the Children & Nature Network to C&NN Worldwide was a milestone, and the American Public Health Association’s release of a policy statement recommending that health professionals promote spending time in nature was an indicator of how successful the movement has been in influencing policy. Please join us in making 2014 a year of continued success by sharing our message with others wherever you live, learn, work and play.
Green Umbrella’s Outdoor Adventure Club
Savvy parents know that outdoor play makes kids happier, healthier and smarter, but sometimes struggle to find fresh activity ideas, especially in the winter. If you are looking for inspiration, check out Nature Rocks! The Nature Conservancy partnered with Disney, the Children & Nature Network and EcoAmerica to produce a resource that will inspire and empower families to play and explore in nature, including your own backyard. And don’t forget, whenever you are looking for local places to go, events and programs, check out Green Umbrella’s Meet Me Outdoors website.
SCHOOL PROGRAM FINDER: Free Resource for Teachers
LNCIgc’s new School Program Finder is a one-stop shop for anyone looking for school and after-school nature-based or environmental education outreach programs, field trips and camps. The School Program Finder lists dozens of local programs and allows you to search by topic, grade level, cost and more. We encourage you to conduct your school and after-school programs outside whenever possible! If you’d like help “greening” your school grounds or connecting with nearby nature for outdoor education, please contact us – we would love to help.
THREE GREAT IDEAS FOR TEACHERS
You Can Get Your Students Outside – and Still Meet Your State Standards: Michelle Aldenderfer-Griffen gives easy-to-do, low- or no-cost tips that anyone can do in her practical blog.
10 Ways You Can Add Vitamin N to Your Classroom and Beyond: Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder and The Nature Principle, suggests ways in which teachers can help connect their students with nature. One of his suggestions is training for teachers who may feel inadequately trained to give students an outdoor experience. We can coordinate teacher training for schools in the Greater Cincinnati area. Please contact us for more information.
Where Nature Meets Story has a reading list for children of all ages with coordinating, outdoor activities.
Granny’s Garden School – Loveland, Ohio
Denny McFadden is a retired teacher whose dream was to introduce urban youth to the great outdoors. “For many years while teaching in the Cincinnati Public School district, I facilitated annual team building canoe trips for students and fellow teachers. During those outdoor adventures, I witnessed a number of amazing things happen among our students and staff. Lots of kids and adults who had never paddled a canoe struggled mightily. Some became increasingly frustrated and discouraged as they tried to keep their boats upright and pointed downstream. Eventually, however, the skills of each and every paddler improved, and as we progressed downstream, the more capable and confident everyone became. By the trip’s end, they had conquered their fear of the unknown. As the students and staff exited the river at our designated take-out, their expressions and exclamations said it all. They had grown as individuals and as a group – in so many ways!!!”
Denny witnessed first-hand the multiple ways in which outdoor activities in nature benefitted his students, and wanted to give low income, disadvantaged teens living in urban area the opportunity to experience hiking, biking, paddling and other activities. He also recognized that these activities can help build leadership skills. So, after his retirement, Denny launched a pilot Outdoor Adventure Club program at three area high schools: Withrow, West High and Woodward. In addition to taking part in outdoor adventures during the school year, Club members will be engaged throughout the summer as volunteers for local outdoor recreational events like Paddlefest, as paid interns working outdoors in city and county parks, and as facilitators for their schools’ Summer Bridge outdoor enrichment programs. Thanks to support from Activities Beyond the Classroom, GEARUP, GRAD Cincinnati, Green Umbrella, FamiliesFORWARD and the Urban League of Greater Cincinnati, the pilot launched earlier this year at its capacity of 45 students.
Thank you, Denny, for your vision and for being on the “front line” in the movement to reconnect children with nature!
Enter the CLIF Kid Backyard Game contest as an individual or a group and win $15,000 for your favorite non-profit, a $10,000 scholarship or other prizes! Need a little inspiration? Check out last year’s winners.
Great news!!!! Now you can see all of Greater Cincinnati’s outdoor events and programs on one convenient website. MeetMeOutdoors.com allows you to search for outdoor fun by activity and date. The site, sponsored by Green Umbrella, features not only upcoming special events, but also on-going programs in our region. It also contains a map of area destinations and retailers that supply outdoor gear. What a great resource for families throughout our region! Take a look and Meet Me Outdoors!
Leave No Child Inside – Greater Cincinnati was founded in order to educate the community that time spent in nature is essential to the physical, mental and emotional health of all children. Because obesity is one of the most pressing issues facing the health community today (26% of children between the ages of 2-5 are overweight or obese, and that number leaps to 33% in school age children), it’s easy to lose sight of other issues related to the relatively recent disappearance of unstructured play in nature.
With the near extinction of that experience, we are seeing unprecedented levels of stress-related illnesses in children. In a recent post, pediatrician Larry Rosen, MD calls on all of us to do what we can to restore nature free-play to the childhood experience. In another post, Mary Brown, MD discusses the negative academic and health impacts of stress on the developing brain and why the American Academy of Pediatrics is looking to nature play as a way to prevent or lessen “the lifelong effects of a stressful childhood, including depression, obesity, behavior problems, drug use and risk-taking behavior.”
This is a problem we can fix!
Some of the solutions are easy, some are not, but we can all play a part in reconnecting children with nature. We encourage each and every one of you to stay informed and help spread the word about this important issue. If you’d like to get involved more formally, please contact us.