The Alana Institute launches Family Nature Clubs (FNC) in Brazil, joining the worldwide natural families movement. Alana's Family Nature Clubs are intended to engage parents and families from across Brazil in frequent and active time together in nature. A central goal of the FNCs is to learn what best applies to Brazil from family clubs in other countries while focusing on creating unique features that encompass Brazil's specific cultural and social characteristics. One hundred participants will take part in training sessions in 2017.
The American Water Charitable Foundation and the National Recreation and Park Association have partnered to support local nature-based play areas in Pennsylvania, Illinois, and California. The grants, totaling nearly 500 million dollars, are part of the Foundation’s Building Better Communities signature grant program, administered by the National Recreation and Park Association. Specifically, this initiative concentrates on building or enhancing nature-based playgrounds and play spaces for children, and will connect and educate people on environmental stewardship practices related to water and other natural resources.
A survey conducted by the non-profit ecoAmerica found that over nine in ten Americans agree, with well over half of them strongly agreeing, that we should talk to children about a future with thriving, healthy nature . The June 2017 American Climate Perspectives Survey also found that two-thirds of Americans strongly agree that spending time in nature is important for children’s physical and mental health. In addition, a growing majority surveyed believe that we have a moral responsibility to maintain a safe and healthy climate for our children.
A bipartisan bill, the Every Kid Outdoors Act, was introduced by members of Congress this week, signaling a commitment to connect our children to the natural world outdoors. If passed, the legislation will provide 4th graders with free entry to all national parks. The bill aims to get kids outdoors and also encourages more public and private partnerships between federal lands, schools and private and nonprofit organizations.
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.
Kids who spend more time outdoors and who play sports are less likely to be near-sighted, according to a recent study in a large, diverse group of urban 6-year-olds. The researchers looked at 5,711 children in Rotterdam who have been participating since birth, along with their mothers, in the long-term study.
Researchers from the University of Technology in Sydney and Macquarie University have been studying the effects of Risk Deficit Disorder, which they describe as the growing and unhealthy trend of attempting to remove all risk from within our community and the problems that this risk removal indirectly creates. The researchers found that children who were not allowed to engage in risky play were likely to face problems with their weight, mental health, independence, learning, perception and judgment skills.
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.
Philadelphia-based primary-care pediatricians are prescribing outdoor play to help children get more active. The customized, detailed action plans are tailored to connect kids with Philadelphia’s park system. The initiative, called NaturePHL, will be a standard part of all check-ups for kids ages five to 12, integrated right into their electronic medical records.
More than 1.5 million volunteers including children and the elderly planted 66.3 million saplings in 12 hours as part of a record-breaking environmental campaign in India. The huge plantation campaign, in which saplings were placed along the Narmada river in the state of Madhya Pradesh, was part of India's commitment to combat climate change.
In Akron, a six-lane Innerbelt connector that obliterated the downtown area in the 1970s will be transformed into an “Innerbelt National Forest” to foster social connections between diverse communities long isolated from each other and stimulate visions for the city’s future that move away from private cars. With a quarter of a million dollar grant, the artist Hunter Franks will transform two acres of highway with lush trees, alluring light installations, and public events fully accessible for surrounding neighborhoods.
Playing Out, the initiative sweeping the UK in which streets are closed to through traffic enabling children to play safely, has grown to include more than 500 streets in 40 towns and cities across the UK, including London. The initiative, which started with local parents in Bristol in 2009, has grown into an international street play movement. But recent reports suggest that street play faces resistance from some residents and authorities.
In Dalian, China, a Smog Free Tower designed to reduce pollution in public spaces is being planned by city officials. The urban innovation will be installed on a city-wide scale in public spaces in order to encourage children to play outside again. The tower uses ozone-free technology that can efficiently capture smog particles in the air, providing parks with cleaner air than the rest of the 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.
What may be the world’s largest nature playground, located in Adelaide’s Morialta Conservation Park, is nearing completion. The state government is spending close to $1 million to build the new playground, which formed part of the government’s $10.4 million plan to improve Adelaide’s national parks. The $900,000 space will include five new play areas, climbing boulders, and new paths.
Working in collaboration with the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, some Vermont doctors are writing prescriptions to get more people outside and exercising. The “Park Prescription” program, designed to promote healthy lifestyles and prevent chronic health issues in patients and their families by encouraging exercise at state parks, offers a free pass to any Vermont State Park.
The Salzburg Global Fellows, a group of experts in urban planning, childhood development, conservation, environmental policy, and health, have called on leaders to ensure all children enjoy the right to safe, free play in a nature-rich space within a 10-minute walk from home. The call to action was part of a larger Salzburg Statement which outlines policies, practices, investments as well as actions that can transform cities for children. The Salzburg Global program The Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play is part of the multi-year Parks for the Planet Forum, a series held in partnership with the IUCN and Huffington Foundation.
Israel’s first forest kindergarten is inspiring a forest school movement in the country. The school, Gan Keshet, which means “rainbow kindergarten” in Hebrew, is a public school in the remote town of Mitzpe Ramon. After the ministry of education designated it an official model school, hundreds of educators, students and parents have flocked to the school to learn about its approach. Several private forest kindergartens opened this school year, and more public pilots are planned for next year.
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child’s report of its General Discussion Day on children and the environment makes links between children’s freedom to play, and their ability to enjoy a healthy, sustainable environment. The report calls on municipalities to do more to protect these important children’s rights and for governments to use planning regulations to ensure "the play and child-friendliness of all environments."