On December 7, 2023, The Children & Nature Network, the National League of Cities, and KABOOM! partnered to launch a new initiative designed to increase equitable access to Nature Everywhere where children live, learn, and play in 100 communities by 2025. Nineteen U.S. communities have been selected through a competitive application process to join an inaugural Nature Everywhere Communities cohort. Nature Everywhere Communities will receive two years of strategic planning, technical support, and start-up funding to develop and implement community-driven plans for connecting children and families to nature-based experiences and learning.
The Benefits of Nature
A growing body of evidence indicates that spending time outdoors, in nature, is essential for children’s healthy development. Time in nature improves physical and mental health, academic outcomes, and social-emotional learning. Equitable access to nearby nature-filled spaces and outdoor learning and play helps children and families thrive, and can support community-wide sustainability, climate resilience, green workforce and public health goals.
Groton, Connecticut Selection
The Groton, CT team is a strong partnership between the Groton Public Schools, The Town of Groton, and Groton Open Space Association (GOSA) with a focus on collaboration to increase outdoor access to school-age children in Groton. The team is eager to engage in a community assessment process that addresses childhood health and well-being as well as climate resilience and environmental stewardship.
“The Groton team’s application hit every mark when it comes to our Nature Everywhere goals,” says Sarah Milligan-Toffler, President and CEO of the Children & Nature Network. “Through a collaborative process focused on updating community plans to specifically address inequities in children’s access to nature, this team is poised for Nature Everywhere’s process of community assessment, youth engagement, and action planning. We are thrilled to support and join in their efforts.”
“Our GO (Get Outdoors) Groton group is dedicated to connecting children with nature and has been working for over a year on this mission. We are excited about the opportunities participating as a Nature Everywhere Community will provide to help us expand and amplify this important work,” says Megan Granato, Town of Groton’s Sustainability and Resilience Manager.
The Nature Everywhere Community Team Journey
As a first step, the Groton, CT team joined eight other communities for a Nature Everywhere Vision Lab in Austin, Texas, November 1-3, to explore proven nature connection strategies and connect with technical assistance experts from the Children & Nature Network, the National League of Cities, and KABOOM!. Over the next two years, the Groton team will:
- Engage youth and community residents in creating visions for equitable access to nature
- Map community stakeholders, assets and gaps
- Conduct funding and policy scans
- Identify the best nature connection strategies for the Groton community
- Build and deepen regional partnerships
- Develop and begin implementing an outdoor inclusion and access plan
Throughout the process, Groton, CT and other Nature Everywhere community teams will have access to a national peer learning network; technical assistance; case-making research; resources, case studies and planning tools; seed grants of up to $50,000; and eventually, access to larger catalytic grants for implementation. Nature Everywhere partners (Children & Nature Network, National League of Cities, and KABOOM!) will also help communities track outcomes and communicate the impact of their work both locally and nationally.
For more information about the Groton, Connecticut Team, contact Megan Granato, Sustainability and Resilience Manager for the Town of Groton, at [email protected].
For more information about the Nature Everywhere initiative, visit childrenandnature.org/nature-everywhere, read this national news release, and/or contact Laura Mylan, Children & Nature Network, [email protected].