Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Parks and Recreation Partnership Bringing 10 Million Kids to Nature and the Outdoors

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Parks and Recreation Partnership Bringing 10 Million Kids to Nature and the Outdoors

Article excerpt

IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE NATIONAL WILDLIFE FEDERATION (NWF), NRPA has launched a truly ambitious goal: To connect i0 million kids to nature and the outdoors in the next three years. And this goal is not just to count what we are already doing to connect kids to nature and the outdoors-it is about increasing the time kids spend outdoors by 90 minutes per week, and getting kids who aren't already spending time outdoors to make this part of their regular routine.

This initiative came about through a convergence of factors. A year ago, the NRPA-commissioned Conservation Task Force noted that one of the greatest conservation challenges at the community level was to reconnect kids with nature and outdoors. One of their top recommendations was for parks and recreation to commit to fostering the next generation of environmental stewards.

The report of the Conservation Task Force caught the eye of the National Wildlife Federation, which was also considering a major initiative to focus on this very issue. Formed more than 75 years ago with the purpose of mobilizing citizens to protect threatened wetlands in the southeastern U.S., NWF has grown to be the largest grassroots conservation organization in America with more than 4 million supporters and 47 affiliates.

NWF and NRPA senior staff began to discuss how our two organizations might collaborate on this emerging initiative. Just as many park and recreation advocates have become concerned about the trends that are leading kids away from parks and outdoor activities, NWF also recognized the profound consequences to the cause of conservation and public lands if a generation of kids suddenly loses touch with nature and the outdoors. But on the positive side, we know the tremendous benefits that kids gain from spending time outdoors--better physical and mental health, a more positive outlook on the future, even immunological benefits to prevent disease.

And let there be no confusion about the trends. The numbers are staggering. A noted research study by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that kids are spending more than 7.5 hours per day behind screens of one kind or another, and a similar study notes that kids today spend just four to seven minutes per day in outdoor free play.

Grim as it may sound, there is hope. A nationwide movement, initially inspired by Richard Louv's book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, is responding to this threat to our youths' future. …

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