Author Archives: kayla

The White House Summit on Environmental Education

The White House Summit on Environmental Education was on April 16.

Richard Louv and Rep. John Sarbanes (MD), who sponsored the original NCLI Act in 2009, were speakers along with a panel of National Park Service & EPA members, discussing collaborative efforts to get kids and families outside.

Conclusion

It is clear that the health and well-being of Ohio’s children, like that of children across the nation, is at serious risk. It is also clear that most children today are disconnected from the experiences in the natural world that so effectively built healthy bodies, encouraged creativity and a sense of wonder, relieved stress, facilitated learning and developed important social skills in of the generations of children before them.

These two facts are of almost universal concern. People from all walks of life are coming together with the common goal of restoring to our children, and to the children of the future, what should be the right of all children – the right to play and learn in nature. Ohio recognizes this in supporting the Ohio Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights.

Collectively, we recognize that it will take some work to reverse what has become a sedentary, indoor lifestyle for the children of today. We believe that the Public Awareness Campaign will inspire even more people to take action. This report sets forth strategies that can begin today – through the structures already in place in Ohio. From parents and grandparents to state agencies, all can help reconnect Ohio’s children with nature. We recognize the need, we have the desire, and we are ready to begin. We hope that YOU will join us in the movement to Leave No Child Inside!

Together, we can make Ohio’s children happier, healthier and smarter!

Individuals & Families

INDIVIDUAL EFFORTS – MAKING A DIFFERENCE – The preceding sections outline strategies to encourage and support a change in lifestyle for Ohio’s children through the work of organizations. However, perhaps the measure of the greatest success in the movement to Leave No Child Inside is its ability to inspire individuals to take action. People of all ages, races, socio-economic status and political persuasions have been inspired to action by their desire for future generations to reap the benefits of playing and learning in nature. Some of these individuals are the founders of the more than eighty grassroots initiatives that exist in the United States as of the writing of this report. Others are taking more simple steps, like spending “outdoor time” with a grandchild each week. 

Although we cannot over-emphasize the importance of incorporating the children and nature message into the work of our government agencies, schools, non-profit organizations and even the businesses that influence the lives of children, the greatest impact will come from everyday citizens weaving this message into their daily routines.

  • Nature Clubs For Families
    In Roanoke, Virginia, Chip and Ashley Donahue were inspired by the children and nature message to take their children hiking at a nearby park. As they were hiking, their young son asked why they were the only family out there having so much fun! Chip and Ashley decided to invite friends to join them. Out of that grew Kids in the Valley Adventuring (KIVA), with a website connecting families to each week’s hiking “adventure”. Within a few months, 170 families were participating. But, Chip and Ashley didn’t stop there – subsequently they shared their strategy and helped the Children and Nature Network develop the Nature Clubs for Families Tool Kit.

Transportation Strategy 4: Green Landscaping

TRANSPORTATION AND CITY PLANNING – Urban planning decisions have a tremendous impact on a child’s opportunity for contact with the natural world, determining whether a park is located within walking distance from home, whether a stream is left as a wildlife corridor or pushed underground in a culvert, and whether it is possible to walk or bike safely to school and neighborhood destinations. These strategies would improve access to the natural world:

Strategy #4: Promote the adoption of green landscaping municipal ordinances encouraging planting of native and adapted trees and plants.

The Ohio Department of Transportation’s Division of Highway Operations is currently reviewing all of the Department’s practices and guidelines to develop an integrated and comprehensive vegetation management plan for ODOT’s right-of-ways to ensure that ODOT is a responsible landowner and neighbor, promotes energy and environmental benefits and biodiversity, and maximizes the economic return to the citizens of Ohio.

Because ODOT’s natural resource mitigation areas are preserved in perpetuity, they could serve as islands or “nodes” of wildlife habitat, or as corridors to connect with adjacent natural areas. Long term, they could serve to develop statewide green infrastructure. All new ODOT culverts are designed to maintain stream continuity on both sides of the roadway. ODOT currently plants hardy, salt-tolerant trees, native grasses and wildflowers where possible, and uses “green herbicides” where possible. These practices promote plant and animal life and biodiversity, as well as the energy and environmental benefits of vegetation.

Transportation Strategy 3: LEED for Neighborhood Development

TRANSPORTATION AND CITY PLANNING – Urban planning decisions have a tremendous impact on a child’s opportunity for contact with the natural world, determining whether a park is located within walking distance from home, whether a stream is left as a wildlife corridor or pushed underground in a culvert, and whether it is possible to walk or bike safely to school and neighborhood destinations. These strategies would improve access to the natural world:

Strategy #3: Create incentives for property developments meeting the LEED for Neighborhood Development standards, which incorporate protection of green space and wildlife habitat, and promotion of physical activity.

The U. S. Green Building Council has developed the LEED for Neighborhood Development standards in order to encourage healthier neighborhoods – healthier for the environment and healthier for people. In order to encourage these kinds of developments, many municipalities will allow tax abatements for projects meeting the LEED standards. For example, the City of Cincinnati adopted a measure providing an automatic 100% real property tax exemption of the assessed property value for newly constructed or rehabilitated commercial or residential properties that earn a minimum of LEED Certified.

Members of Ohio’s regional U. S. Green Building Council are currently reviewing the standards for LEED-ND and LEED for Schools, discussing ways to increase green space and children’s access to it in the urban environment. Examples of items under discussion are school gardens and natural play spaces, including the possible use of vegetative roofs for those purposes. As our population grows and Ohio becomes more urban, it is essential to take into consideration the needs of our children so they will have safe natural places in which to play and learn. USGBC members are also continuing to build relationships with cities and counties, educating them on LEED-ND and the types of incentives being implemented across the country, like fast track permitting and permitting fee reimbursement.

Transportation Strategy 2: Safe Routes to School

TRANSPORTATION AND CITY PLANNING – Urban planning decisions have a tremendous impact on a child’s opportunity for contact with the natural world, determining whether a park is located within walking distance from home, whether a stream is left as a wildlife corridor or pushed underground in a culvert, and whether it is possible to walk or bike safely to school and neighborhood destinations. These strategies would improve access to the natural world:

Strategy #2: Encourage the implementation of Safe Routes to School programs.

Safe Routes to School is a program to improve safety and encourage more children, including children with disabilities, to safely walk and bicycle to school.

Since December of 2007, the Ohio Department of Transportation has awarded $21 million in Safe Routes to School Funds. Over 150 communities in Ohio will benefit from these funds aimed at making it safer for students in grades k-8 to get to school using active transportation. Projects funded range from school crossing improvements to bicycle education programs. Not only does this program increase students’ activity level to help stem the childhood obesity epidemic, but it also helps reduce school transportation costs – a great example of solving multiple problems with our funding dollars. Details about Safe Routes to School.

And, this successful program is slated for improvement. In order to be eligible for SRTS funding, communities must first develop a school travel plan. Currently ODOT helps communities by funding a portion of these plans for up to four schools. They are in the process of developing guidelines that can be used to develop a school travel plan for an entire school district. Ohio will be the first state to develop a procedure that can be replicated in every large school district around the state. Also, over the next two years, ODOT is launching a major comprehensive educational initiative for Safe Routes to School and Share the Road campaigns.

Transportation Strategy 1: Complete Streets

TRANSPORTATION AND CITY PLANNING – Urban planning decisions have a tremendous impact on a child’s opportunity for contact with the natural world, determining whether a park is located within walking distance from home, whether a stream is left as a wildlife corridor or pushed underground in a culvert, and whether it is possible to walk or bike safely to school and neighborhood destinations. These strategies would improve access to the natural world:

Strategy #1: Encourage cities and counties to include Complete Streets which safely accommodate pedestrians and cyclists as a part of their general plans.

Complete Streets are roadways designed to safely and comfortably accommodate all users, including, but not limited to motorists, cyclists, pedestrians, transit and school bus riders. “All users” includes people of all ages and abilities. These programs serve not only to encourage physical activity by making it safer to walk and bicycle in the community, but they also increase safe access to nearby nature locations, schools, community centers and even travel to other homes in the neighborhood.

The Ohio Department of Transportation has created a new Multi-Modal Division. One goal of this new division is to improve the quality of life for residents by improving accessibility to active forms of transportation such as bicycling and walking. ODOT has partnered with several Metropolitan Planning Organizations across the state to develop their Complete Streets policies and is currently working on a statewide Complete Streets policy, implementation plan and relevant training.

  • Complete Streets in Action:
    The Ohio Department of Transportation has partnered with the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) to develop and adopt a Complete Streets Policy. Using a grant from the Ohio Department of Health, MORPC is currently developing a Complete Streets toolkit. This toolkit will contain model policies, engineering, education, and enforcement strategies, as well as a tool library with equipment that can be borrowed by its members for various projects. This is an example of how two state departments can partner with a municipality on a program which benefits all three organizations, improves the health of the community and makes nature more accessible to children.

Education Strategy 8: Green Jobs

EDUCATION – Schools, where children spend a significant amount of their time, have a tremendous opportunity to reconnect children with nature. Contact with nature has proven educational and developmental benefits. Historically, schools have planned field trips and arranged for school outreach programs, and schoolyards are often the nearest green spaces in neighborhood. Increasingly across Ohio, schools are being used as Community Learning Centers, making their facilities accessible to the community beyond the school day, seven days a week. This makes them even more valuable as “nearby nature” locations. With 55% of children under the age of six in child care centers, pre-schools and child care centers also play an important role in the effort to reconnect children with nature:

Strategy #8: Increase student and public awareness of green jobs as a career option.

The Ohio Environmental Literacy Plan includes a strategy to support environmental career awareness by developing a mentoring program that links environmental professionals with students and by assuring that service learning requirements and opportunities include environmental components.

Education Strategy 7: Required Recess

EDUCATION – Schools, where children spend a significant amount of their time, have a tremendous opportunity to reconnect children with nature. Contact with nature has proven educational and developmental benefits. Historically, schools have planned field trips and arranged for school outreach programs, and schoolyards are often the nearest green spaces in neighborhood. Increasingly across Ohio, schools are being used as Community Learning Centers, making their facilities accessible to the community beyond the school day, seven days a week. This makes them even more valuable as “nearby nature” locations. With 55% of children under the age of six in child care centers, pre-schools and child care centers also play an important role in the effort to reconnect children with nature:

Strategy #7: Require at least 20 minutes of daily unstructured recess.

Recent attempts to require recess in schools via the Healthy Choices for Healthy Children legislation passed this year in Ohio met with failure. Groups representing teachers and school boards were successful in removing that provision from the bill, citing the need for more academic time. Because the focus of the bill was on childhood obesity, educators also felt that schools should not be responsible for solving social problems. The first step in successfully implementing this strategy is to show that recess is helpful to academic performance. There are studies indicating that recess improves classroom behavior. Another study indicates that there is a positive connection between physical activity, concentration and memory. More research is needed on this topic, but most adults who participate in day-long meetings would agree that a break for physical activity increases the ability to concentrate. The Environmental Literacy Plan will include strategies to promote recess and physical education.

Education Strategy 6: Prepare Educators

EDUCATION – Schools, where children spend a significant amount of their time, have a tremendous opportunity to reconnect children with nature. Contact with nature has proven educational and developmental benefits. Historically, schools have planned field trips and arranged for school outreach programs, and schoolyards are often the nearest green spaces in neighborhood. Increasingly across Ohio, schools are being used as Community Learning Centers, making their facilities accessible to the community beyond the school day, seven days a week. This makes them even more valuable as “nearby nature” locations. With 55% of children under the age of six in child care centers, pre-schools and child care centers also play an important role in the effort to reconnect children with nature:

Strategy #6: Prepare formal and non-formal educators to incorporate environmental education into their teaching throughout their career.

The Environmental Literacy Plan under development in Ohio recommends pre-service training and on-going professional development for both formal and non-formal educators. The Plan includes strategies to encourage partnerships with experienced providers of environmental education programs that will translate environmental concepts into outdoor experiences. It also addresses the need to build confidence in teachers and addresses working with diverse audiences.

“Overwhelmingly, principals reported that recess has a strong positive impact on academic achievement. Students listened better and were more focused after recess. And principals widely agreed that recess positively impacts social development and well-being.”
– Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Report on “The State of Play” 2010