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Connecting Children to Nature

Public Health Madison & Dane County and City of Madison Parks Division are partnering on the Connecting Children to Nature project that strives to promote equitable nature access to children and families across the City of Madison. The grant is funded by the National League of Cities and Cities Connecting Children to Nature. Madison is one of seven cities across the country implementing initiatives.

Madison's two main goals are:
  • To ensure that every Madison child has regular opportunities to connect to nature to achieve optimal physical, social and emotional well-being; and
  • To increase community connectedness and a sense of belonging in nature in Madison's neighborhoods, particularly among communities of color.

During the planning phase in summer 2016, six Wanda Fullmore interns went through a rigorous qualitative data collection process to better understand neighborhood inequities to nature access. Through an exploratory process, they interviewed youth throughout the city to gain clarity on the barriers to access and the benefits of time spent outside. They also built a nature-based play area at Centro Hispano. This information, along with public meetings and partner organization input, led to the development of an implementation plan.

The Implementation Plan focuses on three areas:

Early Childhood

Create incentives and increase support for early childhood education and day care providers in the City of Madison to increase the time young children and families spend in nature, especially among those who normally do not have opportunities to do so. Identify seven centers that will receive additional funding and technical assistance to increase time in nature.

Green Schoolyards

Identify resources to support maintenance and use of outdoor classrooms and parks/open spaces within the Madison Metropolitan School District and Madison School & Community Recreation programs, especially among children with less access. Use the School Grounds Assessment report to capture what outdoor learning spaces already exist in the city and how to make improvements going forward.

Planning with Youth Voice and Nature Considerations

Incorporate equitable use of natural spaces as a priority in City of Madison planning processes. City of Madison's Comprehensive Plan and the Parks and Open Space Plan will incorporate new methods to engage diverse youth and community members to shape the future of Madison Parks and natural areas.