Madison kick off plans to Connect Children to Nature
By Gabi King | Thu, 03/24/2016 - 3:40pm
The Cities Connect Children to Nature initiative sprouted from a nationwide search for cities best suited for growing diverse youth involvement in the outdoors. Madison, one of seven cities selected from across the United States, began its planning with a grant from a collaboration of the National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education and Families and the Children and Nature Network.
A wide array of community members met at Madison’s Warner Park Community Center on March 5 to discuss plans for getting more kids outside.
Justin Svingen is a data analyst from the Dane County Public Health office who focuses on urban and environmental planning. He stressed Madison’s already existing solid foundation for this project.
Madison has over 260 city parks and conservation areas and a wealth of water access. There are numerous organizations working toward similar goals and a strong commitment from Madison’s leadership for this initiative, Svingen said.
The kick-off event represented many interests including educators, government agencies, environmental representatives and the focus of the initiative: the kids. The day began as the 60 to 70 attendees strolled through the park, setting the tone for the rest of the day. Two sandhill cranes observed the community members sharing their hopes for Madison’s outdoor youth.
A number of representatives from agencies such as the parks department and Centro Hispano spoke of their goals to improve the lives of Madison’s diverse youth. Small groups discussed the barriers between kids and nature, and what Madison would look like in five years if every child had access to a natural space. Even the members of the youth crowd shared how they themselves connect to nature and how the city could be better. The goal of equity reverberated through the event.
“Each [child] can develop a sense of belonging in the natural world and ability to recognize one’s power in the community and identify as a steward of the environment,” Svingen said. “Access to nature and green spaces has the ability to heal wounds of stress.”
The next step of the initiative is to look at the emerging themes from the kick off to find what works, what doesn’t and how to move forward. Community input will be collected from the participants’ outside lives, as well as from student interns who reach out to youth groups of all different Madison backgrounds.
“We strive to create a sustainable approach [from a funding standpoint] so that the effort doesn’t live and die by the availability of grants, but that it is carried forward by a strong, effective, and representative collaboration,” Svingen said.
These initial steps are only the beginning of hopeful growth for Madison’s youth connecting to nature across the city and among the lakes.
- Appalachian Ridge NA
- Glen Oak Hills
- Hill Farms
- Mendota Beach
- Midvale Heights
- Oakwood Village
- Old Middleton Greenway
- Parkwood Hills
- Parkwood Village
- Parkwood West
- Skyview Terrace
- Spring Harbor
- Stonefield Woods-Ridge
- Summit Woods
- University Hill Farms
- Wisconsin Co-op Housing
- Woodland Hills
- Woodlands Hills Condominum
- Wyndemere Condominum