New Survey: Campaigns to Get Children Outdoors Make Progress

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The 2011 Children & Nature Network (C&NN) survey of grassroots leaders of regional, statewide and provincial campaigns shows a three-fold increase in the number of children and youth getting outdoors in nature from 2009 to 2011—from one million to three million annually.

The Children & Nature Network (C&NN) today released the results of its latest survey to track the growth of the children and nature movement. Reported in USA Today in November 2007, “A back-to-nature movement to reconnect children with the outdoors is burgeoning nationwide.” This latest survey with data from 2011 provides additional support for that statement.

Reasons for the growth and urgency of this movement include the epidemic of childhood obesity, reports of diminished creativity, increases in behavior disorders, increased time using electronic media, and sedentary behavior among children and youth—all of which are associated with reduced time for learning and play outdoors in nature as a part of children’s everyday lives. Research indicates that children tend to be healthier, happier and smarter when direct experiences in nature are a frequent and regular part of their childhood.

Compared to baseline results established in 2009, the Children & Nature Network 2011 Grassroots Leadership Survey shows significant increases in the numbers of children and youth getting outdoors in nature as a result of the efforts of the Network and its members, including regional, statewide and provincial campaigns to connect children, families and communities to nature. Commissioned by C&NN with funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the survey results are analyzed and reported by an independent evaluator, Dr. Lynette Fleming.

Leaders of these campaigns reported that the number of children and youth annually engaged in nature-based outdoor activities and experiences has tripled since 2009 to an estimated 3 million youth in 2011. In 2011, C&NN campaigns and partners reported engaging up to 1.2 million underserved youth in community garden projects (up from 176,600 in 2009); 856,000 in natural play areas (up from 316,1000 in 2009); and 1.6 million in school gardens/habitat projects (up from 401,500 in 2009). Among the many findings, survey participants report increased:

  •     awareness of the importance of nature for children’s healthy development,
  •     participation by pediatricians and health care providers,
  •     educational benefits,
  •     community support, and
  •     development of places to play and learn outdoors in nature.

Seventy-eight campaigns completed the 2011 survey. As of May 10, 2012, there are 103 campaigns registered on the C&NN web site.

“While we still have much work to do to reverse the trends of the last 30 years in which children are increasingly sedentary and disconnected from playing and learning in nature, this progress is exciting and an indication of momentum,” said Cheryl Charles, Ph.D., President and CEO of the Children & Nature Network.

“These findings are encouraging, including the increase in the number of underserved youth who are having nature-based play and learning experiences. However, barriers remain, and some are growing,” said Richard Louv, C&NN co-founder and Chairman Emeritus. “As of 2008, more people in the world live in cities than in rural areas. So we need a broader, deeper movement – one that transforms cities into incubators of biodiversity and human health. This movement isn’t about going back to nature; it’s about going forward to nature. Every child needs nature, not only those whose parents love the outdoors.”

Louv and Charles praised the young people, parents, grandparents, physicians, teachers, community leaders, urban planners and others leading the international movement to reduce what, in his book “Last Child in the Woods,” Louv called “our society’s nature-deficit disorder.”

Since its founding in 2006, The Children & Nature Network has been advocating for children, their families and communities to enhance their health and well-being through direct experiences in nature. C&NN’s vision is a world in which all children play, learn and grow with nature in their everyday lives. The Children & Nature Network is leading a movement to connect all children, their families and communities to nature through innovative ideas, evidence-based resources and tools, broad-based collaboration and support of grassroots leadership. C&NN provides a wide range of research and user-friendly tools, including those to enhance positive family bonding and access to fun, friendly nature-based activities. For more information see: and participate in C&NN’s community site,

To see the full Survey Report DOWNLOAD a copy of the Report here or go to:
Children & Nature Network website:
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C&NN Twitter:
C&NN Community Conversation site, C&NN Connect:
C&NN on You Tube:
Cheryl Charles, President and CEO
Children & Nature Network
(505) 466-2145

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