Gets Children and Youth Outside in Nature

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The Children & Nature Network’s Natural Leaders Legacy Initiative has been awarded funding from the REI Foundation and The North Face to equip young community organizers with outdoor certification and leadership skills to reconnect children and youth with nature.

I am a Natural Leader

The Natural Leaders Network, a project of the Children & Nature Network (C&NN), today announced a new initiative designed to empower young leaders in communities across the country in the fight against nature-deficit disorder. The Natural Leaders Legacy Initiative, with major support from The North Face and REI Foundation (Recreation Equipment Inc.), will equip youth community organizers with outings skills and leadership training to more effectively move their communities outside in nature, for the health and well-being of children, their families, their communities and nature itself.

“Through the Natural Leaders Legacy Initiative we’re empowering the next generation of outdoor explorers to become role models in their communities and inspire more people to get outside,” said Ann Krcik, director of Outdoor Exploration for The North Face. “At The North Face, we believe that once you get someone outside they will develop a passion for the outdoors, and ultimately they’ll be more likely to conserve earth’s wild places, which is in all of our best interest.”

“The REI Foundation is interested in exploring new and innovative ways of connecting young people with nature and the outdoors. Helping take the Natural Leaders Network across the country puts young leaders into local communities to engage youth and communities in this exciting effort,” said Michael Collins, President of the REI Foundation.

Launched in 2008, the Natural Leaders Network was created to provide opportunities, inspiration, mentoring and skills for Generation Y and millennials, especially young people ages 15 – 29, many of whom are from low-income communities, to improve the quality of life for children and youth by connecting them with nature in their everyday lives. Since its founding, the Natural Leaders Network has been instrumental in getting thousands of children and youth outdoors in intergenerational experiences. One flagship, created by the core national team of Natural Leaders, is the month-long Let’s G.O.! (Get Outside) which in its first year, 2011, got 60,000 children and youth outdoors with more than 50,000 adults to “play, serve and celebrate” in nature. In 2012, more than 200,000 children and 100,000 adults participated in Let’s G.O.!—a three-fold increase in one year.

The core national team for the Natural Leaders Network which includes 2011 National Geographic Emerging Explorer and current director of youth leadership development for the Natural Leaders Network, Juan Martinez, has now created a toolkit and training program to empower the next generation of outdoor activists in even more communities. This summer the Natural Leaders Network will select 24 exceptional youth from across the country to join the Natural Leaders Network and attend the first Natural Leaders Legacy Camp training in Harper’s Ferry, WV, in Fall 2012.

“Children are becoming increasingly disconnected from nature, and this disturbing trend will have a profound impact on the physical and mental health of future generations as well as the health of nature itself,” said Richard Louv, co-founder of the Children and Nature Network. “The creation of the Natural Leaders Legacy Initiative is an important step in reversing nature-deficit disorder in our communities by preparing those most affected – our children – with the skills and resources to get more people engaged in the outdoors in nature.”

Louv, a best-selling author of “Last Child in the Woods” and “The Nature Principle,” coined the term nature-deficit disorder in 2005 to refer to the societal condition in which children and youth are increasingly disconnected from direct experiences in nature, a trend that is associated with the recent rise in child obesity, hyperactivity and depression. Louv co-founded the Children & Nature Network in response to the need for a global movement to connect all children, their families and communities to nature.

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—including its Natural Leaders Legacy Initiative—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.

Juan Martinez, Director of Leadership Development & Natural Leaders Network
Children & Nature Network

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