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Madison Connecting Children to Nature

Image: Children Nature

Why Nature is Important

We owe it to ourselves and to future generations to ensure all children have the opportunity to experience a nature-rich city. We know it is an essential component of health and well-being among individuals and communities. We also know that those who care about the natural environment are more likely to become its stewards.

The Initiative

The City of Madison, along with six other U.S. cities, was selected to participate in the Cities Connect Children to Nature initiative in 2016, sponsored by the Children & Nature Network and the National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education & Families.

As a partnership between Public Health Madison and Dane County, City of Madison Parks and multiple community partners, the initiative recognizes a growing body of research that points toward the powerful benefits that even small amounts of time spent in natural settings can offer.

planning and implementation

Through the summer of 2016, six Wanda Fullmore interns assisted our staff with identification and analysis of Madison's assets and opportunities to connect children to nature as part of a $25,000 planning grant. The voices of youth, particularly youth of color, were sought in the process, to ensure that youth leaders are actively shaping the process and outcomes and that all children have the opportunity to connect to nature in ways that are meaningful to them.

Here is what the process looked like.

Youth-Engaged City Planning: Recommendations for the City of Madison, Wisconsin (PDF)

Next Phase:

  • Madison received $50,000 from the National League of Cities and the Children and Nature Network to support 1 year of implementation of our city plan to connect children to nature. Sonya Sankaran, who helped facilitate the Wanda Fullmore internship, has been hired to direct the implementation efforts.
  • View Madison Connecting Children to Nature Implementation Plan (PDF)
  • Goals of the plan are to:
    • Ensure that every child in Madison has regular opportunities to connect to nature for their best physical, social and emotional well-being.
      • Strategy: Provide incentives and support for increasing the time young children and families spend in nature to early childhood education and day care providers in City of Madison. Particularly among those who don't normally have the opportunity.
      • Strategy: Identify resources that will support the maintenance and use of outdoor classrooms and parks/open spaces in MMSD and MSCR programs. Particularly among children with less access.
    • Increase community connectedness and sense of belonging in nature in Madison's neighborhoods, particularly among communities of color.
      • Strategy: Through City of Madison planning processes, engage diverse youth and community members for more equitable access to nature.