Serenbe Stories

Children Need Nature to Thrive with Sarah Milligan-Toffler

September 27, 2021 Serenbe / Sarah Milligan-Toffler Season 6 Episode 8
Serenbe Stories
Children Need Nature to Thrive with Sarah Milligan-Toffler
Show Notes Transcript

Hi Everyone, welcome back to Serenbe Stories. Today we're bringing you an episode from my podcast Biophilic Solutions, because it features one of Serenbe's residents, Sarah Milligan-Toffler. Sarah is the President and CEO of the Children and Nature Network, an organization created by Richard Louv, that reconnects kids and families with nature. In this episode, Sarah, my co-host Jennifer Walsh, and I discuss nature’s impact on brain development in early childhood, ways that we might reimagine the traditional schoolyard, and the historic barriers that have prevented underserved communities from enjoying nature’s benefits. We also dive into the tools that city officials and engaged citizens alike can use to advocate for the rights of all children have local and safe access to the outdoors. 

Enjoy this special interview with our neighbor Sarah.

Show Notes:

0 (1s):
Hey guys, it's Monica here. I wanted to tell you about a new podcast that I've started with my very good friend, Jennifer Walsh called biophilic solutions. Our last season of ceremony stories, building a biophilic movement was so popular that we decided to dedicate an entire podcast to it every other week. Jennifer and I will sit down with leaders in the growing field of biophilia. We'll talk about local and global solutions to help nurture their living social and economic systems that we all need to sustain future generations more often than not. Nature has the answers. You can find biophilic solutions on apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts, subscribe and follow us today. So you don't miss an episode.

0 (41s):
All right, now let's get back to ceremony stories. Hi, everyone. Welcome back to ceremony stories today. We're bringing you an episode from my other podcasts by Phillips solutions because it features one of ceremonies residents, Sarah Milligan Toffler. Sarah is the president and CEO of children in nature network. An organization created by Richard lube, that reconnects kids and families with nature. In this episode, Sarah, with my co-host Jennifer Walsh and I discuss nature's impact on brain development and early childhood ways that we might reimagine the traditional schoolyard and the historic barriers that have prevented underserved communities from enjoying nature's benefits. We also dive into the tools that city officials and engaged citizens alike can use to advocate for the rights of all children to have local and safe access to the outdoors.

0 (1m 29s):
Enjoy this special interview with our neighbor, Sarah,

1 (1m 33s):
While it's great news that there is plasticity and we can, we can continue to develop our brains throughout our life. We see that children who don't have regular access to nature, actually the white matter in their brain does not develop normally. And so that impacts their ability to perform in school, to concentrate all kinds of things.

0 (1m 55s):
Hey Sarah, thanks for coming in today.

1 (1m 58s):
Hi, I'm Monica

0 (1m 60s):
Jennifer. Oh my gosh. I'm so happy to be in a room with all these amazing financial day. You guys, this is the first time we've been back in the studio and you might actually hear a little bit of thunder outside. Nature is trying to get in, but we're really excited to be together and we're really excited to have you, Sarah.

1 (2m 16s):
Well, thanks so much for having me it's exciting to be here.

0 (2m 19s):
So one of the things I wanted to sort of kick off with is always asking, you know, your background, we absolutely are huge fans of the children in nature network. Tell us what you do and what is the children nature network for our listeners?

1 (2m 32s):
Sure. Well, first I have the tremendous privilege of being the president and CEO of the children and nature network. I've been with the network for almost eight years. Well, before that, I worked for 30 years in nonprofit management, really in the world of getting kids connected to nature. So I've been doing it for a real long time and I just moved to Georgia in 2020. I'm super excited to be here, moved here with my husband and his mom. And I just love being, exploring the outdoors here, running the trails I'm out there every day. And it's just awesome.

2 (3m 12s):
So good. Doesn't it. I just did it right before we, we just joined together

0 (3m 16s):
And I was going to say that we're all in serum B and Jennifer's at Sarah and be with us today and Sarah has moved to ceremony so

2 (3m 23s):
I can see everyone looking at me right

0 (3m 25s):
Now. We're waiting for you to New York city

1 (3m 29s):
Whenever you want

2 (3m 31s):
That. I try now that I feel like we're at the light in the tunnel, that pandemic, I feel like I can come a little more often.

0 (3m 36s):
So give us a little more about your background in nature and sort of children's work before you got to children in nature network

1 (3m 44s):
For almost 25 years for an organization called wilderness inquiry. And we do well, they do wilderness trips all over the world, really introducing people with disabilities, young people that don't have regular access to nature. That's the whole mission. And so, yeah, I worked, I worked my way, you know, kind of through that organization and learn the ropes of running a nonprofit. And then when I had the opportunity to come to children and nature, I was just a great fit and super excited about doing this work. Can you

2 (4m 17s):
Share with us the actual mission behind the children nature network?

1 (4m 21s):
Absolutely. So I'm going to start first with our vision. Our vision really is of a world where all children have access to the benefits of nature everywhere they live, learn, and play, and to, to reach that goal of all children. We, our mission is really to increase equitable access to nature because we know that too often, a child's zip code, their race, their ability level impacts whether they have access to nature or not. And so we really need to focus on that equity question.

0 (4m 51s):
Yeah. And that is something that I don't think that a lot of people recognize. They just maybe make the assumption that there's parks everywhere or, you know, your access to a trail head, or you can go on a little camping trip, but I think that's something that is really important and that we've talked about with other people is like what makes equitable access. So I'm super curious to talk about that.

2 (5m 11s):
I know. And especially going off the heels of like talking to Tim Bailey, not being ethical and what creates an ethical city. So are the gateway I think is nature, but how do we then incorporate the nature to parks and to access? And I think that's a big conversation of like, how do we do it and what do we need to do to kind of just bridge that story of nature has to be an equitable source to all living people, no matter your ability or disability and or where you live. And I think it's really important that we're having this conversation. The work that you do is so important, especially now coming out of COVID, it's, it's impactful and important. So why is nature important for children of all ages?

1 (5m 50s):
The same reason it's important for all of us, right? Because we know that nature helps reduce stress, improve our mental and physical health helps us focus helps, helps us concentrate. We know that we're just our wellbeing is supported by being connected to nature and all of that's true for children. But the other reason that it's so important to think of this for children is that we know that habits established early in life carry into adulthood. So if we don't start that engagement and having kids just feel comfortable, you know, exploring, asking questions, falling down and knowing what different plants are.

1 (6m 31s):
It's hard to sort of pick that up once you're into adulthood. And the last thing I'll say about why it's so important is that research really shows and there's a growing body of research around nature, connection and brain development. And while it's great news that there is, you know, plasticity and we can, we can continue to develop our brains throughout our life. We see that children who don't have regular access to nature, actually the, the white matter in their brain does not develop normally. And so that impacts their ability to perform in school, to concentrate all kinds of things. So we really just need to make sure that parents know how important it is for their children's healthy development to get them outdoors, you know, as often as they can.

2 (7m 20s):
I'm so glad you brought that up because we kind of overlook the actual impact, just say, oh, it's just there and will always be there, but it's maybe on the weekends or somewhere else, but I'm so glad you said that because it's so important for the children's development

1 (7m 34s):
And it's just easy. Oh, sorry, Monica. I was just, you know, I think we often think too, that it means like we need to get in a car. We need to get on a bus or a train and go out to nature. We have resources on the children and nature network's website, where you can do kind of connection to nature from a balcony. If you happen to live in New York city, like you do Jennifer and you maybe don't have, you know, regular access or easy access to a park, you can look at the birds, you can look at the trees, you can look outside and just notice what's out there and that it's better to be immersed, but even that is, it helps you engage with your environment.

1 (8m 14s):
And it really, you really get the benefits from that.

2 (8m 17s):
It's the noticing because we often overlook it because it's a bird or it's this, or it's a plant, but we're never really engaging to say what I wonder what that is, or just to be curious and explore and wonder, and that's the gift of the witnessing of the nature around us. And that's why I think, you know, you're teaching that and it's so important.

0 (8m 35s):
Well, and you said before we got on, you know, people will think, oh, well, you're just a nature person. Like you like nature, just like somebody else likes movies. And I thought you had a great response to that. And so do you want to sort of posh throw that back out at us? Like people aren't just, we shouldn't be thinking of it as this thing that you are, or you aren't. Right. Right.

1 (8m 54s):
Well, and whether you like nature or not, doesn't matter what we do grow, grow to like it, but we are, we are part of nature. Actually. We are wired. Our brains are wired to respond to natural forms. And clearly now we're learning that our brains are wired to, you know, to respond to nature and develop with nature. So it's, it's less about whether you like it or not. And more about just recognizing that, you know, we really need those opportunities to kind of reconnect with our source.

0 (9m 34s):
So I think, you know, I like that also, you know, it's not whether you like it or not, that doesn't really matter. Like we need it. We're part of it. And I think of a lot of people who think of nature, like it's so dark in the country, or, well, what if there's bugs or is there something that's going to eat me on the trails that we somehow culturally have gone from? You know, a community of people who are very comfortable in nature to a group of people that are very scared of nature, if that's a way, and I don't know if that has something to do with the historic barriers, you know, to prevent people from coming into nature, like, is there, isn't an education?

0 (10m 14s):
Like, what is it that sort of stops people from embracing?

1 (10m 19s):
Well, that's a big question, Monica, it's a huge one. And I think that maybe I'll answer that in a couple of ways, because I think that, you know, historically, you know, th there is a healthy fear of nature. I mean, you need to know what's around you. There are animals that could harm you, you know, like none, and that's, that's in our, you know, ancient history, right? So it's important to be aware of what the dangers are, but as obviously, as we've built up cities and done those kinds of things, we've tended to there's the thunder. We actually have created communities that really are intentionally disconnecting us from nature.

1 (11m 2s):
And I think we're just now realizing that we kind of threw the baby out with the bath water on that one, and that we need to rewild our, our cities. We need to bring nature back into, you know, housing developments and urban centers and, you know, creating outdoor places where people can work. And just all of the things that we are now seeing help to support people, being happy, healthy, you know, their best selves. Right. Absolutely.

0 (11m 34s):
And I think a big part of that is policy, right? Yup.

1 (11m 37s):
A lot of its policy, a lot of it is recognizing just even recognizing that it's something that's important. We take it for granted. And I use this example because I think if you go into a community, let's say, you're you talk with any community, any municipal leaders, city leaders, and say, you know, what about parks? Oh, we'd love our parks and our, the communities. We all love our parks. But if you look at city budgets, it tells you that they don't the values follow the money. And so what I would love to see is that we fund parks like their public health infrastructure and education infrastructure that they really are, that would really communicate that, that we value our parks.

1 (12m 28s):
Parks are the first thing to get cut in terms of budgets and staff and all of that. So, but we've seen with, with COVID with the pandemic, it is part of our public health infrastructure. And I, I know park directors who just sit like we don't have the capacity to respond to the need and that's, that's a funding decision. That's a policy decision and you know, we're working, we're not there yet, but you know, how do we kind of flip that switch so that people start to see like, no, if we don't invest here, we are going to be paying down the line for that.

0 (13m 4s):
Well, and I think that's a good point. You know, you're saying pain down the line, like kids, if the white matter isn't developing, we're going to pay for those kids. Aren't just not going to be at their full potential.

2 (13m 16s):
I was going to say, I was going to ask, have you seen a greater interest because of COVID in what you're doing and the people are saying, I need to have more access. And how do we do these policies

1 (13m 25s):
Change the policies we really have. I think people are waking up to the importance of, of nature and the outdoors. I think municipal leaders are, I think families are recognizing this. I'm going to, I'll talk in a minute about the, the huge interests. There's a moment right now, I think for outdoor learning and green school yards. But I do want to point to one thing that is actually concerning that folks need to know that the we're seeing some early research come in about COVID th th there, these studies are available on the children and nature network website. Well, adults are spending more time getting outdoors and connecting to nature.

1 (14m 9s):
We're seeing that children are spending even less time than they were before outdoors. Wow. And it's having pretty significant impacts on their mental health, on anxiety levels, on their ability to focus. Kids are, you know, while they've been learning online and all of that, they're now there's huge anxieties about going back into the classroom. And so we, we have some work to do to help ensure that those kids have, have an opportunity to get back outdoors, but we in parents really need to be paying attention to sort of, you know, they're on, on zoom all day for school and then

0 (14m 48s):
No PE because, you know, what do you do for PE? I mean, you know, because of the ships in your bedroom, I heard

2 (14m 53s):
The same thing. Like friends from around the country are saying, I can't get my kids outside. My teenagers will not leave their bedroom. Cause they're on zoom and they're on their devices. And it's been really challenging. It's really

0 (15m 3s):
Well. And all of their friends are on those devices. And so, you know, you're also finding that they don't they're, they haven't felt safe to intermingle and be social with other kids, you know, and especially, hopefully now we're going to get the vaccine for 12 to 15, but it is kind of interesting cause there's no social life for them, you know, especially the older ones. Yeah.

1 (15m 23s):
But there is this, there is a huge interest right now in outdoor learning. And I can give an example of, you know, what we're seeing is that if you know those schools that want to get kids back into in-person instruction, if you use that space outdoors, when we talk about ventilation, yes, sure. We can get good ventilation open windows, but what about outside? Like there's the best ventilation out there. So, so schools are really recognizing that that's going to be a way to be able to get back into in-person learning, but then, you know, what we're hoping is that we can help to support them, building that infrastructure to continue it after COVID, because we know that it really helps kids, you know, be better and learn better.

1 (16m 16s):
And they just, you know, they, they feel better when they, when they spend time outside there, there's lots of evidence that outdoor learning really supports improved academic outcomes, especially for those kids that are struggling the most in school. They, they, they benefit even more. So we are working on a national initiative and partnership with the national league of cities. We've got 12 cities right now, city school district partnerships that have, that will be part of a national cohort that are working to create district-wide green schoolyard efforts. So every student in, in a school district would have that opportunity.

1 (16m 57s):
And right here in Georgia and exciting to say that Atlanta public schools in partnership with the city of Atlanta and then to cab county and Decatur school district are part of that cohort. And they were selected out of over 50 partnerships around the country to be part of the cohort. So very exciting. And there's, and it's building on, there are great pilots going on here. There are, you know, partnerships that are already in place. And we really saw through their application that those two districts are really ripe for not just one or two, but district-wide greening of school grounds, which just really exciting and added to that is here in Georgia in the last legislative session, Senator Sheik, Rahman put forth a bill to create a Senate learning study committee on outdoor learning.

1 (17m 52s):
And that passed with huge bipartisan support. And so that's going to be starting this year as well. So we're really hopeful that actually here in Georgia, we could have an example where we're showing local momentum, great partnerships, you know, local foundations and businesses are involved and then the state can come in and hopefully lend their shoulder to the wheel as well and provide, you know, hopefully funding and policy support. So this can, you know, grow across the state. Yeah.

0 (18m 20s):
And we were saying also that's like broad Barb bipartisan support, you know, cause we were like, nature does not take sides. Like it's amazing, you know, this is for all of our kids and it's really, really for the future again, trying to get these kids to their potential by getting inside. Can you tell me like, one question I had was like greening a public school yard? What does that exactly mean?

1 (18m 42s):
Yeah, that's a great question, Monica. Cause it's like, what is that like a garden? The first thing that I'll just mention is that, you know, we think about the land around a school, like belonged to the school, that's actually public land, you know, it belongs to the public. And we don't think about that land around a school as part of the learning environment for our children, which, you know, kind of a huge mess and a huge opportunity. The other thing that's really important to know is that public schools in the United States in most communities are one of the top three landholders. So like in Chicago, Chicago public schools is the second largest land holder in the city of Chicago.

1 (19m 26s):
So if we thought differently about how that land is used, imagine the impact we could have. So, so to answer your question, Monica, what does that look like? So we can think first about, you know, sort of the environmental pieces, green infrastructure, storm, water capture, native plantings tree canopy that can, you know, buffer communities from heat island. So we can, we can sort of think about, you know, the creation of flyways for, you know, native species and all of that on the school grounds. And we can end like what the green infrastructure Houston is doing this to help with flooding and, and really girding themselves for the impacts of climate change and using their school grounds to do that.

1 (20m 12s):
Then you think about what goes on top of that, you know, ball fields. Sure. That's great. But that's usually where we stop gardens for growing food. You know, in, in Atlanta, you know, urban forestry is a huge deal, but we can do that on all of our school grounds and kids can be involved in growing food for, you know, for the cafeteria outdoor classrooms, hiking trails. I mean, we, we know that kids that are not involved in competitive sports kind of stop being active if they're not still engaged in that in middle school, why don't we have hiking trails? Why don't we have bike paths? Why don't we have places where, you know, kids can be active outside and, you know, hang hammocks, climb trees, do that kind of stuff like that.

1 (20m 59s):
So it's really, there are these multi-functional spaces. They can be, they really should be available to the school community during the day and the surrounding community outside of school hours. And those are the kinds of school yards that we look to support, but we really try and help folks imagine just, you know, just open up their imagination about what these spaces could be. We have such a limited view. I absolutely think, you know, if you look at it, many, many school grounds in this country, you'll see a slab of blacktop. If you're lucky, a basketball hoop and maybe some playground equipment, usually a chain link fence around it.

1 (21m 41s):
And what I often say is if you put a lion inside of that space, you would say that is not a suitable environment for an animal in a zoo. And yet we send our children there every day and think that's fine, great point.

0 (21m 57s):
Yeah. I mean, I'm imagining my childhood, my back top and that's like, maybe there was some green, but that was the ball field or, you know,

1 (22m 6s):
And it's often turf grass, which I mean, and that's a start, just think like if you could have trees and native plantings and so many other things there, then it creates such a more

0 (22m 15s):
And educate the kids on what all the different species are. And I love the sort of food forest idea or, you know, the green garden. That's amazing. Absolutely.

2 (22m 23s):
That's the way for growth. Don't you think like when we go forward, that's how we're going to grow and understand like what we want to protect. Right. It was important. And those kids are going to want to say, I grew my, my garden here and I want to protect the land here and I know it better than ever before. And those children hopefully grow up to be activists and I'm enthusiasts and environmentalist to really protect the planet going forward.

0 (22m 46s):
We touched on 'em or we have touched on in other episodes, you know, sort of like what is an ethical city? And I think we've all sort of come to the conclusion that, you know, having access to nature is one aspect of, you know, making an equitable, equitable city. And so I would be curious, you know, obviously greening schoolyards is a great part of it. And I was shocked. I'm still shocked to hear that they're top three land owners, because that's a great opportunity to, to do something interesting, but like, how do you think, you know, children in nature network is working, you know, on the parks side. So like we've talked a little bit about public education. Like, are you, what are some of the strategies that we can sort of learn about how do we make our parks, you know, more equable, do we need more of them?

0 (23m 31s):
Did it need to be bigger? Like what, what needs to happen there in our cities?

1 (23m 36s):
Yeah. And I think I might back up one minute here, Monica, just to explain, you know, the children and nature in the terms of the way in which we work, we don't provide direct programs that connect kids to nature. So we are a national network organization. We have staff all over the country and we really think there are three key things that are kind of needed to sort of move this movement forward. If you will. One is fostering belief that a connection to nature is critical to children's healthy development. So fostering and belief, we do that through storytelling and through research.

1 (24m 17s):
And so we, we collect and curate research. We have a tremendous library on our website that's available and free to anyone to use. And then we, you know, we really think about the strategic communications and how do we get the stories out there about it and, and, and lifting up stories about, you know, who's leading the movement and you know, how, how that's happening. The second thing we think about is really impacting core systems that could have an influence on kids' daily connection to nature, right? So, you know, again, municipal government, like how we plan cities, how we think about that, you know, how we, you know, schools and how we think about that.

1 (24m 59s):
We, we work a lot in the youth development field and folks, you know, we're, we're working with social workers to help influence how they do their practice and taking kids outdoors as part of, you know, regular part of therapy. So there are all of these disciplines that have grown up around supporting youth, reaching their full potential and somewhere along the way, they all missed the memo about nature. That makes sense. Right? And so our job is kind of like, how do we like re re hook nature back into everywhere? You know, kids, you know, are moving about in their lives. And then the third thing is really around, you know, how do we help more people see themselves as part of this movement, as you know, the connection to nature is relevant to them and their lives and their work.

1 (25m 49s):
Amazing to me that there are people out there that don't, but there, this is where we are. So we host the biggest international conference on this topic in the world will be in Atlanta in may of 2022. So hope folks will join us for that. And, you know, we create all kinds of tools and resources and things to help, whether it's municipal leaders or parents, you know, we have the gamut. And so I hope folks will check out our, our website for those free tools and resources. So that's, that's the, that's kinda the way we do our work. So getting back to your question about, you know, what to cities need to do, I can, I can report on, you know, we've been working with cities for the last almost decade, more than 50 cities around the country that have signed up to say, I'm interested in looking at, you know, what does equitable access look like in our community and how might we support that?

1 (26m 43s):
And the kinds of strategies and solutions that we're seeing folks come up with the green school yards is a huge one because especially, you know, you think of someplace like Patterson, New Jersey, they're not making new land, you know, it's very developed. So the school grounds actually, because that's public land, that's a space where like, oh, we can, re-imagine how that's being used. So that's, that's a big one, but also things like park library, partnerships, like using a library as a jumping off point for nature connection, nature, backpacks that can be checked out of the library. You know, I know in St Paul, Minnesota, there's a great, there's a youth group that, you know, started gardens in, in a nearby park and they put a pollinator garden on top of the library and they just, and they've hosted camp outs in the park, things like that.

1 (27m 35s):
So libraries are a really great place, I think because communities are used to going to libraries and they trust libraries and apply berries are sort of encouraging folks to go outside. That's really a positive, we're seeing early childcare centers. Like how do you, you know, like the preschools, the littles, like how do you start to green? Those, some cities have taken that on. Some cities are doing outdoor bills of rights and they're creating a platform that says, this is, we agree as a community, that it is a child's right to have connection to nature, and that can become by itself. It can be a platitude and nothing's behind it, but it can also be a starting point to say, Hey, look, this, these are our values.

1 (28m 22s):
Now we need to live up to that. And it provides a platform for city leaders to kind of keep that work moving forward. So those are, you know, just some examples.

0 (28m 31s):
I love that. And an outdoor bill of rights is that on your website as well. So people can take a look at it, can they then ask their city to sort of implement this?

1 (28m 40s):
Absolutely. Anybody can do that. You can take the language and adopt it for your own city. Those, you know, just take it, run with it, for sure. Are many cities

2 (28m 49s):
Coming to you now and saying, how do we implement? Or do you guide them through the program? Or you just say, here are the resources

1 (28m 55s):
To help you. We provide deep technical assistance and peer learning. We've created networks so that, you know, folks working in Houston can talk to the folks in Atlanta or San Francisco or grand rapids, Michigan or Louisville, because these folks that are working in these communities, a lot of them may face the same kind of barriers and challenges. And knowing that there's somebody that they can call, oh, I remember so-and-so she dealt with that. I'm going to call her and see if I can, you know, get some ideas on how to, on how to get through this together. So yeah.

0 (29m 29s):
What are some of the biggest success stories that you've sort of seen over the past eight years that you've been,

1 (29m 36s):
Yeah, there's so many, but I think, you know, one example I would say is in grand rapids, Michigan, you know, great, great, great community, but they really recognize that they, they had an equity problem in, you know, their, their particularly their black and Latin X communities. We're just not using parks, not getting out into them. A lot of, you know, neighborhood folks were saying like, we don't feel safe in our parks, et cetera. And so the mayor really made a commitment and just created alignment throughout their city.

1 (30m 17s):
And actually it was a young woman that had been through one of our youth leadership trainings who kind of ended up leading the effort across the city. And they, they did select greening of school grounds as one of their know kind of core strategies after, you know, going out to the community, asking them what they wanted, all of that. And so they are, you know, they are breaking ground. They have, and, and the mayor when she is out speaking, I mean, she's talking about nature connection as a pillar of what makes grand rapids a wonderful place to live. And so that's a sign, I think when we were starting to hear mayors and they're in their talking points, it's not just, it's not just, you know, we have great parks and whatever it's that we really recognize that throughout our city, this is an important aspect.

1 (31m 5s):
And that kids feel welcome here.

0 (31m 8s):
That nature connection is interesting. I'm always fascinated with the language. And so, you know, all the work that you're doing and all the research like is that sort of the simplest way to sort of break it down for families and for municipalities is just say that

1 (31m 23s):
We often also just use the word outdoors because sometimes for a lot of communities, nature can feel sure far away. And so we often talk about, you know, let's just, just get outside, you know, and, and, but I do think that there are opportunities for us to think about, you know, how do we increase the biodiversity of the spaces that we have? I mean, you know, parks are great very often, you know, parks focused almost exclusively on kind of the recreation component. And don't really think about the other opportunities.

1 (32m 4s):
And I'm often thought about this. I don't know. You know, it's like when my son was little, you know, take him over to soccer practice and, you know, all the parents were just sitting there watching their kids play soccer, cause there's nothing for them to do in the park. And even just practicing, like, you know, you don't need to sit and watch your kid practice. It's not a game, but, but there aren't, you know, walking trails or, you know, just rock climbing or just interesting things to look at in parks. And so there's so much opportunity for us to add, you know, more biodiversity to those spaces. And so we're seeing cities kind of take up some of that work.

0 (32m 42s):
Do you have an and not to make you choose a favorite, but do you have like a model park or some preferences that you're like, ah, this one's doing it really well across the country or centers.

1 (32m 52s):
So many examples, there's a great park in Cincinnati, Ohio. That's doing, you know, that's really awesome, you know, and I, you know, grand rapids again, like their school grounds in some regards are sort of like parks, you know? And, and that's, that's a whole frame that I think is really, you know, we're seeing cities sort of take up and school districts take up is not just thinking of that land as you know, the school yard. But as,

0 (33m 20s):
Yeah, I love the idea and I agree to ask questions. If somebody thinks I want to ask, like the re-imagining that like, yes, sometimes we, the greater we, you know, we can't imagine it. So then we can't build it. And if we don't have models or templates, then we're like, well, we're just stuck with the asphalt in my soccer field. So I'd love that you're doing that, but I'm like,

2 (33m 45s):
No, that's exactly. That's all I was just going to say, because you think about like cities, like I live in New York city, or what San Francisco, San Francisco or Los Angeles doing, are they getting involved because I'm, you know, here I am in New York city or I'm in New York city person, I don't even know

1 (33m 58s):
If they are so New York is not part of our particular work, but there is a lot of great work going on in New York with other, you know, with city parks, Alliance and trust for public land and other groups like that, that are doing great work there. You know, San Francisco actually is a really great example. They have one of the best green schoolyards programs in the country. So they really have done a great job. And they've really now started to tackle early childhood and they, you know, and this is another, I think, I mean, I think it's a celebration point and, and something that's, that's hopeful. So San Francisco now through their work with the national league of cities and children and nature network have a children and nature coordinator at the city.

1 (34m 46s):
Oh wow. Who shows up every day. And that's what she thinks about. And she's, and so, you know, through the work that we did with them, initially, we, we, in addition to, as technical assistance, we provide some pass through dollars to the city and they decided to hire a coordinator. And now they're funding that ongoing and she's just doing incredible work. And so that's a great example. And we're seeing cities that, you know, that do hire that coordinator. It makes a huge difference. Grand rapids did that. I believe Louisville, Kentucky did that. And so we're just seeing, you know, some really interesting things come out of that because of course it takes time and energy, right?

1 (35m 26s):

0 (35m 27s):
Yeah. Well, you need an expert on your staff right. To help you. That's right. That's right. So I'm super excited about the league of cities. I think that's really interesting. And, and I think as citizens, we can probably, I don't know if we can put pressure on our, you know, I don't know, city council or whoever to become part of the league of cities. Like how do we get them more involved in that?

1 (35m 48s):
Yeah. Well, I will say that this are, there's two things I would offer. We will have request for proposals coming out in the coming months for cities who can apply to be part of a technical assistance cohort over the next three years. So I would say watch for that, go to our website, go to the league of cities website and look for that, those announcements. So that's an absolutely citizens can bring that forward to their elected officials and say, we should do this. And, and that that's a thing to do, but I would also say that just beyond, you know, it's great. If you can get kind of all that support right for your city, but there are so many tools and resources out there.

1 (36m 32s):
Our website has them other folks, you know, have great resources as well. And I would say it's always a good time to call your council member and say, you know, this is really important to me. What is the city doing around ensuring that all children have access to nature? What are we doing in our parks to ensure that it's, you know, safe, that we're, you know, really thinking about, you know, creating more bio-diverse spaces, you know, w what about gardens? We know that there are communities that don't have access to fresh food. How can we, how can we solve some of that by using some of our public land, people can go and do that. We do have, we've actually got some great infographics on our website that summarize the research.

1 (37m 16s):
So you can make the case with, you know, points that are backed up by research. And so that sometimes helps folks, because I think, you know, sometimes people are afraid that if they go in there, they're going to feel stupid. So we've tried to create some, some, some helpful tools and just ways of talking about it with folks.

2 (37m 34s):
Sure. It's overwhelming to some people that have never really thought about nature and green spaces this way. And so you think, how do, how can I make an impact? I'm just one person in a small town. What am I going to make a difference? If you have all this information, these infographics to say, okay, city council member, how can we as a collective, make our children healthier and better for the community at large.

1 (37m 58s):
And the, you know, I, I've never met an elected official. Who's like, yeah, I don't care about kids. You know, can't imagine it it's a kind of assault. I mean, I mean, I don't like kids. I don't like nature. Nobody ever says that.

0 (38m 15s):
I like that for us. So all city councils listen in, right? These are easy policy we can put into place, easy peasy stuff. So is there anything that we haven't covered that you want to talk about and share? Is there anything upcoming that we definitely want to get people to your website, sign up for the newsletter, come to the conference? That you'll be next year, but like what, what other big things you want to share with

1 (38m 36s):
Us at the beginning, we were talking a little bit about, you know, equity and you know, how, how we know that we know that there are many barriers for all children, but there are some systemic barriers for particular communities. And you know, what we're seeing is actually that the same systems of inequity that impact, you know, black, indigenous, Latin, X, Asian, you know, other communities of color around housing education, et cetera, are present in the distribution and accessibility of parks and green space. So they're, it's, there's some intentionality behind that.

1 (39m 19s):
And so, and in fact, you know, we know that, for example, like back in the fifties, when they were starting to integrate public pools, many communities across this country, rather than integrate them, shut them down, including the parks that surrounded the pools. And so, you know, so then, you know, everybody is kind of losing out actually in that case, but we're living with the, you know, sort of the fallout from that to this day. So I think, you know, and there's a perception problem. I think a lot of people, for example, I mean, there's a, an idea out there that black people don't like the outdoors.

1 (40m 3s):
Okay. There is a repres representation problem, I would say. But when you actually look at the facts, black people, indigenous people have been leading in the environmental movement since forever and just aren't seen or recognized. In fact, I'd love to just read to you because outside magazine did a, an article recently, it was titled we're here. You just don't see us. And Latrina Graham wrote that. And she, this quote, I think is important. She says, African-Americans, don't always go where white people do.

1 (40m 47s):
Places like swimming pools, beaches, and parks used to be segregated. And some outdoor activities were out of reach. If you were poor or lived in an inner city, national parks weren't especially, especially welcoming. Either many were created as an escape from urban sprawl at a time when urban was shorthand for black and immigrants. So I think it's important for us to recognize that history, to acknowledge it and to engage with communities, to educate, you know, for white people to educate ourselves about who those leaders are. I'm actually, there's, we've got a great resource on our website about some of those black leaders that, that we did as part of black history month.

1 (41m 32s):
So folks can go and check that out and learn about some incredible people. Youth outside has a great, has a lot of great resources about that as well. But I would also say in addition to, you know, recognizing that people of color already exist in the outdoors, of course they do. They're human beings. I mean, it's just, it's ludicrous, but, but we also do need to prioritize equity as we think about creating new parks, those green school yards, et cetera. So it's a both, and I think around and that we, you know, that the lens that we look at, like, well, where are we going to invest first?

1 (42m 13s):
I mean, very often truthfully, where we invest first is where the property taxes are highest. Well that if you look at, you know, red lining and keeping black people from owning homes, you know, th this is all tied together. So that is why it's so important that we, that we really intentionally, you know, invest in those communities that have been systemically disinvested in.

0 (42m 38s):
Yeah, definitely. And I think the history is so important. Like you're making a point of, because if we don't understand context, right, right. You know, our lens is blurred, you know? And so that totally helps. And I think you had told me, and, you know, the policy of really hurting everybody is something that I think people need to recognize that when we create these policies and these terrible racist policies that happened years back and are still happening now with, I mean, everything that's happening with voting rights, it's going to also disenfranchise other people it's going to hurt everybody. So we really have to be thoughtful. And I love that you brought that up. And I love that quote.

1 (43m 17s):
Well, and I would, I'll say, I would love to invite your listeners, Jennifer, to join us on June 10th, we're doing a webinar with Heather McGee and Dr. Gail, Christopher, and Heather is the author of the, some of us, how racism hurts everyone and how we can prosper together. And so she's going to be really diving into these issues in some depth and really talking about what does a, multi-racial a multicultural movement look like in this space and really recognizing that yeah.

1 (44m 1s):
That truly these policies do hurt everyone. They impact. I'm sorry.

2 (44m 5s):
And you brought that up because Monica, I've been talking so much about this lately and the fact that you actually said that is exactly the core of the problem it's hurting everybody. So we need to fundamentally look at how we come together to make the outdoors a place for all across the board.

0 (44m 21s):
And I think that the even higher level is with climate. You know, again, this is not a partisan issue. This is something that we're all involved in and have to, you know, reconnect people with nature. So they'll really understand what we're trying to say.

2 (44m 38s):
Yeah. And like, you just had a two, like, I think we get so much learning out of being in nature. Nature, teach us diversity and inclusion and like, we're all welcome and you just need to be present for it. And that there's so much diversity to be found and to be learned and to be taught in nature. And they were all super connected to all of it.

0 (44m 56s):
It is. Well, thank you for joining us today. Sarah <inaudible> producers are going to tell us exactly. It's been so lovely. Definitely. We'll join you on the 10th as listeners. Wonderful. Yeah. And we'll put that all on the website and definitely head out to children, nature networks, website, and follow follow the new sign up for the newsletter. Newsletter,

2 (45m 23s):
Your Instagram. Yeah. Everything all the same. Correct.

0 (45m 26s):
It's all the same. We're gonna put them in our show notes. Absolutely. Wonderful. Thanks Sarah. Thanks. Thank you for listening to Sarah and new stories, new episodes are available on Mondays. Please follow us and leave us a five-star review and visit our website to learn more about guests episodes and everything ceremony at Sarah B. This episode is supported by the, in it Seren, be nestled in the rolling countryside of the bucolic community of ceremony, where guests can walk on the 15 miles of private trails through preserved forest land, the wildflower meadow, and the animal village, relax at the pool hot tub or in rocking chairs on wraparound porch, lay on the croquet lawn, grab a canoe and jump on the in-ground trampoline, connect with nature and each other all while staying in a luxurious space at the end at ceremony book your stay today at <inaudible> dot com, S E R E N B E I N