AUSTIN — A new National Parks Foundation initiative announced Feb. 19 by the White House emphasizes goals shared by a growing Texas coalition of partners with chapters in major cities, the Texas Children in Nature collaborative.
The ‘Every Kid in a Park’ initiative gives fourth graders free admission to all National Parks and other national lands during the 2015-2016 school year.
“We are so excited about the new ‘Every Kid in a Park’ initiative,” says Jennifer Bristol, Coordinator for Texas Children in Nature. “In Texas this really expands the efforts that many of our partners are working on to create more access to nature for families in our rapidly growing state.”
Bristol says kids 12 years old and younger already can play for free at all Texas State Parks and many city and county parks around the state. She said studies show children and their families who spend more time in the outdoors tend to be healthier, happier and smarter.
With children spending up to 8 hours per day indoors, sedentary with media and only minutes per day playing in the outdoors, experts say this is a step in the right direction.
Texas Children in Nature is part of a national grassroots movement that ignited after the release of author, Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods. Louv participated in a summit held this week in Chicago to publicize the ‘Every Kid in a Park’ initiative.
“[This] announcement and new initiative may well be a turning point,” said Louv. “It will help support the people who have worked so hard, many of them for decades, to connect children to nature. It will encourage new actions by local government, education, religious organizations, the health care professions, and, crucially, by our business communities. The greatest change must happen beyond government, in the daily decisions that all of us, as individuals and members of families, take in our daily lives. Ultimately, only we can make sure that every child receives the gifts of the natural world.”
Richard Louv and experts from around the nation will be speaking on this topic this spring the Children & Nature Conference being held in Bastrop at the Hyatt Lost Pines Resort on April 7-9. The Conference and Gala are being co-hosted by the Children & Nature Network, Texas Children in Nature and Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center. The three day event will bring together leaders from the conservation, health, education, technology and built environment communities to explore ways to encourage families, schools, churches, non-profits and businesses to support getting kids off the couch and into nature.
Registration is required for the event. More information can be found by visiting the conference webpage.
“We really want to make outdoor time, family time in Texas,” says Bristol. “The announcement of the ‘Every Kid in a Park’ initiative and the Conference coming up in April are both great steps towards raising awareness that all children and families need to have access to nature to be healthier and happier.”