CCCN_AustinCities Connecting Children to Nature (CCCN) is a national initiative that seeks to create more equitable and abundant access to nature in cities through a partnership between The National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education, and Families and the Children & Nature Network. CCCN supports robust citywide action plans to implement policy, develop new partnerships, amplify nature-based programming, and create more equitable nature access. The initiative seeks to ensure that a connection to nature becomes an integral part of city priorities, planning and policymaking across a range of areas, including community health and wellness, education, out-of-school time programming, job creation, transportation and land use. Austin is one of 18 cities that is part of the CCCN national cohort.

HISTORY

In March of 2016, the City of Austin was one of seven cities nationwide selected to receive a planning grant from the project partners for Cities Connecting Children to Nature. The grant funded a six-month strategic planning process that brought together representatives from ten city departments, AISD, the health sector and nonprofit organizations in order to create a 3-year Implementation Plan that identifies how city leadership can provide abundant and equitable access to nature for the children of Austin, with a specific focus on children in low-income communities and children of color. In October 2016, the City of Austin was awarded additional funds to execute the plan.

This planning process yielded the following long-term goals:

  • Every child has abundant and equitable access to nature at their home, neighborhood, and school.
  • Every parent, health professional, and teacher has been exposed to the importance of spending time in nature for a child’s healthy development. Every child considers outdoor play a top option in their free time.
  • City codes and school curricula allow and encourage kids to play outside in nature more frequently.
  • Austin is seen as an innovator and leader in the Children and Nature Movement.
  • Kids choose nature.

To achieve these goals, we conducted extensive research and mapping to identify areas of Austin with the largest gaps in nature equity. This informed our selection of the areas where priority implementation strategies will be focused.

 

2020 PRIORITY STRATEGIES

health_environmentculture_lifelong_learningGreen School Parks: Create a network of school parks that provide schools and the surrounding community the opportunity to learn from, steward and play in nature

Green School Parks (GSP) have been created at Barrington Elementary and Wooldridge Elementary, with a third underway at the new Sanchez Elementary. As a designated GSP, these schools also receive professional development through our partnerships with EcoRise and PEAS.

To better understand the effects of the green infrastructure installed as part of the GSP program, CCCN partnered with UTHealth to examine whether worsening heat decreases opportunities for physical activity and reduces the overall emotional well-being of young people. Funding received from the 2019 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Climate Solutions grant will enable project partners to evaluate the impact of green infrastructure on heat index, physical activity of children, and outcomes from park use at three school parks with majority Latino and economically disadvantaged elementary schools, Barrington, Cook and Odom.

 

health_environmentNature Play: Activate city parks, natural areas and recreation centers through the installation of nature-based play elements

Nature Play Spaces are planned for Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park, MLK Station Neighborhood Park, and Armadillo Neighborhood Park by the end of 2020. Formal guidelines are also being developed for City staff and Partners to direct the design, construction, and management of these new spaces in a consistent fashion.

 

health_environmentOutdoor Learn Environment (OLE): Improve outdoor spaces at childcare centers to enable 0-5 year olds to be active, learn in nature and develop motor skills

An OLE! Austin demonstration site is being constructed at Austin Community College Children’s Lab School (ACC), with additional OLE! Austin sites planned at Child Inc's childcare centers. Associated research will better inform the impact of an OLE site on children at that site. A handbook is also being created to assist childcare facilities in developing an OLE site at their own center.

 

health_environmentYouth Leadership: Elevate the youth voice and create a pipeline for youth in nature-based professions through training, networking and mentoring

Paid opportunities for youth to be involved in nature-based opportunities have been developed and expanded, including the PARD Ranger Cadet Program, DSD Youth Forest Council, and CCCN Youth Leadership Committee. Young leaders in this field have presented alongside professionals at panels, conferences, summits, and webinars.


Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights (COBOR) - We believe Austin has a vested interest in ensuring all children in our city have the opportunity to connect with the natural world and help create the next generation of environmental stewards who will conserve Austin’s quality outdoor space. Show your support for Austin’s Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights by signing the pledge form.


Strategic Direction 2023 – The Austin City Council adopted a strategic direction in March 2018, guiding the City of Austin for the next three to five years with a shared vision and six priority Strategic Outcomes:

economic_opportunity_affordability
Economic Opportunity and Affordability

mobility
Mobility

safety
Safety

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Health and Environment

culture_lifelong_learning
Culture and Lifelong Learning

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Government That Works for All

Each Outcome has associated Indicators assigned to assess to what degree the outcome is being achieved. Outcomes for each CCCN Strategy are listed within the above text.


Supported by:

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PROGRAM CONTACT:

Melody Alcazar: CCCN Program Coordinator, 512-974-9466, email

 

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