This proved to be an exciting year for Leave No Child Inside – Greater Cincinnati (LNCIgc)! In addition to our local work, developing a statewide initiative was a major focus for this year. LNCIgc joined forces with four other Leave No Child Inside collaboratives in Ohio – Central Ohio (Columbus area), Miami Valley (Dayton area), Northeast Ohio and Northwest Ohio – to form the Ohio Leave No Child Inside Collaboratives. Over the past few years, we have shared our logo with Ohio’s new initiatives to create a statewide brand identity.
STATEWIDE INITIATIVE TO RECONNECT CHILDREN WITH NATURE
In April of 2010, the Ohio Leave No Child Inside Collaboratives invited leaders from state departments and a wide range of organizations to attend a conference to determine how we can work more effectively together to make Ohio’s children happier, healthier and smarter by reconnecting them with nature. Included were leaders in the fields of health, education, early childhood, urban planning and others which influence the ability of children to learn and play outdoors. Ohio’s First Lady Frances Strickland welcomed eighty leaders to the conference. The participants unilaterally agreed that if we are to be successful in returning unstructured, outdoor play to Ohio’s children, we will need to work together toward cultural change. The conference concluded with an agreement to move forward with an Ohio Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights and to establish a team to develop strategies to reconnect children with nature by working through existing organizations and programs.
The Ohio Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights was released in September of 2010 with the endorsement of Ohio Governor Ted Strickland and more than thirty mayors from across Ohio, including Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory.
The Report on Ohio’s Initiative to Reconnect Children with Nature was created in partnership with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources with input from a multitude of state departments and community-based organizations. It outlines strategies for reconnecting children with nature through the fields of health, education, transportation and city planning, parks and outdoor recreation, and cites examples of work already underway in Ohio. The Report encourages ALL Ohioans to Get Active, Get Outside and Get Involved. We are very excited about this report and look forward to seeing these strategies implemented as they are integrated into the work of organizations throughout Ohio.
Both the Ohio Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights and Ohio’s Report on the Movement to Reconnect Children with Nature were released at a statewide celebration linked by videoconferencing in September.
PUBLIC AWARENESS CAMPAIGN
The Ohio Leave No Child Inside Collaboratives is also developing a public awareness campaign. The initial focus of the campaign will be to engage health professionals. A “Has your child played outside today?” poster will be distributed for display in pediatatric offices and is freely downloadable to anyone wishing to display it.
RECIPIENT OF THE CARDINAL AWARD
Each year, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources recognizes individuals and organizations that demonstrate exceptional awareness and concern for the ideals reflected in their mission to ensure a balance between the wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. In 2010, the Ohio Leave No Child Inside Collaboratives were honored as recipients of the Cardinal Award for our work.
CINCINNATI PUBLIC SCHOOLS FIFTH QUARTER
For the second year, Leave No Child Inside – Greater Cincinnati provided programs for the Cincinnati Public Schools’ Fifth Quarter. Fifth Quarter is aimed at creating parity of opportunity for children in at-risk schools with that of their more privileged peers. During the month of June, selected CPS schools provide morning academics and afternoon enrichment programs. Leave No Child Inside provided Fifth Quarter schools with a database of free school outreach programs and field trips from which to choose. We also helped schools make connections to “nearby nature” which can be used as outdoor classrooms. Once again this year, Fifth Quarter ended with students going to the Paddlefest Kids Outdoor Adventure Expo, where, in addition to having an opportunity to paddle on Lake Como, students were able experience everything from fishing to learning about sustainable energy.
FACILITATING SCHOOL NATURE/PARTNERSHIPS
We are now expanding the support for Cincinnati Public Schools to encourage a closer, more customized relationship between schools and nature organizations via the Nature Partner Program. So far, eight organizations have volunteered to serve as Nature Partners to a specific school or schools. Advantages to this are many – closer alignment with academics at the school, closer relationships with teachers and students, and in many, cases, added services like outdoor classrooms and free field trips. Participating organizations are the Cincinnati Park Board, the Civic Garden Center of Greater Cincinnati, the Foundation for Ohio River Education, Greenacres, Hamilton County Recycling & Solid Waste District, Keep Cincinnati Beautiful, Mill Creek Restoration and the Ohio River Foundation.
PIONEERING HEALTHIER COMMUNITIES
Leave No Child Inside – Greater Cincinnati participated, along with other community leaders in identifying priorities for policy change that will enhance community-wide efforts to improve health and fitness. We are thrilled that four of the items chosen for initial funding relate to our movement: The implementation of a Safe Routes to School program; the expansion of community gardens in our area, the expansion of pocket parks and other “nearby nature” locations and the establishment of joint use agreements to encourage an increase in physical activity. Thanks to the YMCA for pulling together this important initiative, which was launched as We Thrive!