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Year in Review: 2008

If we were to summarize 2008 in a phrase, it might be “from talk to action”! When we formed in June of 2006 as the first Leave No Child Inside collaborative in the country, our mission was to educate the community about the importance of time spent in nature to healthy childhood development. People listened and they have responded with enthusiastic support! As a result, we have seen our vision expand from simply educating the community to connecting the community with nature programs and facilities, as well as working to overcome barriers to getting kids outside. Here is a chronological listing of some highlights of the past year:


In January of 2008 we were invited to have a booth at the University of Scouting for the Dan Beard Council. As a result of that, we were asked to provide a workshop for six weeks of scout leader training camps. Our new Speakers Bureau made presentations to this group during June and July. Thanks to Bill Hopple of the Cincinnati Nature Center, Sue Magness of the City of Cincinnati and Dan Marsh of the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden for developing and presenting the Leave No Child Inside workshops. Thanks also to volunteers Sally Wehby and Jim Wadsworth for their booth support.


We participated in the task force which developed Cincinnati’s Climate Protection Plan (.pdf). With input from many organizations and individuals, the final report includes recommendations which will facilitate reconnecting children to the outdoors, such as the expansion of community gardens and “complete streets”, which encourage walkable communities and bike trail expansion.


In March of 2008, we invited those who asked to “Get Involved” to a forum at the Zoo’s Schott Education Center to learn more about Leave No Child Inside and how they might actively participate in the movement. Nineteen people attended the forum and several have subsequently become great resources for help. Thanks to volunteers Gretchen Fox and Jenny Mottier, Sue Magness of the City of Cincinnati, Erin Morris of the Cincinnati Parks Board and Sally Wehby of UC Child Care Center for their assistance in coordinating the forum.


This year’s Flower Show included a Small Wonders Tent around a “Leave No Child Inside” theme. Richard Louv introduced the newest edition of his book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder during a lecture at the Show. Leave No Child Inside also kicked off the first Child-Friendly Backyard Contest. Thanks to the Cincinnati Horticultural Society for presenting Small Wonders Weekend. Thanks to volunteer Tammy York for lining up media coverage for Richard Louv’s visit and to volunteers Becky Brogue, Gretchen Fox, John Howland, Carla James, Cindy Koetzle, Maggie Lindsley, Jeff Maxam, Jenny Mottier, Ann Wilking and Jim Wadsworth for their booth support. Thanks also to the Blue Manatee Bookstore for handling the book signing.


We’ve all noticed the lack of children playing in neighborhoods where they could easily do so! The purpose of this contest was to encourage a return to backyard play! The contest was introduced at the Cincinnati Flower Show in April and culminated in awards to six area families. See for the story and photos of these backyards, which might be better titled “family-friendly”! Thanks to Corina Bullock of the Civic Garden Center, Roberta Paolo of Granny’s Garden School and Susan Vonderhaar of Dater Montessori for developing and judging the contest. Thanks also to the Cincinnati Horticultural Society for allowing us to present the awards for this contest at their Amateur Gardener Awards program.


Work continued on the development of a special event in the summer of 2009 that will provide area families with free, outdoor fun activities and which will encourage them to explore our area’s wide variety of natural resources. Keep your eye on this website for details this Spring! Special thanks to volunteer Gretchen Fox for chairing the planning team and to our co-sponsor, the Collaborative to Prevent Childhood Obesity under the leadership of Lauren Niemes. The planning team includes representatives from Beech Acres Parenting Center, the Boy Scouts, Cincinnati Museum Center, Cincinnati Park Board, Cincinnati Recreation Commission, Community Action Agency, Girl Scouts, Hamilton Country Park District, Imago, Nutrition Council, Paddlefest and the Clippard YMCA.


Green Umbrella is an existing non-profit focused on greenspace preservation in the 9-county area of Greater Cincinnati.  It works by educating and supporting existing land trusts to protect and preserve natural areas. In 2008, Green Umbrella invited Bill Hopple from Cincinnati Nature Center and Jim Rahtz from Hamilton County Parks onto the board in order to broaden its mission to serve as an alliance of nature-related organizations in the region.  The alliance concept has been discussed since Richard Louv’s first visit to Cincinnati in February 2006 and it is hoped that this alliance will be formalized in 2009.


Our Grow Outside Guide to Outdoor Play booklet has proven to be very popular, not only here but around the country, with requests coming from as far away as Colorado. Locally, we were able to distribute the Guide through all of the Cincinnati Public Libraries in the summer of 2008. With continued financial support, we hope to make the Guides permanently available free of charge. Thanks to volunteer Maggie Lindsley for delivering the Guides to the libraries. Thanks also to the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati for distributing these guides through their branches.


In addition to the Central Ohio Collaborative, which formed last year, there are now two other Leave No Child Inside initiatives beginning in Northern Ohio. We have offered to share our logo with all of these groups in order to create a cohesive brand for the movement in Ohio. Our “sister” collaborative in Central Ohio is sharing their audio/visual resources with us as well, highlighting the spirit of sharing that is the hallmark of this movement.


In response to requests from schools wanting to create school gardens, a group was formed to explore how we might develop a support network to assist schools in all phases of creating and sustaining school garden programs. Team members include representatives from Granny’s Garden School, the Civic Garden Center, Gorman Heritage Farm, the Nutrition Council, ALLY (Green & Healthy Schools), the Community Learning Center’s Cross-Boundary Leadership Team and Dater Montessori. Work is being facilitated by Betty Straub of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation.


In addition to a booth at Paddlefest, Leave No Child Inside-Greater Cincinnati provided volunteer assistance at the Kids ExStream Expo. This event is the largest outdoor environmental education and water safety event for youth in Ohio. It is a fun-filled event which we enthusiastically support. Special thanks to Maggie Lindsley and Jenny Mottier for their help in 2008.


This was our third year of participation in the Educator Expo, organized by the Greater Cincinnati Environmental Educators and held at the Cincinnati Zoo. With our booth at this event, we educate local teachers that time spent in nature leads to happier, healthier and smarter kids. We also make them aware of the Teacher Resource Guide on this website, which connects them to local environmental education programs. Thanks to volunteer Maggie Lindsley, booth-worker extraordinaire.


In September of 2008, we were invited to exhibit at the 4C for Children conference in West Chester, where we conducted a survey of 113 child care facilities to learn how much natural play space their facilities have and how we might encourage them to be used more often. As a result of that, we have been asked by 4C for Children to develop a conference in May of 2009 to educate 250 child care directors and teachers on the importance of unstructured play in nature to healthy childhood development. The program will provide participants with examples of what local centers are doing to foster those opportunities and will include training workshops. Additionally, the conference will encourage discussion about how child care facilities can enhance their space by incorporating more natural elements, and how those facilities without green space might form alliances with organizations like parks and community gardens to provide children with access to those spaces. Work on this conference is proceeding with assistance from the 4C for Children Planning team, Corina Bullock of the Civic Garden Center, Vicki Carr of the Arlitt Center at UC and Annaliese Newmeyer of the Peaslee Center.


Over the past two and half years, many people and organizations have expressed interest in staying informed about Leave No Child Inside-Greater Cincinnati or in becoming involved in our movement. A new volunteer, Tara Eaton, has stepped forward to help us coordinate the information we have collected via the website, booths and other sources into a more sophisticated database which will allow us to communicate more effectively with you in 2009.

Almost simultaneously (there are no coincidences!) another enthusiastic volunteer, Cindi Koetzle, has offered to coordinate our communication pieces. Tara and Cindi are working with our webmaster, Dan Mahan, to ramp up communications in 2009.


Leave No Child Inside-Greater Cincinnati has been asked to participate in the Pioneering Healthy Communities project. This is a Centers for Disease Control grant to the YMCA national offices for several communities.  Cincinnati was selected as one of these, presenting us with an opportunity to increase our efforts and our results.  This team will work on policy changes and community-wide efforts to improve health and fitness. The team includes participants from all areas of the community, from health organizations, schools, and faith-based organizations to urban planners and politicians.


On November 8, 2008, Leave No Child Inside co-sponsored two workshops with Richard Louv at the Beech Acres For the Love of Kids conference. The conference set a record for attendance, with 1,680 parents participating, 60% of which were new to the conference. We have been asked to sponsor workshops again next year. In addition to educating parents about the importance of unstructured time in nature to healthy childhood development, these workshops will be designed to offer parents the tools and resources they need to get kids outdoors. Special thanks to Erin Morris of the Cincinnati Park Board and Kathy Shannon of the Cincinnati Recreation Commission for coordinating the promotion of this event and for manning our booth. The booth resulted in the addition of over 180 parents to our Stay Informed database.


In response to requests for information on the availability of local nature and environmental programs, the Teacher Resource Guide on the LNCIgc website will be expanded. We hope to include all programs offered by Greater Cincinnati Environmental Educators on this site. Thanks to Leo Sack of the Cincinnati Park Board, who created the original database for this project and to Errin Howard and the Environmental Education Council of Ohio for collecting the information on Greater Cincinnati Environmental Educators programs.


Leave No Child Inside – Greater Cincinnati has been asked to coordinate outdoor learning opportunities for 16 Cincinnati Public Schools this summer. Studies show that students who do not have access to books and other stimulation during the summer experience an average loss of reading achievement of more than two months from the end of the school year to the start of the next year.  By the end of fifth grade, researchers have shown that summer learning loss by low income students results in their falling more than 2 years behind their middle class peers in reading and verbal achievement and 1.5 years behind in math. In order to close that gap, Cincinnati Public Schools has created a Fifth Quarter for students at 16 targeted schools to continue in their schools with the same teachers and classmates without interruption from the end of the regular academic year on May 28 through June. Academic subjects will be offered in the morning and lunch will be provided by CPS.

With assistance from the Cross Boundary Leadership Team, of which LNCIgc is a member, the school day will continue with enrichment and support services consistent with the community learning center goal to provide year round programming. Summer is the ideal time to provide children with outdoor, experiential learning opportunities. The LNCIgc collaborative is working toward a support system that will facilitate those opportunities for Fifth Quarter and beyond.

This project is still under development, but early LNCIgc participants include the Cincinnati Museum Center, Cincinnati Observatory, Cincinnati Park Board, Cincinnati Recreation Commission, Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens, Civic Garden Center, Gorman Heritage Farm, Hamilton County Park District, Hamilton County Soil and Water, Keep Cincinnati Beautiful, Millcreek Restoration and Oxbow. Joining us in the initial planning are the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, ORSANCO and Paddlefest/Ohio River Way.

You’ll undoubtedly agree that it has been a busy year for Leave No Child Inside-Greater Cincinnati. As more people and organizations hear the Leave No Child Inside message, we expect to see even more activity in 2009. We hope that you will keep an eye on our progress via the website and our e-mail updates, and that you will consider getting involved in the movement as we move forward.

Remember, all of us have the ability to help reconnect children and nature. We appreciate your help in “moving the movement”!

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