SAN FRANCISCO – The National League of Cities (NLC) and Children & Nature Network have selected San Francisco to participate in the Connecting Children to Nature Leadership Academy in St. Paul, Minn., this week. The leadership academy will provide city officials with the skills and knowledge to take up new or expanded leadership roles in improving access to nature in their communities.
San Francisco is already well-regarded for outdoor programming in an urban setting. Between outdoor classes, Camp Mather in the High Sierras, and Mobile Rec, the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department has served over 25 thousand residents since 2012. Classes offered include shark fishing, kayaking and other boating, SCUBA open water, geocache adventures, rock climbing, archery, hiking and camping, surfing, and BMX biking. Mobile Rec is an opportunity for young San Franciscans to engage in outdoor and alternative recreation opportunities free of charge. The Department also runs two school-year programs: Greenagers – a program for 9th and 10th graders to work outside and learn about and improve green spaces, and the Youth Stewardship Program – a program which engages youth, 2nd – 12th grade, in environmental education and service-learning field trips in parks citywide.
Over the course of the two-day meeting, SF Rec & Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg and his counterparts in other cities will have the opportunity to learn about promising practices and strategies for connecting children to nature. Participants will work with national experts, attend workshops, conduct field visits and engage in peer learning with city leaders from the seven other cities who have been selected for the leadership academy.
“Cities and their local partners stand at the forefront of this movement to help children make strong and enduring connections with the outdoors and nature,” said National League of Cities Immediate Past President Chris Coleman, mayor of Saint Paul, Minn. “To ensure our nation’s future environmental and public health, we need informed and dedicated environmental stewards among the next generation of Americans.”
Benefits for increasing young people’s access to nature include improved health outcomes, such as lower rates of childhood obesity, as well as stronger academic skills and increased opportunities for social and emotional learning.
“I’m thrilled and honored to be part of this academy,” said Ginsburg. “I intend to bring back best practices to our already wonderful programs which aim to connect San Francisco’s children with nature.”
Following the leadership academy, San Francisco will receive an invitation to apply for planning and implementation grants to support the city’s programs and initiatives focused on connecting children to nature. Additionally, the City will have the opportunity to join the new NLC Children and Nature Learning Network, which will provide ongoing opportunities for city leaders to learn and receive support from nationally recognized experts in the field and city peers.