Oak Table

Children in Nature: Healthy Development by Design
November 6, 2008

Under the Oak


Conference Participation

More than 150 individuals concerned for the welfare of children attended Children in Nature: Healthy Development by Design, a conference presented by the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum's Public Policy Program in partnership with the Minnesota Children & Nature Connection. Participants brought to the discussion expertise, affiliations and concerns that ranged from reducing neighborhood violence to gardening with special-needs children to engaging families and businesses to raising money for programs. They included:
• teachers from public and private schools
• staff from city park-and-recreation departments, nature centers, social service agencies, and state and local government
• faculty, staff, scholars and students from local colleges and universities, and
• others engaged in helping children restore their connection to nature - and to the benefits that come from understanding and learning about the natural world.

Conference Objectives

Recent studies have added to the evidence that time spent in natural environments improves the health and well-being of children and families. Despite this growing awareness, today's children have become more and more disconnected from nature, while their knowledge of science has declined. In school classrooms, when teachers introduce them to scientific concepts such as life cycles or adaptation, many of these children are unable to make connections with anything they have observed or experienced in the natural world.

The goal for the Children in Nature conference was to address this situation via the presentation and discussion of emerging trends, related research, and design concepts that reconnect children and families to nature and create natural spaces for communities, schools, daycares, parks and neighborhoods.

Conference Documents

On these pages, you will find notes and reports from the day's discussion of issues and challenges. These include: 
  • The conference agenda
  • A list of conference participants
  • Attendee input
     • Guidelines for small group discussions
     • A summary of issues and strategies proposed in each of the small-group discussions
     • A summary of challenges and solutions proposed in the large-group discussion
     • The conference agenda

The Arboretum's Education Department and the MN Children and Nature Connection invite you to make full use of this information. We hope that it will help you recall the ideas and concerns shared by fellow participants and guide you as you continue to seek effective ways to reconnect children and their families with nature and help improve the health of citizens and communities alike.

Sponsoring and Endorsing Organizations

The Arboretum and the MN Children and Nature Connection are deeply grateful to the following organizations for their indispensable support of the Children in Nature conference. Their participation is essential in identifying issues and stakeholders, formulating appropriate responses, and underwriting the event. Many of the websites associated with these organizations serve as a valuable resource for information as we all strive to carry this important work forward.

Sponsoring Organizations
  • Children and Nature Network - www.childrenandnature.org/
  • Minnesota Recreation and Park Association - www.mnrpa.org/
  • University of Minnesota
    o Children, Youth, and Family Consortium - www.cyfc.umn.edu/welcome.html
    o College of Design - www.cdes.umn.edu/
    o School of Public Health - www.sph.umn.edu
    o University of Minnesota Extension - www.extension.umn.edu/
    o MN Children and Nature Connection (c/o Children, Youth and Family Consortium,
         cyfc@umn.edu, 612-625-7849)

Endorsing Organizations
  • Midwest Mountaineering - www.midwestmtn.com/
  • REI - www.rei.com/
  • University of Minnesota
    o Child Care Center, College of Education & Human Development -
    o Bell Museum of Natural History - www.bellmuseum.org

Conference Documents
Attendee List
Conference Agenda

Attendee Input
Guidelines for Small Group Discussion

Small Group Discussion Notes
"The Minnesota Experience, Identify Challenges & Strategies"
Group A
Group B
Group C
Group D
Group E
Group F
Group G
Group H

Large Group Discussion Notes
"The Minnesota Experience, Getting to Solutions"

Keynote Speaker Links
Robin Moore
Stephen Kellert

WCCO-TV's Don Shelby covers the conference and nature deficit disorder. Nov 20, 2008