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As part of a grant funded by the National League of Cities and the Children and Nature Network, an initiative led by Public Health Madison & Dane County, the City of Madison Parks Division, and more than 20 local organizations began a planning process to increase the time children spend in nature. Together, and working with youth of color to gather insights from diverse Madison residents, the group created a three-year plan to ensure every Madison child has regular opportunities to connect to nature and to increase their sense of belonging in nature, particularly among communities of color.
Increased time in nature has been shown to produce better educational outcomes, increase self-esteem and lower levels of stress in addition to numerous physical, mental, and emotional health benefits. As more and more people see the outdoors as the setting for how they spend their time, it is important that access to natural areas and nature based areas is equitably distributed across Madison.
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As part of this project's community engagement, 4th and 5th graders from Bayview Community Center's afterschool programs explored nature in four Madison park field trips. Using the voices of youth, early in 2019, designer Sonya Sankaran sketched the "cozy" feel of a new nature play area at Brittingham Park. She then consulted with Parks staff on the elements to ensure the vision was feasible. After the snow melted, Parks staff began construction of the play elements to create a climbing log, little house fort, tree trunk lounge chairs, boulder "snake" and a log boat raft. Meanwhile, using the artwork designed by the Bayview Community Center children, Sonya painted a bench to be installed near the nook.
"This collaboration between Madison Parks and PHMDC demonstrates the power of bringing together expertise in community health and park design. By inviting the Bayview community as equal partners in the design process, the City learned how design that includes both natural components, culturally relevant elements, and art can uniquely serve our communities of color," Sankaran shared as the project's designer. "I hope that the Bayview community remains a long-term partner in the development and use of this Nature Nook, and that more projects follow in its inclusive path."
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On Friday, October 15, at 4pm we will honor the work, design and creativity of the project and provide a tour of the Nature Nook's features and play elements. The community is invited to attend.
- Media Contact: Ann Shea, Parks Public Information Officer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Brittingham Park, Dedication
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