Delaware Communities in Nature
The Delaware Children in Nature Coalition has become Delaware Communities in Nature (DCIN) and part of the Delaware Association for Environmental Education. DAEE believes strongly in the importance of DCIN’s role of helping people in Delaware have meaningful outside experiences with nature. We wanted the “children” in the name to become “communities” to reflect the importance and value of getting in nature for the whole community and that it takes a whole community to make sure children have an opportunity to have a chance to get meaningful experiences in nature.
The Delaware Children in Nature Coalition was established to encourage environmental literacy, increase opportunities for children to participate in outdoor experiences, promote healthy lifestyles, and support better access to green space.
In his best-selling book, “Last Child in the Woods,” which helped create a global movement, Richard Louv coined the phrase “nature-deficit disorder” to describe what happens to humans when we become disconnected from nature. This disconnect impacts not only our understanding of the natural world and environmental literacy, but also our physical and mental health. He describes the converging urbanization, social, and technological trends that in just three decades have moved our children from hours each day spent playing and exploring the outdoors to spending just minutes a day outdoors. Growing scientific evidence supports that one of several serious consequences when children stop going outdoors and being active can be an increase in conditions of obesity and its related health problems. Scientific evidence also supports that attention difficulties, diminished use of the senses, and higher rates of emotional and physical illnesses are due to this disconnection from nature.
As a coalition of like-minded partners, the Delaware Children in Nature Coalition (DCIN) formed in 2010 to work to increase opportunities for children to participate in outdoor experiences, promote healthy lifestyles, support better access to green space, and encourage environmental literacy. Delaware Children in Nature has promoted getting children and families to spend more time outdoors because ample data exist to document that when kids and adults spend more time outdoors, they become healthier, less stressed, more connected to nature, and better stewards of the environment.
In 2010, former Governor Jack Markell and 150 other Delaware leaders responded to the challenge to get children outdoors with the Delaware Children in Nature/No Child Left Inside Initiative Taskforce. The taskforce prepared a report in 2012 outlining recommendations and goals for countering these trends in our education, in our recreation, in our communities, and in our health.
In 2014, former Governor Markell proclaimed October in Delaware would be from now on Children in Nature Month.
In 2015, Delaware Children in Nature was awarded a B-WET grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and began working with two Delaware school districts to install schoolyard gardens and pilot Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences (MWEEs). Coalition Partners, Delaware State Parks, Delaware Department of Education, Delaware Nature Society, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service assisted with the grant.
In 2016, the Environmental Literacy Committee of the Delaware Children in Nature Coalition completed Delaware’s Environmental Literacy Plan which was signed by the secretaries of Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) and Department of Education (DOE). The Environmental Literacy Plan is designed to assist educators who are implementing Next Generation Science Standards.
In 2017, Delaware Children in Nature announced the first-ever Delaware Children in Nature Summit held in October at Delaware State Park’s Boo Que event at Delaware Seashore State Park. Delaware Children in Nature and the Delaware Association for Environmental Education partnered to present the Awards for Excellence in the environmental field as part of the Summit.
In 2019, DCIN officially became part of DAEE and was renamed Delaware Communities in Nature to be more inclusive of all the groups that benefit from being outside. We want to increase opportunities for all Delawareans to participate in outdoor experiences and we want to promote healthy lifestyles, support better access to green space, and encourage environmental literacy for all Delawareans. People of all backgrounds and ages benefit from time spent outside.
Delaware Communities in Nature will develop goals soon to guide our efforts. The Delaware Children in Nature Coalition has been guided by the following goals that will continue to be important:
1. Increase Delaware Children in Nature mission-related student experiences in Delaware. These include outdoor experiences and in-school enrichment programs.
2. Increase opportunities for family/child engagement in Delaware Children in Nature mission-related experiences. These include free programs, volunteer opportunities, and overnight experiences.
3. Increase participation in professional development related to the Delaware Children in Nature mission.
4. Increase opportunities to inspire the next generation of conservation leaders. Including through workforce development and internships relating to the Delaware Children in Nature mission.
5. Increase participation in and awareness of opportunities for children and families to connect to Delaware Children in Nature. This includes mission-related programs and initiatives that promote healthy lifestyles.
The Delaware Children in Nature Coalition and now the new Delaware Communities in Nature Coalition are based on a partnership among state agencies, educational leaders, schools, non-profits and outdoor enthusiasts from throughout Delaware.
GET INVOLVED IN THE COALITION
Get outside and enjoy nature. Volunteer for Delaware Communities in Nature Events. Follow the Coalition on Facebook or Twitter. Join DAEE and stay in touch. If you’d like to get involved in the Delaware Communities in Nature effort, contact us at DAEEonline@gmail.com.