Healthy. Natural. Affordable.
These are the foundations of Colorado’s new Early Childhood Health Outdoors (ECHO) Initiative. And this is what ECHO is designed to accomplish:
All young children in Colorado have daily access to quality outdoor learning environments where play and learning support development across all domains— cognitive, physical, social, and emotional.
ECHO is based on a decade of research by North Carolina State University’s Natural Learning Initiative on the Preventing Obesity by Design model. This research showed that by improving the design of outdoor spaces through affordable interventions and training early childhood professionals, young children and early childhood programs enjoy substantial benefits:
The ECHO Initiative is a partnership between The National Wildlife Federation and North Carolina State University’s Natural Learning Initiative.
There are various ways to become involved with ECHO. Details are outlined below. Please note, if you meet the eligibility criteria to become a Demonstration Site or a Seed Grant Site, you may apply to both. However, you are only allowed to receive one of the opportunities. In addition, if you are applying as a licensed child care center or preschool, you can not apply as a publicly accessible site serving Family, Friend, and Neighbor child care, and vice versa. Sites that receive an ECHO grant are not eligible to receive additional ECHO grant funds in the future. However, if you apply and are not selected to receive funding during the current grant cycle, we encourage you to reapply.
Demonstration Sites are being developed at 10 sites across Colorado that serve children under the age of five. Licensed child care centers, licensed preschools, and publicly accessible spaces that become Demonstration Sites receive design and planning assistance and $10,000 towards the installation of an outdoor learning environment (OLE) that features best practices as outlined in the Natural Learning Initiative OLE Toolkit. In return, the Demonstration Sites host biannual educational visits from other early childhood professionals and landscape designers, and participate in evaluation of the project through surveys of parents and teachers. ECHO utilizes research-based best practices to achieve statewide adoption of high-quality outdoor learning environments at early childhood education (ECE) sites throughout Colorado. Through a competitive process, two licensed child care center and preschool sites were selected in Fall 2017. In 2018, sites were selected as follows: a) Spring 2018: four sites (licensed child care centers or preschool sites and publicly accessible sites serving Family, Friend, and Neighbor child care) were selected and b) Fall 2018: four sites (licensed child care centers and preschool sites or publicly accessible sites serving Family, Friend, and Neighbor child care) were selected. See ECHO Stories to learn more about current Demonstration Sites.
Required commitments for demonstration sites:
For-profit and non-profit licensed child care centers and preschools serving children under the age of five that meet the following minimum criteria are eligible to become ECHO Demonstration Sites:
Preference will be given to programs that:
Publicly accessible sites that serve or attract families with young children are also eligible to become ECHO Demonstration Sites. Criteria are outlined below.
Seed Grant Sites work closely with Demonstration Sites to naturalize and improve their outdoor spaces. Each awarded Seed Grant Site will receive $5,000 towards the installation of a naturalized outdoor learning environment and technical assistance to aid in naturalizing their outdoor learning environments. Through a competitive process, Seed Grant Sites are selected as follows: a) 25 sites were selected in Spring 2018; and b) at least 25 sites will be selected in Spring 2019.
ECHO Seed Grant Sites are open to for-profit and non-profit licensed child care centers or preschools serving children under the age of five that meet the following minimum criteria:
Preference is given to programs that serve vulnerable families and children, which can be demonstrated by meeting any of the following criteria:
Required commitments for seed grant sites:
Publicly accessible sites that serve or attract families with young children are also eligible to become ECHO Seed Sites. Criteria are outlined below.
In an effort to ensure ECHO reaches all young children in Colorado, we encourage community sites such as community centers, nature centers, publicly accessible parks, libraries, or community playgrounds to apply to be either a Demonstration Site or Seed Grant Site. Programs and locations that provide outdoor space that is regularly used by zero- to five-year-old children cared for by Family, Friend, and Neighbor caregivers are welcome to apply.
Publicly accessible sites that serve or attract families with young children are eligible to apply to become ECHO Demonstration Sites if they meet the following minimum criteria :
Preference will be given to sites that:
Publicly accessible sites that serve or attract families with young children are eligible to apply to become ECHO Seed Grant Sites if they meet the following minimum criteria :
Required commitments for publicly accessible sites:
While Demonstration Site Grants and Seed Grants are not available to family child care providers, free training and incentives are available for family care providers to participate in ECHO. Sponsored event registration, supported travel costs, substitute coverage and implementation grants are ways we are seeking to engage family child care providers. Family child care providers are encouraged to review the ECHO training registration pages for specific details on how to become involved.
For questions about the ECHO Initiative, please contact:
ECHO Program Director, National Wildlife Federation
For assistance with ECHO applications or general questions, please contact:
ECHO Education and Outreach Manager, National Wildlife Federation
Colorado Parent – "Creating Better Outdoor Learning Environments in Colorado"
TEDxMileHigh - "Nature Play Adventure Recap"
TEDxMileHigh - "Designing playgrounds for happier, healthier kids"
ECHO is a partnership between the National Wildlife Federation and North Carolina State University’s Natural Learning Initiative. Click here to learn more.
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