Mayor Introduces Baltimore’s Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights

Baltimore, MD – To ensure kids in Baltimore have every opportunity to build a connection to nature, Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young introduced the Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights, a positive and unifying vision of what childhood in Baltimore can and should be. Led by the Baltimore Department of Recreation and Parks, City agencies and the National Wildlife Federation, many partners have been working with youth, residents and other stakeholders to develop a declaration of the rights of Baltimore children to access healthy outdoor time.

The Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights states that children in Baltimore have the right to:

  • Breathe fresh air
  • Splash in clean streams, ponds, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay
  • Explore safe and inviting forests and wild spaces
  • Grow a garden and eat fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Play in vibrant neighborhoods, schoolyards and parks
  • Understand and feel connected to their city’s unique ecosystem 
  • Develop confidence in outdoor skills and recreation
  • Work with neighborhood mentors in nature
  • Have space for agency and action

“It’s amazing what a bit of outdoor time can do for a child’s mental and physical health, as well as academic performance,” said Jen Mihills, regional executive director at the National Wildlife Federation. “By creating outdoor classrooms at schools, restoring vacant lots, and greening our communities, we can ensure that children and their families have access to ‘nearby nature’ every day.”

“Investing in the health and happiness of our youth is key to ensuring a future where Baltimore city residents thrive,” Mayor Young said. “Building environmental stewardship and pride in one’s community starts at a young age. By getting kids outdoors and involved in their community, we will create a culture of caring and civic pride that will carry on for generations.”

The experiences we have in nature when we’re young are the single biggest factor affecting our attitudes toward conservation as adults. Additionally, research shows there are numerous health benefits to getting kids outdoors. People with access to nature have increased resilience to trauma and stress and live longer, healthier lives. They experience improved attention span and better quality of sleep. Spending time outside has a broad range of benefits, including increased levels of vitamin D, helping protect children from future bone problems and other health issues, increased physical fitness, and reduced stress levels.

The Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights is the culminating cherry on top of the second annual Baltimore Wildlife Week. During the week, countless Baltimore children took part in festivities ranging from wildlife themed dance parties to urban wilderness gong shows to environmental art pop-ups, embracing the idea that being close to nature not only has positive health benefits, but can also be a fun and inspiring way to spend a Saturday.

The Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights supports the idea that children who are able and willing to embrace an outdoor lifestyle develop a positive relationship with nature and are more likely to become environmental and community stewards. Giving children access to the wonders of nature grows their appreciation for their furry and feathered neighbors, and inspires them to protect wildlife and natural resources.

The introduction of the Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights could not have been possible without the support of the Baltimore Office of Sustainability and the Department of Recreation and Parks. A first step of a larger effort to connect children to nature, Baltimore is one of 18 cities participating in the Cities Connecting Children to Nature Initiative generously supported by the National League of Cities and the Children & Nature Network. City agencies and partners are committed to working toward a city that is equitable, safe and nature-centric for all children and families.

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