Dr. Rebecca Colbert Joins Early Childhood Health Outdoors to Provide Nature-Based Outdoor Play, Learning for Young Children, Families

DENVER – Dr. Rebecca Colbert has joined the National Wildlife Federation as senior director of design and engagement overseeing the Early Childhood Health Outdoors (ECHO) team. Colbert will lead the enhancement and activation of equitable, nature-based outdoor play and learning settings with a focus on improving built environments for children and communities who have historically faced institutional barriers to quality outdoor spaces. Colbert also will support the organization’s efforts to incorporate nature play spaces and wildlife habitat into residential parks and other places where children and families spend time. 

“The vast majority of children in America spend most of their daily time in the built environment, including child care centers, schools, parks, libraries or at home. Yet we are at a crossroads where the pandemic has demonstrated the critical need for quality outdoor spaces for all young children and their families, and the existing inequities that put this need out of reach for many communities,” said Brian Kurzel, executive director for the National Wildlife Federation Rocky Mountain Region. “Dr. Rebecca Colbert brings not only the expertise and skill to address these disparities, but the passion and dedication to build a movement that fosters environments that promote children’s healthy growth and development.”

“Evidence shows that children who engage regularly in nature experience a myriad of benefits to mental, physical and emotional health. Though there is much work to do, it has been heartening to witness a movement growing around connecting children to nature and to be part of the community of practice that is helping to drive change,” Colbert said. “I am excited to embark on the next chapter of my career and join Early Childhood Health Outdoors as they continue to plant the seeds for change in providing access to rich, supportive, natural environments for young children and their families.”

Colbert is a licensed landscape architect with 20 years of experience, earning her doctorate in Design and Planning from the University of Colorado and working with the Children Youth and Environments Center for Research and Design. She most recently served as environmental design research lead, landscape architect and project manager with Moore Iacofano and Goltsman, Inc. 

She has experience leading a variety of projects including the Great Outdoors Colorado Inspire Initiative strategic implementation plan for Garfield County that included nature based schoolground improvements, state and local park enhancements and youth conservation programs. Rebecca led the strategic planning process, working with the steering committee and youth advisory councils in four rural communities located throughout the county to assess ways to overcome barriers to regular nature access.

Colbert’s experience spans a range of scales and settings, including design visioning for the Wild Nature Experience at the San Diego Zoo, developing nature play guidelines for the Forest Preserves of Cook County, Ill., and guiding the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation in a recent environmental justice focused update to their comprehensive parks and recreation needs assessment. 

Visit the National Wildlife Federation Media Center at NWF.org/News.



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