Early Childhood Health Outdoors Secures Funding to Expand Nature Play throughout Denver

DENVER, Colo. – The National Wildlife Federation’s Early Childhood Health Outdoors (ECHO) announced grant funding from Constellation Philanthropy for $97,500 to support design assistance and training for family child care providers and public sites used by family, friend and neighbor caregivers.

The grant will be used to create a cohort of 10 family child care providers that receive a scholarship to participate in the Early Childhood Outdoor Learning Environments online certificate program offered through North Carolina State University’s Natural Learning Initiative. ECHO will provide guidance and coaching for the cohort to confidently serve as mentors for other family child care programs. By leading their own training on quality outdoor spaces, the cohort will create a collaborative network of providers knowledgeable in nature play best practices throughout their communities. 

The grant also enables ECHO to redesign and activate one publicly accessible space in the Denver metro area that will better serve the needs of young children and their caregivers. This space will undergo a full community engagement process ensuring community-wide interests are heard and considered throughout the design phase. 

“Daily contact with nature shows benefits to children’s social, psychological, cognitive, and physical well-being.” said Kate Reinemund, executive director of Constellation Philanthropy. “We strive to find great organizations who understand our communities’ needs and are able to deploy creative and innovative solutions with an eye towards scalability. ECHO is a great example of this and we are grateful to have had the opportunity to support the National Wildlife Federation in this important work.”

“When young children engage in outdoor nature play on a daily basis, they’re setting the stage to succeed throughout the rest of their lives,” said Sarah Konradi, ECHO program director. “Thanks to this grant from Constellation Philanthropy, ECHO will build up and empower communities to take nature play into their own hands and drive this movement forward.” 

Further grant funded initiatives include: 

  • Develop additional tools and resources for providers and parents to support further statewide adoption of best-practices for outdoor learning environments that will be housed on the ECHO website in a resource hub.
  • Partnership with the Early Childhood Council Leadership Alliance (ECCLA) and other statewide partners to provide training and technical assistance for Denver metro early childhood councils and family child care associations to ensure providers have additional local expertise. 

About Early Childhood Health Outdoors

Founded in 2017, Early Childhood Health Outdoors (ECHO) is a National Wildlife Federation program that collaborates with diverse communities to bring nature play and learning to young children and their families. Led by a team of landscape designers and early childhood experts, ECHO creates innovative outdoor designs that bring nature to the forefront of traditional rubber and plastic playgrounds and educates early childhood professionals on nature play best practices. Since its inception, ECHO has brought nature within reach to more than 10,000 children and trained more than 2,300 early childhood professionals in expanding nature play to their communities.

Constellation Philanthropy is a community of individual funders working together to increase philanthropic investment in early childhood development in Colorado. Through relationships, research and reporting, Constellation Philanthropy helps donors invest more wisely so all of Colorado's children can have a great start in life. For more information, please visit www.constellationco.org

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