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Early Childhood Health Outdoors (ECHO)


Healthy. Natural. Affordable.

These are the foundations of Colorado’s new Early Childhood Health Outdoors (ECHO™) initiative, launching in 2017. 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 on the Preventing Obesity by Design model, showing that by improving the design of outdoor spaces through affordable interventions and training early childhood educators, young children and care providers enjoy substantial benefits:

How will ECHO™ work?

The National Wildlife Federation has partnered with Qualistar Colorado and North Carolina State University’s Natural Learning Initiative, with funding support from the Colorado Health Foundation.

ECHO™ will support Colorado’s early childhood education (ECE) community by providing:

By working at scale across Colorado in both licensed and informal settings, this initiative advances the statewide effort to provide quality care for every young child.

ECHO™ will help formal ECE providers meet educational and physical goals for their kids, improve program quality, meet professional development goals, and create more appealing and engaging outdoor spaces compliant with current rules and regulations.

For those that provide "family, friend, and neighbor" care, ECHO™ will introduce high-quality outdoor spaces in publicly accessible locations around the state.


Our Partners

National Wildlife Federation
The National Wildlife Federation is America’s oldest, largest, and most trusted wildlife conservation organization. With a mission of “Uniting all Americans to ensure wildlife thrives in a rapidly changing world,” the National Wildlife Federation has an 80-year track record of safeguarding our iconic species and places and inspiring Americans to protect wildlife. The National Wildlife Federation does this by connecting people with nature through our award-winning Ranger Rick magazines, K-12 programs in 9,500 schools, and habitat certification programs that engage thousands of people nationwide in creating habitat. The National Wildlife Federation is also a national leader in early childhood outdoor learning policy, having published articles on the topic, partnered with the Natural Learning Initiative and the State of Texas to bring healthy outdoor spaces to Texas, and presented at NAEYC and QRIS Build national conferences. The Denver-based Rocky Mountain Regional Center brings 40 years of local experience engaging with Colorado’s public and partners in conservation, education, and wildlife protection.

Natural Learning Initiative
The Natural Learning Initiative is a research and professional development unit founded in 2000 at North Carolina State University's College of Design in Raleigh, North Carolina, with the purpose of promoting the importance of the natural environment in the daily experience of all children, through environmental design, action research, education, and dissemination of information. The mission of the Natural Learning Initiative is to help communities create stimulating places for play, learning, and environmental education—environments that recognize human dependence on the natural world. The Natural Learning Initiative collaborates with educators, play leaders, environmental educators, planners, politicians, and all professionals working for and with children.

Qualistar’s mission is to elevate quality in early childhood education in Colorado by improving everyday practice of professionals and by building safe, supportive environments. Qualistar provides assessments, training, grants, scholarships and technical assistance to licensed providers, collaborating with state and local entities to efficiently and effectively deliver solutions across the state. Qualistar continually scans Colorado’s early childhood landscape to identify gaps and to drive innovation in development of systems designed to improve quality. Qualistar protects and promotes high quality in early childhood education by advocating for policies that advance quality and increase awareness of its importance in our early childhood system.

Contact Us

Contact us to find out how you might apply for a grant, support the initiative, volunteer, or connect ECHO™ to other community work. We will be soliciting grant applications for the ECHO™ initiative starting in late summer 2017 and hosting our initial ECHO™ Summit in fall 2017.

Sarah Konradi
Early Childhood Health Outdoors (ECHO) Program Director
National Wildlife Federation
303 East 17th Avenue, Suite 15
Denver, CO 80203

2018 Demonstration Site Request for Applications is live!

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