Early Childhood Health Outdoors Awards Nature Play Grants to 15 Child Care Programs

Selected programs receive landscape design assistance and ongoing training opportunities to reimagine their outdoor play spaces

Denver, Colo. — The National Wildlife Federation’s Early Childhood Health Outdoors (ECHO) is proud to announce the 2020 class of ECHO sites throughout Colorado. The 15 selected licensed child care programs will receive $5,000 towards ongoing training, professional design assistance and implementation of naturally designed outdoor play spaces. 

While still allowing for traditional play equipment, ECHO sites offer a diversity of play experiences with natural features that contribute to young children’s mental and physical development, overall health and environmental quality. Each space is unique and may contain pollinator gardens, boulders and logs, winding pathways, native foliage, earth play and more.  

 “Now more than ever, nature-based learning and equitable access to quality outdoor spaces is a necessity for young children everywhere,” said Sarah Konradi, ECHO program director. “Child care programs that undergo the ECHO process embark on an incredibly rewarding journey to learn, create, and rejuvenate their outdoor spaces for the children and families they serve. We look forward to seeing their transformations.”

Recipients were chosen through a competitive review process. Selected sites and their respective counties include: 

  • Durango Early Learning Center, La Plata  
  • Greeley Early Learning, Weld
  • Little Lambs Daycare, Routt
  • Douglas County Preschool-Cantril, Douglas
  • Douglas Country Preschool-Early Childhood Center South, Douglas
  • Ohana Montessori, Weld
  • Mancos Valley Dragonfly Preschool, Montezuma
  • Evans Early Childhood Center, Morgan
  • Sonshine Patch Preschool, Montrose
  • Homestar Children’s Center, Boulder
  • Escalante-Biggs Academy, Denver
  • The Ark Childcare, Fremont
  • Children’s Garden Early Learning Center, Alamosa
  • Starpoint SPIN-Elm, Fremont
  • Mountaintop Childcare Inc., Larimer 

ECHO grants 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:

  • License is in good standing with the state.
  • A Colorado Shines minimum rating of Level 2 or higher is preferred.
  • Commitment to stay in current location for the next five years. 
  • Preferred participation in online technical assistance webinar
  • Preference is given to programs outside the seven metro counties of Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas and Jefferson.   

Preference is also given to programs that serve families and children facing multiple barriers, which can be demonstrated by meeting any of the following:

  • Demonstration of economic need for population served (e.g., percent of families eligible for need-based child care subsidies in the county, level of participation in Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP), number of low-income families that may be experiencing housing or food insecurity)
  • Serving a diverse population, including a high percentage of ethnic and racial diversity
  • Serving children who are English language learners
  • Serving children with disabilities or special health care needs 

In addition to selecting the 2020 grant recipients, ECHO was honored to receive the Advancing Environmental Literacy Award from the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education. This award recognizes ECHO’s outstanding contributions to environmental literacy in Colorado through philanthropy, collaborative efforts and initiatives that advance the environmental literacy of Colorado citizens and the field of environmental education. 

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.


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