The Children & Nature Network Conference

2016 C&NN Conference participants gather to learn about a park’s “pop-up adventure play” area. / image: Julie Johnson, ASLA
2016 C&NN Conference participants gather to learn about a park’s “pop-up adventure play” area. / image: Julie Johnson, ASLA

The Children & Nature Network Conference Brings Diverse Perspectives to Shared Goals

As architects of landscapes, we know that what we design impacts children’s lives and their well-being—how they may learn, play, and make sense of their world. And we’re not alone. The Children & Nature Network (C&NN) is an organization seeking to engage children with the natural world, and the C&NN International Conference brings together people of myriad professions, including landscape architects, to learn from each other.

While an exploration of the C&NN website offers valuable research and precedents for practice, along with relevant news articles, taking part in a C&NN International Conference makes those resources tangible. I have attended two prior C&NN Conferences and was inspired by informative and interactive sessions. I also appreciated the deliberate time set aside to meet people effecting change across scales and disciplines.

The 2016 C&NN International Conference in St. Paul, MN, featured a number of design-focused sessions, including a field trip to a “pop-up adventure play” area in a city park, and a presentation on “Green Schoolyards” with speakers presenting different models. Other sessions and plenary talks brought into focus such issues as health, diversity, and learning opportunities. To see highlights of last year’s conference, check out videos and session descriptions on C&NN’s website.

This year’s conference will be held April 18-21, 2017 in Vancouver, BC. The conference schedule, posted online, illustrates the thematic sessions and tours addressing such topics as play, learning, and health from a range of perspectives. Members of the ASLA Children’s Outdoor Environments PPN will be taking part, as they present through the Conference’s poster sessions.

by Julie Johnson, ASLA, Officer and Past Co-Chair of the Children’s Outdoor Environments PPN

Finding Common Ground at the Children & Nature Network Conference

Richard Louv describes new directions for bringing nature to children in cities.   image: Lisa Horne, ASLA
Richard Louv describes new directions for bringing nature to children in cities.
image: Lisa Horne, ASLA

Knowing that children’s experiences in nature matter, landscape architects can look to—and get involved in—an organization that strives to advance children’s nature experiences.

The Children & Nature Network serves as a vibrant resource and advocate for improving children’s access to nature, and its April conference in Texas attracted well over 400 international and interdisciplinary participants. The ASLA Children’s Outdoor Environments Professional Practice Network (PPN) officers Lisa Horne, ASLA, and Julie Johnson, ASLA, were among them. With a conference theme of “Inspiration and Action for Healthy Communities,” several concurrent sessions offered insights on and case studies of children’s learning and play in nature. And the opportunities to informally meet and learn from other conference participants during breaks and meals enabled meaningful conversations.

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Call for PechaKucha-Style Presentations

image: Lisa Horne
image: Lisa Horne

The Children’s Outdoor Environments PPN is looking forward to the ASLA Annual Meeting in Denver this November. Join us for an exciting PPN meeting to jumpstart creativity and encourage new connections! Perhaps you have heard of the “PechaKucha” phenomenon, a whole new way to share talks with 20 slides at 20 seconds each. This year our meeting will include a series of PechaKucha-style presentations on children’s outdoor environments and we are inviting you to take part.

Participants can look at broad issues like universal design, safety, emerging health issues for children, etc. or focus on a specific project. A presentation can be around process, innovations, trends—whatever you want to share. We will get to learn from and know each other better, and have some fun in the process. Interested in presenting? Submit a title, short summary paragraph, and brief outline for the 20 slides (one to two words per slide) to PPN Co-Chair Lisa Horne by September 12, 2014.

For inspiration, see a PechaKucha guide on YouTube. Also, check out the amazing work done by the Campus Planning and Design PPN last year.

Thanks in advance,

Lisa Horne and Julie Johnson Co-Chairs, Children’s Outdoor Environments PPN

The full schedule of PPN meetings in Denver can be viewed on the Annual Meeting website, and don’t forget to purchase a ticket for the PPN Networking Reception.