Coalition will create opportunities for youth to experience nature
TOPEKA -- On April 13, Governor Kathleen Sebelius issued an executive order designed to create opportunities for children to get outside and experience nature. The new group, provisionally called the Kansas Coalition for Children in Nature (KCCN), will work with state agencies and other organizations to identify opportunities for Kansas children to spend more time playing and learning outdoors.

"Kansas is blessed with an abundance of natural beauty, and this coalition will work to make sure Kansas children experience all that our state has to offer," Sebelius said.

Research has shown that children who play outside are more active and more physically fit than those who do not. Time in nature improves a child's academic performance, concentration, balance, coordination, and self-esteem. Unfortunately, children today spend an average of six and half hours a day with electronic media; the amount of time children spend outside has dropped by one-half over the past 20 years.

"Kansans have historically been closely tied to the land, but our children are losing those ties as they spend more and more time indoors, in front of computers, video games, and television," said Laura Downey of the Kansas Association for Conservation and Environmental Education (KACEE), one of the groups involved in this effort. "This is an important step toward renewing Kansas children's connection with nature and the land."

"Children have an innate need to experience the wonder of nature. We're thrilled the Governor has made this a priority for her administration," said Cynthia Rhodes, a teacher and education chair for the Kansas Wildlife Federation (KWF), which will also be involved.

The KCCN will be convened and managed by a Conveners Group charged with recruiting coalition members. The Conveners Group will divide coalition members into working groups that will provide leadership and input for the major tasks identified in the Executive Order.

Several agencies and organizations are working with the governor's office on the initiative, including KACEE, KWF, the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, the Kansas State Department of Education, and the National Wildlife Federation.

KCCN will include organizations from the areas of public health, conservation, environmental education, recreation, agriculture, and business. The broad-based coalition will build upon existing resources and programs to accomplish its goals.

The Conveners Group will present plans and a status report on their implementation to the governor prior to Jan. 10, 2011. To view the full executive order, go online to