Children feel better, behave better and their cognitive skills improve when they spend time outdoors, according to Heather Sage, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy director of community projects.
Sage, along with Betty Cruz, manager of special initiatives for the city, and Jamie Beechey, Parks and Recreation deputy director, will represent Pittsburgh at the Connecting Children to Nature Leadership Academy in St. Paul, Minnesota this week.
Sage said the conference is aimed at creating programs that encourage children to go outdoors and connect with the natural world.
Pittsburgh is one of eight cities selected to attend the conference. She said in their application, they mentioned the work already in progress, such as the Parks Conservancy’s education programs and Playful Pittsburgh.
“We really would like to do more in Pittsburgh to coordinate together with one another and to have a really visible set of goals so that we know that in every corner of Pittsburgh and every neighborhood, kids are aware of the nature that’s right in their own backyard,” she said.
Serenity and joy in the outdoors can help lead to healthy development, Sage said.
“What we want to facilitate is that ability for kids to have really positive experiences in nature and to have them be life-long passions for them,” she said
After the conference, Sage said they will have the opportunity to apply for grants from the National League of Cities to further implement their ideas.
“Things that will be permanent and lasting and have real impact on our kids,” she said. “And certainly, Pittsburgh hopes to compete for some of that funding so that in the next six months or a year, we will have a really strong plan for how our partners want to work together.”
The academy takes place through Friday. Other cities represented include Seattle, San Francisco and St. Petersburg, FL.