Policy Framework

Time outdoors makes kids happier, healthier and smarter.

Key Principles

Our policy framework is informed by key principles that guide our approach to state policy that increases equitable access to the benefits that accrue to young people from meaningful experiences outdoors. High-quality state policy should be:

  • Child-centered and focused on the whole child
  • Family focused and multigenerational 
  • Advancing equitable access for all 
  • Leveraging multiple approaches
  • Locally supported
  • Culturally relevant
  • Research based
  • Systemic
Our policy and investment recommendations reflect the understanding that the health of children and families, social and environmental justice, and the health of the natural world are inexorably linked. Everyone deserves the opportunity to enjoy time outdoors, because when people connect with nature, we all benefit.

Community Benefits of Youth Outdoor Policies

When kids spend more time outside, everyone benefits. Some of the outcomes associated with youth engaging in regular outdoor activities outdoors include:

Public Health and Wellness

When kids and their families spend more time outdoors, communities see meaningful, documented improvements to public health and wellbeing. When we make the benefits of outdoor experiences accessible to everyone, everywhere, we build stronger connections and communities.

Education and Workforce Development

Integrating outdoor education and environmental literacy into education and workforce development training creates new job opportunities and improves education and learning outcomes.

Youth Development

High quality nature-based programs support positive youth development and social emotional outcomes.

Economic Development and Conservation

Outdoor recreation and conservation provide direct economic benefits to local communities.

Policy Strategies for Advancing Youth Outdoor Engagement

State legislatures and other policy makers are passing laws and creating policies to enable, advance, establish, and fund youth outdoor engagement so more children have the opportunity to have positive experiences outdoors, regardless of where they live or their social or economic status.

Outdoor Learning Opportunities and Environments

Sometimes, all kids need to get outside more often is access to safe green spaces and outdoor learning opportunities in schools.

Outdoor Access and Connectivity

Kids can’t play and learn outside if they can’t get outside, but one in three children today does not have a safe park or green space within a ten-minute walk of their home.

Systemic Environmental Literacy and Education

Ensuring environmental literacy and education is integrated in all forms of education ensures students will have opportunities to learn about and care for the outdoors.