History and Accomplishments

Our History

Founders of San Diego Children and Nature first worked together in early 2009 to publicize a lecture by Richard Louv on February 24, 2009 at Point Loma Nazarene University, which drew an audience of 1,200 people. On March 19 at the Girl Scout office, 70 educators, environmental professionals, community leaders, and nature advocates shared their vision for working together to enhance experiences for children and nature.

San Diego Children and Nature brings the national Children & Nature Network (C&NN) movement to San Diego, inspired by “native son” columnist and author Richard Louv with his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Children & Nature Network’s vision is to “a world in which children have access to the benefits of nature everywhere they live, learn and play.”


Our Accomplishments

Some of our proudest accomplishments over the years include:

Check Out Nature puts backpacks filled with high quality nature exploration materials in San Diego’s libraries and recreation centers. You can check them out just like you would check out a book or a basketball. Nature backpacks can give a boost to families that are first time nature explorers and can provide a great experience to people who don’t have the resources to buy the materials themselves. SDCaN is proud to help bridge the “gear gap.” In our pilot program we partnered with San Diego City Libraries, San Diego Parks and Recreation, and County of San Diego Health and Human Services to place Nature Backpacks in six library branches and two recreation centers. Thanks to funding from The San Diego Foundation, we were able to extend the backpack program to more San Diego City libraries and recreation centers, as well as libraries in Coronado, Chula Vista, Escondido, National City, and Oceanside, plus an El Cajon recreation center. We’ve now placed close to 300 Nature Backpacks across our County!

We held Nature-based programming workshops to give recreation center staff and librarians tools to lead exploration of nearby nature, and provide nature play at their sites. We weren’t able to hold in person events to promote the backpack program due to the pandemic; instead we pivoted to making videos to promote the backpack program, share safety instructions and introduce people to several nearby nature spots. The videos are on the City of San Diego Parks and Recreation website. (2018-present)

Mud Day. Over 2,000 local families celebrated International Mud Day (June 29th) in 2018 and 2019. Children and families enjoyed a day of splashing, rolling, squishing, sliding, making mud pies and connecting to the natural world. Crafts and Loose Parts Nature Play were offered as well. These free events were sponsored by The City of San Diego and SDCaN. (2018-2019)

Science Education Conferences. SDCaN sponsored San Diego Science Education Conferences and the Next-Gen Science Education Conference in 2017. These conferences brought Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for Physical Science, Life Science, Earth and Space Sciences, and Engineering and Science Practices to hundreds of San Diego educators, offering useful pedagogy to be integrated into their classrooms. (2016-2017)

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Lesson series for upper elementary educators, featuring adaptations, watersheds, earth sciences, ecosystems, energy, and matter. Lessons for middle school educators on global climate change. Lessons include field trips, schoolyard activities, and pre- and post-field trip activities. Workshops on nature-based learning in NGSS for nature educators, co-sponsored by San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) and San Diego State University’s Center for Research on Mathematics and Science Education (CRMSE). (2013-2015)

Loose Parts Nature Play. Activities for unstructured play with children and parents at EarthFair in Balboa Park, as well as the Kids First Fair and Military Family Nature Day at Camp Pendleton. Children play and construct with bamboo poles, tree cookies, pine cones, twine, sheets, boxes, palm fronts, and other natural materials to create forts, tepees, and more! (2012-present)

Family Nature Clubs. More than 1,500 families participated in Family Adventures in Nature, with family nature club leaders organizing nature activities each month in the San Diego region. (2010-2020)

Nature-Based Science Educator Workshops. Workshops on Nature-based Inquiry and Learning at local teacher conferences, including the STEMpower conference, the San Diego Computer-Using Educators conference, and the San Diego Science Educators’ Association conference. (2012-2015)

Schoolyard Habitat Workshops at San Diego Botanic Garden, the Water Conservation Garden, the Girl Scout Program Center in Balboa Park, and Loma Portal Elementary School. Presentations featured planning, planting, and using native plants in schoolyards. Workshop collaborators included SDCaN, Master Gardeners of San Diego County, California Native Plant Society, and SDSA; funds from San Diego Gas & Electric. (2012-2015)

School Gardens. Coordinating with the Master Gardener Association of San Diego County, providing support to school gardens. (Ongoing)

Research Project. USDA Forest Service provided a Cooperative Agreement to develop technology-enhanced Nature Learning for Middle School Students (with Rincon and Mission Middle Schools in Escondido). Lessons featured collection of insects and other arthropods in the schoolyard, insect anatomy and identification using stereoscopes in the classroom, and project-based learning to argue for management strategies for local insects and pests. (2013-2014)

Urban Forestry Education: Teachers and Students Choosing Lessons in Nature, a grant for schoolyard-based lessons, with funds from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Curriculum consultants developed lessons for grades K through 5, that are hands-on, require minimal preparation and materials, are taught in the schoolyard, and are based on NGSS. Three nature coordinators provided professional development and support to teachers in eight schools in Escondido, Santee, and San Diego Unified School Districts. Teachers completed pre- and post- surveys to assess the effectiveness of the lessons and support from the nature educators. (2012-2013)

Nature Awareness Day Camp. A weeklong day camp, “Sagebrush Survivors,” was offered at South Bay YMCA in June, with four hours in nature each day. Campers learned how indigenous people lived without the trappings of modern civilization, got to know the plants and animals that live in the canyon, learned wilderness safety, and built confidence in the outdoors. It was adapted from Wilderness Awareness School in eastern Washington, and the Coyote Guide to Mentoring by Jon Young. (2012)