Creating healthy environments that support human development for generations to come.

About NLI

The Natural Learning Initiative (NLI), founded in 2000 with the purpose of promoting the importance of the natural environment in the daily experience of all children, through environmental design, action research, education, and dissemination of information, is a research and professional development unit at the College of Design, NC State University, Raleigh, NC, USA.


Increasing numbers of children are losing contact with the natural world. Reasons include childcare centers with outdoor spaces that do not support children’s developmental needs; the rapid growth of domestic air-conditioning since the 1950s; apprehensive parents who keep their children close to home; state-mandated curricula that do not allow time for study outdoors; and the overly-structured, harried lifestyle of many children today.

Our Mission

The mission of the Natural Learning Initiative is to help communities create stimulating places for play, learning, and environmental education – environments that recognize human dependence on the natural world. We collaborate with educators, play leaders, environmental educators, planners, politicians, and all professionals working for and with children.


Many thanks to our major sponsors!