Nature play and learning every day!


NLI was 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. NLI is a research and professional development unit at the College of Design, NC State University, Raleigh, NC, USA.


Increasing numbers of children are growing up with insufficient 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.

To counteract this trend, the Natural Learning Initiative offers evidence-based design assistance, professional development, and information resources to advance experience of the natural environment in the daily lives of all children.

Our Goal

We aim to help communities create stimulating places for play, outdoor learning, and environmental education – places that recognize human dependence on the natural world. We collaborate with educators, play leaders, environmental educators, designers, planners, politicians, and all professionals working for and with children.

Many thanks to our major sponsors!