Supporting physical activity and healthy eating

Grow Outdoors South Carolina (GO SC)

In 2007, the Natural Learning Initiative (NLI) launched the POD (Preventing Obesity by Design) strategy. In 2015, POD was piloted in South Carolina by the Departments of Social Services (DSS) and Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), beginning with a design workshop in Florence.

The POD strategy is a built environment, nature-based intervention in the outdoor spaces of licensed childcare facilities. The aim is to enrich outdoor play and learning environments to foster life-long healthy habits by increasing physical activity, healthy eating, outdoor learning, and social-emotional development of young children during their formative years. Key components include landscape design, rigorous evaluation, cross-sector professional development, and website-based information dissemination. POD implementation employs collaborative participatory processes to engage stakeholders, including designers, technical assistants (TAs), owners, center directors, teachers, parents, children, community supporters, and state regulatory staff.

Grow Outdoors South Carolina (SC) was launched in 2020 to extend the reach of prior POD initiatives and celebrate POD achievements already on the ground. The new Grow Outdoors SC Expansion Project will implement POD statewide in continuing partnership with NLI, plus the implementation expertise of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) Early Childhood Health Outdoors (ECHO) program.

The aim of Grow Outdoors SC Expansion is to greatly increase the rate of implementation by creating a suite of new resources, delivering a diverse professional development program, engaging families in the process, providing financial installation support to individual sites, and instituting a rigorous evaluation process to support continuous improvement of implementation processes and results on the ground. The goal of this joint initiative of DSS and DHEC is to transform early childhood outdoor spaces into diverse, naturalized environments that spark play and learning.

NLI Grow Outdoors SC Expansion responsibilities include:

  • Branding
  • Professional Development Program
  • TechSheet series with Green Industry Advisory
  • Community Engagement Publications
  • Evaluation Program
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