Healthy, Equitable and Inclusive Childhoods via Childcare Outdoor Design

NLI and SC partners presented at Health in All Design, the 53rd Environmental Design Research Association Conference (EDRA), Greenville, SC. L-R: Misty Pearson, Early Care and Education Consultant, DHEC; Robin Moore, NLI; Cynthia Lara, Director, Child Care Licensing, and Nilda Cosco, NLI. The workshop titled, (310) “Healthy, Equitable and Inclusive Childhoods via Childcare Outdoor Design: A Nature-Based, Policy-Sensitive, Collaborative, Scaling Up Model,” featured many topics:

Robin spoke about how the NLI approach is framed globally. Initiated in infancy, it recognizes children’s play as a learning process and applies community-based biophilic design to support action on the ground supported with online and print resources. The presentation posed questions regarding the moral responsibility of designers to act in solidarity with the new generation of savvy young adults engaged in the politics of global species conservation and the health of the biosphere.

Nilda referenced the CDC Spectrum of Opportunities model addressing equity and underscoring the importance of partnerships. She presented components of the multistate POD strategy supporting the inclusion of children from an early age in underserved communities, engaging them with a diversity of opportunities for learning and development. Building POD using rigorous, standardized evaluation protocols was emphasized. USDA-sponsored research on preschool gardening, using the 12-step COLEAFS framework, illustrated the importance of creating evidence-based best practices to support system change across the early childhood education sector.

Cynthia reviewed the structure of childcare and approach to licensing and encouraged the development of stimulating outdoor play and learning environments in South Carolina too. The importance of creating flexible Design Plans to guide development, discussing plans and specifications with state licensing agencies, building inspectors, and/or Fire Marshals was emphasized while recognizing the role of outdoor space licensing regulations and adhering to them.

Misty reviewed how the POD strategy has been adopted in South Carolina through a sequence of meetings and training events with state leadership. She emphasized the role of NLI print and online resources for professionals working on the frontline to guide improvements on the ground at individual child care centers. To date, 33 centers have or are participating statewide in the program, including seven demonstration sites.