Cities Connecting Children to Nature


Support for Rochester’s Children and Nature 

Mayor Malik Evans envisions a future where all of Rochester’s kids reach their full potential. Improving children’s connections to nature can help achieve this vision. Increasingly indoor lifestyles have created pressing child development issues including higher rates of emotional and  physical health challenges. 

Regular time spent playing and learning outside enhances children’s physical and mental health, social emotional skills, and academic outcomes- as well as inspiring environmental stewardship. 

The National League of Cities and the Children & Nature Network selected Rochester as one of 18 US cities to join the Cities Connecting Children to Nature (CCCN) initiative in 2018. The CCCN initiative, which has grown to include 50 cities across the nation, helps cities increase equitable access to nature and improve the wellbeing of children.

The CCCN Rochester initiative focuses on confronting the marked disparities in access to nature that run along economic and racial lines. For greatest impact, it is crucial that city leaders hold equitable access to nature for all their residents as the first and foremost tenet of their efforts.

Rochester, through the CCCN initiative, receives technical assistance, grants and peer learning designed to help implement nature connection strategies so that Rochester’s children experience the many benefits of nature.


Strategy 1: Increase out-of-school time environmental programming.

Increasing environmental programming through our R-Centers and after school programs is one of the ways in which we are increasing nature engagement among out city youth. Our long standing Earth Explorers program has been expanded to include more centers and more educators, as well as adding long lasting infrastructure to provide continued, quality environmental education for children and families.


Strategy 2: Develop a Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights.

In collaboration with the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council, Youth Voice One Vision (YVOV), youth from the Urban Ecologist Program of the Seneca Park Zoo Society, and support from the Cities Connecting Children to Nature (CCCN) initiative, the City adopted a Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights (COBOR) in April 2021. This bill defines a list of outdoor activities that all children should have the right to experience regardless of race or social class, and serves as a tool to help guide priorities and decisions regarding access to nature and funding, so that all of Rochester’s children have equitable access to the outdoor experiences that are crucial for healthy development.


Strategy 3: Launch the Maplewood Nature Center.

Located along the Genesee River and adjacent to the historic Maplewood Rose Garden, Maplewood Nature Center (MNC) will include an exhibit/learning center, and teaching gardens. This center will help bring together key stakeholders and providers of environmental and nature-based programming from across the community.


Get connected