Ontario’s Back to Nature Network (B2N) is a growing province-wide network of organizations whose mission is to create opportunities for children and families to connect with nature. B2N represents the international children and nature movement that is focused on addressing ‘nature deficit’ disorder, a term spawned by Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods. Member organizations come from a diversity of sectors including education, health, planning, early child development, environmental stewardship, and active healthy living. B2N has enjoyed strong financial support since its inception from the Ontario Trillium Foundation.
Education is a key focus of B2N, and working with educators at all levels to extend professional practice into the outdoors is a priority. In addition to several partnerships with individual school boards in Ontario, B2N has a program to certify mentors for outdoor teaching in every public elementary school board in the province. A similar program is being developed for all Early Childhood Educators in Halton Region, a large region nested in the Greater Toronto Area.
Complimentary to the educator learning opportunities, B2N launched a two-year Ontario research program in January 2016 with Simcoe County District School Board to investigate the outcome of regular time learning outdoors at school on students, educators and families. The Principal Investigator is Dr. Andrea Faber Taylor, whose work on the positive impacts of nature exposure on the well-being of children suffering from ADHD has been recognized internationally. The program has been generously funded by TD Friends of the Environment Foundation. Read the full news story in this Toronto Star article.
Other important thrusts of B2N’s efforts include a sustained effort to reach out to health professionals; a partnership with the Ontario College of Family Physicians has seen the creation of an accredited education module on the benefits of nature to human health (full story here). On the wider landscape, B2N has recently joined with the Children and Nature Network to co-deliver a series of webinars on Network Weaving, a powerful tool to amplify the collective work of networks in realizing shared goals.