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What Is ECHO?

Bringing nature and outdoor play to every child, every day.


infant reaches into pink tire planter to smell flowers


ECHO is transforming how young children play and learn outdoors, for the benefit of our kids, our communities, and our planet. 

We facilitate the creation of nature-based outdoor play settings; provide support and resources for parents, caregivers, and educators to activate these spaces; and advocate for policies to transform outdoor play and learning best practice into common practice. 

When young children spend time daily in high-quality, well-designed, nature-based outdoor spaces, the benefits are clear: improved physical health and social-emotional development, better cognitive skills, and increased affinity for the outdoors. The earlier in life that children experience these benefits, the better their developmental trajectory. 

Equity is at the core of this work, as we collaborate with and support local community initiatives to transform the spaces used by young children and their caregivers. We focus intentionally on reaching young children who may not otherwise have access to high-quality outdoor settings, families living with low-incomes, and marginalized communities who face multiple barriers to health and equity. 

All of ECHO’s work includes a tailored, community-driven process designed to complement local efforts and bring the vision of all stakeholders to life.

We provide support and services either through grant-driven support or fee-based consultancy. ECHO includes broad suite of support and resources that are designed to transform places, behaviors, and systems, including:

Landscape design, informed by research to maximize benefits, and driven by a community’s vision for its children and outdoor spaces. 
Activation assistance, providing training, professional development, and technical assistance to ensure caregivers, families, and educators are empowered to engage young children outside. 
A suite of training resources available online to inspire and engage anyone, anywhere, who wants young children in their care to have higher-quality outdoor spaces and experiences. 
Support for improving systems to create conditions for this work to succeed, including policy analysis and advocacy, communications and outreach, and network-building. 

We focus on the daily experiences of all young children, from birth to age 8, and our work takes place in licensed child care centers and family child care homes, as well as the early childhood education systems that support, regulate, and license these sites. 

Our work also includes support for preschools and elementary schools to assure the benefits of nature are accessible to young learners in their schoolyards. Additionally, many young children are cared for by families, friends, or neighbors in informal settings. Therefore, we support sites where young children and their caregivers may spend time daily, such as parks, museums, libraries, community centers, or other public spaces. 

Click HERE to learn how to connect with ECHO.


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Where We Work

More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. The National Wildlife Federation is on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 53 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.

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