Intergenerational Connections Help Foster a Relationship with Nature

children and adults work with potted plants together
Photo courtesy of Latinos Progresando

NRF Outdoor Grants support programs that invite kids outside and foster a connection with nature. This can look like initiatives that only work with young people, but another great way to support youth is through intergenerational programming that works with families and whole communities. When caregivers and kids try new activities like camping or gardening together, it opens the door for families to incorporate those activities into daily life. Opportunities for adults and children to learn and play together also build connections that can have positive outcomes for family dynamics, mental health, and intergenerational communication. Black Kids Adventures and Latinos Progresando are two NRF grantees that focus their efforts not just on kids, but also include the networks of adults around kids.

A woman and child stand next to each other in front of a waterfall
Photo courtesy of Black Kids Adventures

Black Kids Adventures is an Alabama-based organization dedicated to helping families of color connect to the outdoors and each other. Kids and their caregivers can go hiking, paddle boarding, caving, and camping with Black Kids Adventures whether they’re seasoned campers or brand-new outdoor recreationists. Founder and Executive Director Zenovia Stephens is passionate about bringing whole families into the outdoors together because of the possibilities it creates for changing the face of outdoor recreation. She strongly believes that if multi-generational groups of people have the opportunity to explore natural spaces together, we can disrupt stereotypes about who belongs in our outdoor spaces. By doing this, we can avoid passing down exclusive biases about outdoor recreation to younger generations. Another core element of the Black Kids Adventures’ mission is to strengthen community and family ties. Staff and volunteers at family campouts have noticed that kids, parents, and caregivers talk and listen in new ways when they’re removed from daily routines and stressors. Young people are able to explore safely and share their interests and curiosities with the adults in their lives.

A group of young people walk down a sidewalk together
Photo courtesy of Latinos Progresando

Similarly, Latinos Progresando works to bring generations together in Chicago’s Marshall Square neighborhood. Latinos Progresando offers a range of services to the community it serves, including immigration legal services, a theatrical ensemble, and a culturally-relevant speaker series. NRF funding supports the Marshall Square Monarch Project, which introduces community members to pollinator-friendly gardening techniques, mental health management strategies, and principles of environmental stewardship. Along the way, participants strengthen social connections across generations while protecting the endangered Monarch butterfly. This structure can be challenging because it means balancing the schedules of kids in school and adults with varying work hours, as well as meeting the interests and needs of community members of many different ages. Despite these obstacles, Latinos Progresando brings people together in new ways through intergenerational programming and works towards solutions to complex issues by both engaging established community leaders and amplifying the voices of young people with new perspectives and ideas.

A large group of many ages stands in front of a Smoky Mountains sign
Photo courtesy of Black Kids Adventures

Both Black Kids Adventures and Latinos Progresando are building connections to nature in their communities and bringing people together through time outside. Their intergenerational programming is an important part of the constellation of efforts focused on reimagining what being outside looks like and cultivating a sense of belonging in the outdoors.