NEXT GENERATION: The Effects of Nature Contact on the Mental Health of Children, Teens and Early Adults

Exposure to nature is positively correlated to numerous benefits in children, including reduced stress levels, improved cognitive functioning, higher levels of concentration and academic performance and improved social skills. In this workshop, we will explore some of the deep challenges in research and implementation related to the role of nature contact on mental health of youth.


9-9:50 am: Panel Discussion

9:50-10:00: Break

10-10:28: Breakout/World Cafe Round 1

10:30-11:00: Breakout/World Cafe Round 2

11:00-11:05: Transition Time

11:05-11:55: Roundup / Next Steps (plenary)

11:55 am – 12 pm: Thank You / Adjourn

To begin the workshop, a panel discussion will explore the evidence for outdoor play and exposure to nature on the mental health of children, as well as some of the barriers to nature contact and the ways we can overcome them.

Moderator: David Berrigan, PhD, Program Officer, National Institute of Health


  • Louise Chawla, PhD, Professor Emerita, Program in Environmental Design, University of Colorado Boulder (2020 SHIFT Award Winner, Research)
  • Christine Ekenga, PhD, Assistant Professor, Washington University in St. Louis, Brown School (2020 SHIFT Award Winner, Research)
  • Donald Rakow, PhD, Associate Professor, Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (2020 SHIFT Award Winner, Research)
  • Nadav Sprague, Founder, Gateways to the Great Outdoors (2020 SHIFT Award Winner, Youth Engagement; 2020 Emerging Leader)

Following the panel discussion, participants and panelists will be placed in breakout rooms in smaller groups to continue discussing the topic using a World Cafe format.

Two 30-minute rounds of world cafe-style breakouts will be followed by a thirty-minute “roundup” that reports out on the findings of each breakout room.

The final thirty minutes of the workshop will synthesize the proceedings into next steps.

NOTE TO ALL PARTICIPANTS: Both the Panel Discussion and the Roundup / Next Steps will be recorded for later distribution. If you do not wish to be recorded, you are kindly asked not to participate in these elements of the workshop.

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