By Rita Cook     

“I believe that you are all here in this room today because you have a similar (nature) experience whether it’s from your childhood or one from a more recent time that made you feel truly connected to the natural world around you.”

-Amanda Stone Norton, Ph.D,
Executive Chair, Children in Nature Network-North Texas Region

The Children in Nature Network of North Texas wants to get kids in DFW back outside. According to Amanda Norton, Executive Chair for Children in Nature Network's North Texas Chapter, the group is a part of a national organization that is tackling the issue of nature-deficit disorder on multiple fronts.

“Our network is made up of formal and informal educators, students, administrators, healthcare providers, community leaders, non-profits, for-profits, government agencies, and more,” Norton explains. “By being connected across different fields we are more likely to achieve our goals.”

This grassroots movement spontaneously erupted all over the country after Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods (2005) started a national dialogue. The movement began to grow in Texas more than two years ago with the help of volunteers who cared about getting children connected back to nature.

Norton says she volunteers with the group because she wants to pass on her own experience.

“My generation -- Generation X -- in my opinion, was one of the last generations that truly explored the outdoors as children. Video games were brand new on the market and cable television had barely been promoted so our fun was outside. Our parents would tell us to ‘Go out and play, and don’t come back ‘til dinner.’”

Indeed, for generations prior to Gen X, that instruction from parents was common. But for children today, the creeks, fields, streets and gardens are not the playgrounds anymore.

        Acton Nature Center, 
Perot Museum of Nature and Science and River  Legacy Living Science Center are partners of Children in Nature Network. 

“As the mother of a four-year old, I see many of my friends with children talk about the fear of letting their children explore the outdoors: snakes, strangers, spiders, poison ivy, bobcats, etc.,” says Norton. “Yet, when they were children, that was exactly what we did; and our parents encouraged it. I benefitted greatly from outdoor play, and we now have the research that shares information about those benefits. Children who play in nature our smarter, healthier and happier. It’s a fact. And our organization, a part of a state-wide and national movement, is dedicated to connecting more children to the nature-based world.”

The Nature Rocks website is a resource provided by the Texas Children in Nature Network. Nature Rocks allows its partner organizations to promote their green spaces, activities and other resources to the DFW region.

"As we are encouraging partnering organizations to get connected on Nature Rocks, we are also promoting the resource to our community members,” said Norton.

One of the ways Nature Rocks is getting more coverage too is through the development of a Speakers’ Bureau that will share information about the website with community members and potential partnering organizations. It is a free service provided by volunteers who care about connecting children and families to nature.

“The website promotes hands on learning in the outdoors because it tells families, educators and children where to go to get hands-on fun. But the main benefit is that it tells individuals exactly where they can go to learn and explore nature.”

Earlier this year, Norton used the outdoors as a metaphor to explain the's group's work: 

“Our individual efforts are like each blade of grass on a prairie, each blade of grass with its own purpose, mission and services. Stretching its individual roots deep into its community and sending its individual seeds out onto the wind and making a difference in its own unique way. The Children in Nature Network North Texas region is not one of the individual blades of grass; rather, it’s like the rhizomes connecting each blade of grass to the other thus forming a prairie. A greater movement connecting all of our individual efforts into a vast savannah: creating a healthier, happier, and smarter communities. Individually, we can and have made impacts on our community, but by working together, we are a movement, a grassroots movement.”

Children in Nature North Texas
Nature Rocks
Children in Nature North Texas is collaboration of many different organization both regional and national partners. See List

The Perot Museum of Nature and Science sponsors the Nature Rocks website.


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Rita Cook is an award winning journalist who writes or has written for the Dallas Morning News, Focus Daily News, Waxahachie Daily Light, Dreamscapes Travel Magazine, Porthole, Core Media, Fort Worth Star Telegram and many other publications in Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago.  With five books published, her latest release is “A Brief History of Fort Worth” published by History Press.  You can contact her at