New Nature-Based Collaborative Network Forming in Stateline Area: WINN for Kids – Wisconsin Illinois Nature Network for Kids
Healthier, happier children and families was the focus of a recent meeting of a group of environmental educators, health officials, park administrators, teachers, and conservationists at Welty Environmental Center. The intention of the meeting was to introduce a new collaborative effort, WINN for Kids, to organizations in the Stateline community that have a stake in developing children who are happier, healthier, and better engaged in school as a result of being outdoors and connected to nature on a regular basis.
WINN for Kids (Wisconsin Illinois Nature Network) will be a collaborative organization that will initially focus on the communities of Beloit, South Beloit, Rockton, and Roscoe, with future expansion envisioned. The representatives steering this collaboration are Heidi Andre, head of the science department at Beloit Memorial High School; Therese Oldenburg, from Nature at the Confluence and Be Active Outdoors, Inc.; and Brenda Plakans, from Welty Environmental Center. The concept of WINN for Kids was inspired by CiNCA (Children in Nature Collaborative of Austin) in Austin, TX, a successful organization started in 2010 that has grown to 41 member organizations.
“I met the CiNCA team at a conference and was inspired in what they are doing in Austin and felt that our region would benefit from the same type of collaboration and focus”, said Therese Oldenburg. “WINN for Kids will offer the opportunity to envision and shape the future of our communities’ neighborhoods, education system, health care system, public health, recreation, and business development with the natural world as a central organizing principle. These efforts will offer our communities an opportunity to stand out, and to enhance our region’s quality of life.”
The initial WINN for Kids meeting was facilitated by Pam J. Clark Reidenbach from the Northern Illinois Center for Nonprofit Excellence (NICNE), to determine the initiative’s mission. Using small-group work from the initial meeting to define goals and mission, WINN for Kids will hold a second meeting on March 16. This second meeting will expand the invite list to other key organizations that are vested in the overall impact of the project, to help identify its goals and metrics. The Stateline Community Foundation is providing the startup funds to establish the framework for the group.
The desired outcome from these two meetings is to structure a plan to create a formalized collaborative network of organizations working towards the common goal of creating a healthier regional community. “It was very energizing to get a group of like-minded organizations in the room, sharing our ideas of how to get kids and their families outside and the implications for ‘normalizing nature’ in our community. I look forward to the ongoing conversations and seeing how these ideas become a part of Stateline children’s daily lives,” said Plakans.