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Project Nature

About Project Nature

At BestStart Washington, we know that the earlier children explore nature, the greater the positive effects.

Why Project Nature?

Project Nature, launched in 2018, is an initiative created in collaboration with community partners to empower families and caregivers to explore nature with children.

Time spent outdoors increases children’s physical activity, health, school achievement and overall wellbeing. Young children who are allowed and encouraged to explore the natural world—even with brief, regular exposure—have better knowledge of science and greater empathy for natural places.

Backed by pediatricians, Project Nature empowers families and child caregivers to explore nature with children, with a goal to reach families with the most barriers and greatest need.

Project Nature enables physicians and community organizations to increase family access to nature through well-child visits, online resources and social media.

Project Nature empowers families during well child checks for children ages 1-10 years, tailored to fit into the flow of the office.  Families receive an engaging, age-specific brochure and children are given a fun nature toy.  Both families and pediatric practices have rated Project Nature highly, while families have reported more nature time.

Practices can implement Project Nature!

In Spring 2023, the University of Washington awarded a Tier 3 pilot research grant to Project Nature. Project Nature is currently running in six pediatric practices across Washington State, outside of King County. 


  • Engaging materials about time outside. Children choose from a variety of nature toys. Access to online content to support more time spent outside.


  • Families are surveyed about their knowledge of the health effects of nature, and how much time their children spend having nature experiences.
  • Family surveys are conducted before the materials are shared with families, and then again at the conclusion of the project.


  • Virtual orientation & training led by: Dr. Danette Glassy, MD FAAP. & Dr. Pooja Tandoon, MD FAAP
  • Work flow design & Technical Assistance.
  • All patient materials and nature toys will be provided.
  • Monthly coaching calls, data collection. Onsite coaching available.
  • Participating practices will receive up to a one time $500 stipend. Potential for free MOC part 4/CME Cat 1.
  • To learn more, please click here.

“Project Nature materials provide an easy prompt to explore with families creative ways to spend time outside and highlight benefits of doing so. I learned great ideas from these exchanges that I’d then later pass on. It is an energizing space to be in and I’m hopeful will continue to gain momentum and spread.”

Julian Ayer, MD FAAP

To learn more, please contact Edna Maddalena – edna@beststartwa.org

BestStart Washington/Project Nature’s Commitment to Breaking Down Barriers Caused by Racial Inequality

BestStart Washington is committed to ensuring that all children and youth in Washington State have the opportunity to achieve their full potential. We recognize that entrenched structural racism is an unacceptable barrier to child health and potential.

In our pediatric practices, we see first-hand the negative health outcomes that arise from racism including increased infant mortality, low birth weight, increased incidence of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES), decreased school readiness, higher school drop-out rates, and mental health problems stemming from chronic stress.

We agree with our partners in King County that racism is a public health crisis with many families of color lacking sufficient access to health care and other resources to support child health and resiliency. As pediatric leaders, we have a responsibility to do much more in our practices and in our communities to end structural racism and combat its effects on child health.

We have found overwhelming evidence that nature access is a critical resource that promotes stronger physical and mental health outcomes for children. We launched Project Nature with the knowledge that children today spend less and less time exploring and moving in outdoor nature. For children and families of color this nature gap is especially stark. Historically, white-controlled systems of power—like segregation and red-lining—deliberately denied access to green spaces, parks, and pools for persons and communities of color. Constraints of money and time are also barriers for some families, especially when paired with the reality that greenspaces and parks can be severely limited in underserved communities.

We pledge to listen to families of color. With Project Nature, we are committed to building communication with black, brown, Native American and traditionally under-represented minority communities. In several studies, we have surveyed parents to ask them how often they are able to connect their children with the outdoors and what barriers they face. We recognize that fear can come with venturing out in nature as a person of color. We offer nature play kits and information to families to encourage nature contact. We are creating partnerships with like-minded individuals and organizations who are determined to create a reality where a child’s race or ethnicity will never prevent them from experiencing the joy and good health that time outdoors can bring.

Our work with BestStart Washington and Project Nature is just one small part of our larger commitment. We look forward to working with our health care colleagues in counties and in diverse communities across the state to continue to brainstorm, create, and weave together a fabric of solutions that ensures optimal health and developmental outcomes for all children in Washington.

Julian Ayer, MD, FAAP

Danette Glassy, MD, FAAP

Beth Harvey, MD, FAAP

Kimberlee Hauff, MD FAAP

Edgar K. Marcuse, MD, MPH, FAAP

Kyle Yasuda, MD, FAAP