Nature for All

April 20, 2023
Nature for All kids in various examples of outdoor exploration.

Excerpts from "EarthKids Celebrates 30 Years of Positive Impact", an article featured in the Spring 2023 Issue of Newsleaf by Membership Manager Laura Schmid.

Click here to learn more about Nature for All.

Connecting kids to nature is part of the foundation of Cincinnati Nature Center. In fact, our founder, Stanley Rowe, had a vision for the property: a wooded preserve where the children of Cincinnati would be taught to appreciate and understand the natural world.

Today, the Nature Center serves thousands of children every year. Visit us any day of the week and you’ll see kids hiking, making mud pies, building forts, or turning logs over to discover treasures beneath. 

Nature for All (formally EarthKids) introduces nature to youth from under-resourced communities by offering nature-play programs onsite and offsite in urban-core parks and schools. All programs are provided at no cost so that nature can be introduced to those who may not have the financial means to participate otherwise.

While it’s a year-round program, summer camp remains the backbone of the Nature for All experience. 

Camp Director Kelly Steyer knows the difference a week of camp can make. “Giving these kids an opportunity that they wouldn’t normally experience opens a wide range of possibilities for their future,” Kelly said. “They may think about a career in conservation, or perhaps they will simply have a better relationship with nature. Either way, that’s success to me.” 

Mandie Klosterman, Foster Care Team Lead at Beech Acres Parenting Center, shared, “This camp was an amazing opportunity for our foster youth! Being able to get outside and engage in hands-on activities is always so beneficial for them, for both their physical and mental health.” 

"Giving these kids an opportunity that they wouldn’t normally experience opens a wide range of possibilities for their future." - Kelly Steyer, Camp Director


In 2014, we expanded Nature for All (formally EarthKids) by forming partnerships with more agencies, specifically those that provide direct service to families and children who are economically disadvantaged and with limited access to green space. Some of our offerings now include: 

Onsite programs: One-day Nature Outings (social service organizations bring children for just one day to hike and play in the Nature PlayScape); school maple hikes; Nature Sparks hiking program. 

Onsite school field trips: The Nature Center provides free school field trip experiences for schools that serve populations that struggle to afford extra costs. This includes the program as well as bussing services. 

Offsite programs: In 2019, we established a partnership with 3CDC to lead Pop-up Play programs in Washington Park and programming for Ziegler Park summer camps (2-6 grades). We take our programs on the road and deliver them to the kids where they are. 

Offsite programs at schools: In 2021, we took our Schoolyard Families Forward program to Bond Hill Academy, Carson, and Hays-Porter schools. 


Expanding Our Impact

The Nature for All model grew from about 150 participants in 2013 to 2,105 children served in 2022. (We served 1,118 in 2021—an 88% increase!) 

  • 2,105 children served in 2022 through EarthKids programs: 
  • 227 onsite programs
  • 1,528 onsite school field trips 
  • 188 offsite programs
  • 162 offsite at schools


Earlier this summer, for the first time, the Nature Center hosted UpSpring (serving children and youth experiencing homelessness) for a One-day Nature Outing. Jen Hetzler, Visitor Experience Coordinator, could tell the difference just one day made. 

“Some of the kids were amazed when we encouraged them to get dirty, pick up rocks, and touch a frog,” Jen said. “By the end of the day, they were genuinely engaged.” 

Melissa Sabo, School Program Manager, leads the Ziegler Park summer programs. 

“One day each week, we provide a nature station for the children,” Melissa said. “We do a lot of exploration in their space using tools like scavenger hunts, games, and activities focused on specific features or natural items. We often focus on things they can find at home, like dandelions and pill bugs to show that nature isn’t just at the Nature Center or other nature preserves. Nature is right where they are.

“We are able to see the same kids week after week, which provides a better chance for us to have a long-term impact.” 

In its 30th year, Nature for All continues to evolve, and Stanley Rowe’s vision remains. 

“We can’t know what happens with kids and their nature connections once they leave our programs, but we are hoping to change the comfort level they have in nature now,” Melissa reflected. “Our job is to make sure they connect, feel safe, and feel cared for in that space.” 

Your support helps us do just that.

For more information about Nature for All, please email