By Deb Lahey, President & CEO, Chicago Academy of Sciences / Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
As we reflect on a day dedicated to a fearless and inclusive leader, I am reminded of all the insightful lessons Martin Luther King Jr. has gifted us through his words and actions. These lessons have the ability to resonate with many different elements of our lives.
For me, today reminds me of the importance of equality in nature access and environmental education. Regular access to nature, whether it is time outdoors in a park or prairie, sitting next to a lake, or hiking in the forest, is proven to offer many benefits from reducing stress and improving health to increasing creativity and improving children’s aptitude for problem solving that contributes to academic success. The more we learn about the benefits of regular connections and access to nature, the more critical it becomes to ensure equality of access.
I strongly believe all children should have equal opportunities to experience the gifts and benefits of nature. Unfortunately, there remains a wide gap in equality to access for many children, especially minorities and those who live in cities.
Our team at the Nature Museum is continually evaluating and extending our reach and offerings with a goal of getting deeper into more Chicago neighborhoods, especially those with diverse populations whose access to nature and environmental education may be limited.
MLK’s activism was centered around the theme of justice. Today, I’m reflecting on the injustice of the continued diversity divide in nature access and education. It is my goal, and the collective work of our team here at the Nature Museum, to narrow that gap in Chicago by increasing inclusivity and access to nature for all.
Everyone, especially children, deserve to experience the joys, peace and benefits that nature provides.