2022 Grants Challenge

Nature is in Play

Nature is in Play, where open space in LA provides us with a wondrous environment to be curious, observe, learn, and have fun with friends and family. Nature Nexus Institute programs strive to provide equitable access to green spaces through community nature walks, nature discovery trips for schools, and student and community environmental events. We encourage intergenerational learning and nature storytelling that leads to lifelong learning and nature stewardship.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Green Space, Park Access, and Trees

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

Central LA

South LA

West LA

LAUSD (select only if you have a district-wide partnership or project)

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

Our target communities have not only suffered the brunt of pandemic impacts, but suffer from poor air quality, have significant socio-economic needs and a high degree of racial/ethnic health disparity. They may face barriers related to environmental justice and a fear of not being welcome in some nature activities or lack outdoor knowledge and experience. We seek to foster positive nature experiences in order to dispel fears and stigmas related to nature by encouraging engagement with the natural world through experiential learning. Nature Nexus programs provide physical exercise, social connections, mindfulness, and emotional well-being activities as participants experience nature up-close observing birds, wildlife, native plants, and insects in the scenic park settings.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

Expand equitable access to green spaces for BIPOC communities and schools via nature walks at sites that include; Ballona Wetlands, Baldwin Hills Parklands, and beaches in LA County. Guided by staff, interns, and docents, the walks will stimulate the senses as participants 1) observe the biodiversity of flora/fauna found in LA, 2) learn how native plants provide food and shelter for wildlife, 3) learn how to use binoculars to view wildlife, 4) discover the geological and ecological history of the land, 5) gain an understanding of the Ballona Creek Watershed and, 6) learn how to reduce pollution and conserve water and natural resources. We will collaborate with a neighborhood yoga group serving BIPOC communities to lead a sensory educational nature hike in the Baldwin Hills Parklands, observing native plants and wildlife as we follow the scenic park trails to the yoga site. After-school nature/STEAM programs will engage high school students in year-long nature activities that teams students with biologists and restoration ecologists to actively engage in environmental stewardship that provides pathways to career and higher education endeavors. Exceptional Children’s Foundation (ECF) also serves adults with developmental disabilities. Participants engage with NNI in habitat restoration and nature walks where they learn to identify bird and plant species. ECF participants expressed how they felt to be out in nature as happy, relaxed, beautiful, excited, at peace, and free.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

We seek to foster positive nature experiences in order to dispel fears and stigmas related to nature by encouraging engagement with the natural world through life-long experiential learning. The Nature Nexus Institute aims for equitable access to nature-based opportunities in an effort to support communities in deepening their sense of place and belonging in the great outdoors. We believe that when people connect to nature in our city through meaningful, joyful activities, they then seek ways to care for it. People, habitats, and wildlife all stand to benefit when communities can connect to nature. Our outdoor programs’ success is measured by the number of participants, and by program alumni who have pursued careers in environmental science and education. We’ve had students earn positions with Friends of the LA River, Natural History Museum, California State Parks, Environment for the Americas, and others who have worked to improve the environmental health of their local neighborhoods.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

This program expands on the successful nature education programs (which serve 5,000+ people) that the Nature Nexus team built under the wings of Los Angeles Audubon during the past 14 years. Now as a new stand-alone nonprofit organization, Nature Nexus Institute (NNI) will broaden its reach to listen, learn and engage with more BIPOC communities and youth. Our staff includes BIPOC youth who were some of the first cohorts of our high school environmental leadership program, achieved college degrees, and returned to LA to become program managers and directors at NNI. Our staff is a reflection of the communities that they serve. We are proud of our program alumni who have pursued careers in STEM, environmental science and outdoor education. We will measure success by the number of students and community members we engage, and the number of activities we can offer, aimed at sparking joy in nature for all.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 5,000

Indirect Impact: 10,000