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Forest climbing frame

Outdoor Learning

Posted by: Rhonda March 1, 2016

What do you do if your kids are “bouncing off the walls”? Remove the walls!

In response to the “indoor-ification” of childhood, nature-based programs are popping up like mushrooms. Spending from 50-100% of the day outside, children receive the benefits of open spaces and fresh air, while learning from hands-on experiences.

I visited such a program last fall after hearing about their natural climbing frame. In the gray November woods, the climbing structure was almost invisible except for the bevy of six-year-olds skillfully navigating through branches they had collected from a nearby wood clearing project. An engineering marvel, there was nothing holding the structure together except for the gravitational pressure of fork against fork. Yet it hardly even wiggled.

This class had also adopted the nearby woods as their “nature preserve”, learning about the local wildlife and transplanting hundreds of native tree seedlings. A small stream offered hours of dam building and exploration. A shallow pond provided foundational studies in field biology. For the kids though, it was all simply play.

Programs such as this offer us a glimpse of what childhood used to be, and still can be. “If we look to these examples, we might be able to rescue childhood” writes David Sobel. Learn more.