Would You Send Your Child To An Outdoor School?

Why Dirt & Fresh Air Are Educational

By Courtney Daly-Pavone July 2, 2019

Helicopter Parents, Bulldozer Parents (yes they exist) listen up! Fresh air, dirt, bugs, and the occasional scraped knee is actually good for your child's psyche, and helps build their connection to the natural world. It's been well documented by naturalist and author Richard Louv who coined the term Nature Deficit Disorder over a decade ago describing a generation of children that were growing up nature deprived. Since then, outdoor school has been gaining momentum across the globe. Parents ditching their kids devices for mud pies, and the children aren't looking back. 

A year ago The Free Forest School popped up in San Diego. I spoke to Sandy Algra director of this free outdoor school about the nature movement, and how kids benefit from fresh air.

"The idea that children can explore risky behavior is so wonderful. Yes, your child will fall off a rock, will slip off a branch, will smash his finger with a stone. But instead of an adult always preventing those things from happening, the children will learn their own limits. And Free Forest School has been just as beneficial to the grown ups. You're expected to do less, talk less, leave your phone behind. That's not something many adults are given the opportunity to do often either," said Algra.

The goal of the school is to provide families and children access to place-based, child-led play in nature. 

Ms Algra states, "All of our outings are in natural spaces. We have them on public land so that there are no financial barriers to attending (parking is free, entrance is free, etc). We have regular events at nature exploration areas (so-called loose-parts nature play areas. they are "playgrounds" but not in the traditional sense) and at all kinds of locations, from beaches, to forests, to creeks, to mountains."

The Free Forest School is for children ages 0-6, older siblings are welcome, but the programming is aimed at younger children (circle time, nursery songs).

Why Outdoor Play Matters

"It's SO important, and not just for kids! I'm always honest about how I'm not one of those "nature-loving moms" myself. I lived in NYC for many years. I like air conditioning. I don't love bugs. BUT, I know how critically important it is for my children to experience the natural world regularly. Many families are easily scared inside by bugs, rattlesnakes, poison oak, ticks, and many other real and perceived danger of being outside. But I have found that when many families can get together to support each other through the unknown, it helps tremendously. I have had parents thank me because it's the first time their child has ever climbed a tree! Or touched a bug! or picked up a feather! There are so many amazing things outside that a touch screen could never recreate. And it's important for everyone to realize that the "real" world sometimes smells funny, has animal poop in it, and is a little bit dangerous," says Algra.

Try a Class Today!

According to Ms. Algra, "I want families to understand how easy it becomes to leave the toys, devices, and strollers behind. Kids will find something they love and will immerse themselves in it in ways you can't even imagine. "

For More Information Click Here: The Free Forest School

Click Subscribe & Join Central San Diego Macaroni Kid It's Free!