Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve is hosting two new programs this school year in response to the growing demand for safe social gatherings in a time of physical distancing, school shutdowns, and heavy screen-based learning. Thrive Forest School, the preserve’s groundbreaking forest preschool, has been offering a nature-immersion experience for children three-to-five years of age for the past three school years. Their new program, Afternoon Adventurers, continues the nature immersion experience for kids in grades K-4, and the W.I.L.D. Adventurers Co-Op offers school curriculum for children in grades K-3.
W.I.L.D. Adventurers Co-Op is a homeschool group that holds classes at Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve two days per week. Parents are the teachers, nature is the classroom, and the groups follow two curriculums (Blossom & Root and Wild Math) which utilize nature in most of the lessons (e.g., using acorns to solve math puzzles or using sticks to form letters of the alphabet). W.I.L.D. Adventurers is run by two parents who are elementary educators and whose children attended Thrive but aged out of the program. The co-op pays for access to the nature center at Creasey Mahan as well as having access to outdoor picnic tables on the grounds.
Thrive Afternoon Adventurers is a nature-immersion program similar to Thrive’s forest preschool, but designed for children in grades K-4. Ryan Devlin, the Director of Thrive Forest School said that the program was created to help children and families strike a balance during this challenging time of screen-based learning, adding, “Children of all ages benefit from unstructured time in nature, but it is especially important now, as kids are more isolated and reliant on screens than during a typical school year. At Afternoon Adventurers children can be amongst peers, exploring and playing outside in all weather, throughout the school year.” Afternoon Adventurers meets twice per week from 1:30pm to 4pm.
Thrive plans to offer a full-time forest kindergarten option next year, along with a full-time after-school program for children who are enrolled in traditional indoor school. Afternoon Adventurers and the W.I.L.D. Co-Op will provide key learnings that will translate to those full-time programs. “Nature is the answer,” says Devlin, “Whether a child is three years old and learning how to socialize with peers for the first time, or whether she’s in fourth grade and needing to decompress after a day of heavy focus on academics. A couple hours in the forest– in the mud, in the rain, in the snow… that time is pure magic.”