Have you ever heard the saying, "Not all classrooms have four walls"?
HIKEhoppers has officially created an outdoor classroom for kids...
but not just ANY classroom! This classroom eliminates more than the walls of a brick & mortar school. It transforms such things as teacher-led instruction into learner-centered conversation and development. Instead of giving kids problems to solve, it encourages them to build awareness and identify problems on their own by asking questions, evoking a more personalized approach. It raises the relevancy of children's designs & creations because what they produce is exhibited in a public forum FOR the public!.
And that's just the educational standpoint!
Park Play also incorporates physical movement and exercise each day through hiking, team-building games, and other activities.
It's PHYSICALLY good for kids!
Not only that, but the fresh air and natural environment that surround our camps boosts emotional awareness, so it's MENTALLY good for them too. Add in the fact that we highlight healthy risk-taking on a daily basis, and you've got yourself one incredibly powerful learning and growing opportunity for our kids.
Learning: Designed & Created For Kids!
As a learning architect for HIKEhoppers, each and every learning experience is designed around the philosophy that in order to grow, the needs of the whole child must be met. We've created opportunities that not only embed state standards, but also draw from professional training and research on child development and best practices in education. We know kids need space to explore and imagine, to feel safe in asking any and all questions, to be given the "thumbs up" to try something new and different, and to know their ideas and contributions to our community are equally valued by all.
Welcome to Park Play;
In the beginning, it was all about getting people outdoors during the winter months - providing the community with an incentive-style event that drew out those who wouldn't even think of stepping outside if the temperatures dropped below freezing.
But it became
Erin & Enik used their passion for the outdoors to create action with their family.
We participated in the Park Escape at Wildwood/Kraemer Lake over MEA weekend. The Escape was a lot more challenging than we had expected, and the park was a beautiful backdrop to a fun family adventure. When I saw the Park Blast advertised, I knew it would be another great opportunity to get outside, log several thousand steps and a chance to find clues to some great prizes from local businesses.
My favorite story from Erin...Date Night
Recruiting Extended Family to Hike
How Park Blast Ignited the Fire Within...
As much as a weekend stay with him at a Hampton Inn somewhere quiet and warm appealed to my every being, I knew it just wasn't in the cards for us. Living off of one income with one kid in hockey and another in choir tends to make you think about what is truly important in life...and I feel grateful for the challenge to live more simply.
"Hon, you and I both know that taking a plane someplace warm probably isn't the best choice of spending our money right now," I replied.
But then he responded with something amazing - something profound.
"I didn't mean jet ourselves to a remote beach, dear...
How about the two of us head out for a day hike?"
That hiking day turned out to be one of the best vacations I've ever been on with my husband of 13 years. We walked, we talked, and we soaked in the beauty of winter's gifts to nature. We relished in the silence and stillness of the woods, and heightened our senses to be more aware of the sights, sounds, and smells around us. It was a perfect escape to rediscover my peace and my partner all in one day.
And I'll tell you a little secret...by the end of it, we were ready to return to our littles and join them in a crazy game of ball tag - IN. THE. HOUSE.
When I finally walked over to the pine tree area, I didn’t see them anywhere...MY KIDS WERE GONE.
Now, those of you who are parents understand the “rush” that comes when your kids exit a vehicle. They immediately take off to explore while you work to unpack and prepare for whatever is coming. Needless to say, when I finally walked over to the aforementioned pine tree area, I didn’t see them anywhere.
They were building an awareness of their own thresholds -
the crossover between comfortable risk-taking
and a dangerous kamikaze jump
The world needs thinkers, inventors, explorers, innovators, creators, and doers. We need to give the world what it needs by allowing our kids to become risk-takers, free-thinkers, and challengers of their own abilities. With these freedoms also come the respect of and pride for our natural surroundings. Nature is all-encompassing, and instead of shielding our children from the possible perils of adventure, we must embrace and return to our original roots of learning, connecting, and growing authentically.
"A child's mind is not a container to be filled
but rather a fire to be kindled."~Dorothea Brande
It started with two simple words: "I'm Bored".
It occurred to me that he (my son) had been reprogrammed to expect busyness as the norm...
"I think it's necessary to let kids get bored once in a while - that's how they learn to be creative." ~Kim Raver
Enter Park Play Outdoor Camps.
We take play in the parks seriously.
each takes place in nature,
and each empowers kids to become creators
and inventors using the natural world.
From engineering a natural playground to creating art pieces for a "Museum of Natural Art", Park Play Camps join experiential learning with a child's ability to imagine and invent. From designing "escape" trails to constructing natural trail markers making paths easier to navigate, each camp allows kids to ideate, research, and develop contributions that are exhibited to and offered for public use and enjoyment, making them contributors to their community.
this summer at
I spent much of the first part of the weekend reading with them, reading to them, playing board games, dolls, school, and even had a "Spa" set up for the full works of pampering.
I won't even mention the number of Legos, slivers of cardboard from their "art" creations, and random socks strewn throughout the house either....
It was time.
Don't forget that the excitement of the outdoors also builds when you model it for your kids. Get out there yourself. Bundle up and wear layers. Take time to adventure in the outdoors when the temperatures are not in your favor, but the crispness of the air and the stillness of the trees and forest floor offer a beauty unmatched in any other season.
There comes a time when we must realize that winter provides an untapped serenity and beauty for those of us ready to discover it.
So how can we fulfill our wishes to stay warm and cozy AND reconnect with nature on a consistent basis through winter?
Bundle up and wear layers. Invest in good quality outdoor attire.
It's that easy.
I made the choice to take my children on a winter hike in a snow-laden park. Even though we were all adorned with our ultimate snow gear, my son, who is an avid climber of any fallen tree, ended up getting snow in his boots. He began complaining of having cold feet halfway into our 4-mile hike, and made it only a few hundred more feet before his attitude about our expedition started getting sour.
So what did I do? I stopped and sat next to him on a stump, and the two of us helped him exchange his wet socks for one pair of fuzzy insulated socks I had on. From that point on, he was back to his explorer-self, and I beamed with pride knowing that I had prepared for something I didn't anticipate happening, and it saved the experience for us all.
Don't be afraid of winter. Instead, welcome her by preparing to battle the elements so that you can continue to strengthen your body, calm your mind, and feed your soul. Nature always calls. Winter is her way of challenging us to do what is right and good for our own well-being.
- How often do they play outside? And for how long?
- When given a choice, would these children choose to do an inside activity or an outside one?
- When given an ultimatum such as, "Do your homework/chores or go outside," do these kids choose the former option?
But we can do something about it...
Finding ways for youth to reclaim their connection with the outdoors is easier than you think. Thanks to the efforts of organizations and passionate outdoor enthusiasts, there is evidence that kids are getting outdoors more. With growing opportunities to enroll in outdoor preschools, camps, and classes, it is becoming easier for kids to journey back into nature. Government entities are also doing their part to get kids and their families outdoors, educate them, and offer experiences that bring the deep connection of humans and nature back to life.
But even with entities providing opportunities for children and their families, the movement to regain our connection to nature lies within each of us. When we rediscover what it means to spend time outdoors for ourselves, we innately transfer this discovery to our children. When we model enthusiasm for reconnecting with nature, our children adopt - and develop an ownership - of this same mentality.
It's time to join the movement of reclaiming what was once lost - our connection to the outdoors. When we rediscover this essential connection, we will no doubt pass along the value of nature to our current generation of children. And when our children find their own personal relationship with nature, they will be more apt to participate in conservation and appreciation efforts.
As Sir David Attenborough so eloquently stated, "NO ONE will protect what they don't care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced."
Let's breathe life back into these lost boys and girls by offering experiences in the outdoors. Let's bring back the wild in our children.
Welcome! I'm a wife of one amazing man, a mother to two amazing kids, and a seeker of all things that inspire change for the better.
Whether experiencing nature's healing powers or finding the joy in living simply, I believe becoming actively aware of finding joy in simplicity and just BEING and are what life is all about!