Free Forest School is a nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding kids’ access to unstructured play in nature through collaborations with parents, child care providers, educators, schools and civic leaders. Our vision is to bring outdoor play back as a core experience of childhood in the United States.
Research shows that nature play is key to healthy development. Time outdoors is needed more than ever right now as children and caregivers deal with added stress and instability.
Free Forest School was founded as a play group in 2015 with the vision of creating free, accessible nature play opportunities through a neighborhood collective. Today, Free Forest School has grown into a national network with chapters in 170 communities. Emphasizing child-led exploration and play, Free Forest School play groups bring families together to create rich, nature-based learning experiences for kids birth to age 8. Free Forest School has also collaborated with several Minneapolis Public Schools to build capacity for emergent outdoor learning.
While COVID-19 has our in-person programs on hold, we remain fiercely committed to equitable access to nature play for all children of different backgrounds, cultures, and abilities.
Parents and caregivers have vocalized that they are less likely to congregate outside but the connection, resources and empowerment that Free Forest School (FFS) provides is needed more than ever before. To continue the connections, resources and empowerment among our communities we created Everyday Outside--a virtual space where parents and caregivers are invited to connect via our vast network of Facebook communities, blogs, and resources.
During this time of pause Free Forest School is dedicated to hearing the voices of our communities to structure our programs moving forward in ways that promote equitable access and best answer caregivers' needs. Our process includes surveys, working groups, community calls, and consultation with experts and leaders.
From these conversations we have gained a wealth of information and a clear direction. Participants have shared the importance of peer-to-peer support among caregivers, the need to revamp our model to prioritize access and inclusion, and the importance of celebrating our diverse connections to the natural world. We hear that caregivers of young children, isolated from so many other opportunities, need support and resources for outdoor play now more than ever.
We believe having open and honest conversations about the barriers kids and families face to accessing nature play will allow us to provide better resources and opportunities to all communities. For more information and up to date progress visit: https://www.freeforestschool.org/community-visioning-2020/
Your donation will help strengthen our ability to collaborate with parents, child care providers, educators, schools and civic leaders, and to find innovative ways to expand equitable access to outdoor play and deploy vital resources to empower caregivers.