Free Forest School is a nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding kids’ access to unstructured play in nature through collaborations with parents, grandparents, caregivers of any kind, child care providers, educators, schools, and civic leaders. Our vision is a world where every child grows up playing outdoors.
Research shows that nature play is key to healthy development, and time outdoors is needed now more than ever.
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 become part of a larger cultural shift and movement, supporting experiences of magical connection with nature and community in more than 230 counties across 49 states, and growing.
In May 2021, we launched the Our Outdoors community platform, connecting 7000 caregivers to nearby nature, each other, and the resources needed to make outdoor play a routine part of their lives. Emphasizing child-led exploration and play, Our Outdoors events bring families together to create rich, nature-based learning experiences for kids from birth to age 8.
Free Forest School has also collaborated with several Minneapolis Public Schools to build capacity for emergent outdoor learning. We work on the ground with partners in our home community of Minneapolis / St. Paul to create access to nature play for kids facing significant barriers. We also partner with national organizations, universities, and non-profits to broaden the nature play movement through research, conferences, forums and alliances.
While building toward our vision, Free Forest School continues to develop tools and resources for families and local organizations to address barriers to getting outside, as well as resources to empower community members to practice supporting unstructured nature play, healthy risk-taking, and child-led learning.
In addition to our ongoing efforts, plans for 2022 include:
- Developing resources for educators to incorporate unstructured outdoor play in school curricula
- Initiating Phase 4 and 5 of the Our Outdoors platform launch to deepen connections through peer support networks and create more accessible pathways to outdoor play based on the Community Visioning in 2020
- Providing more opportunities for interpersonal connection through live calls, discussion groups, workshops, mentorship, and more
- Developing new local partnerships and programs to increase access to outdoor play
With your support, Free Forest School is mobilizing a culture shift by empowering caregivers, teachers, and community members across all 50 states to integrate outdoor play in kids’ lives. We can only do this in partnership with the community and supporters like you.
Donate today to support families everywhere in connecting to nature, culture, and each other through outdoor play.