Outdoor learning is an essential form of education and personal development, especially in the Pre-K to Kindergarten age group. Improvement in health, self confidence, social skills, and language development are among the many benefits of being outside.
The best outdoor adventure program in New York City is Upper Manhattan Forest Kids, an amazing program founded by parents Stephen and Sarita, who wanted to give their daughter a chance to learn from nature. Classes follow the Danish philosophy of Forest Kindergarten, which encourages children to play, explore and learn in a forest or natural environment.
Upper Manhattan Forest Kids offers parent-child classes in Central Park and Inwood Hill Park for children ages 1 to 6. Classes are offered on Tuesday and Saturday mornings and Saturday afternoons. Sign up for a FREE trial or semester program on Kidz Central Station!
Recently, Muniba from the Kidz Central Station team, attended an Upper Manhattan Forest Kids trial class with her five year old brother, Ali.
We met the enthusiastic group at 108th St, where Kadie greeted us and led everyone to the meetup spot. Here we found Stephan playing the Tin Flute in the middle of the forest! We proceeded to sing the welcome song and welcome everybody to the class.
Stephan introduced our first activity, “Finding the Trail.” The children take the lead as they search for blue flags tied to branches that mark the trail. This self guided activity encouraged independence, leadership, and sharp observation skills as the kids excitedly found one flag after another.
Stephan and Kadie used every moment as a learning opportunity. For instance, when we encountered a split in the forest, Stephan asked the kids questions that led to clues to help the children find the way. With minimal assistance from parents, the little ones independently found every single flag hidden throughout the trail! After the last flag was found, we got to our destination that was marked with an X.
Here, we enjoyed Danish rye bread and butter while we listened to a storybook called On This Spot: An Expedition Back Through Time. Kadie encouraged active imagination by asking kids what our environment and life would have been like hundreds of thousands of years ago.
We had a period of free play where little ones had a chance to actively explore their living environment. We discovered monarch butterflies, spiderwebs, and interesting looking sticks!
After open play, it was time to pack up our stuff and head back. Stephan invited each child to take a turn leading the way back. We made it all the way back to our meet up spot led entirely by the kids!
We sang our goodbye song and said goodbye to our new friends, teachers, the animals, and the plants.
Our class with Upper Manhattan Forest Kids was an incredible experience for Ali and me. This class reminded me how much we can learn by spending time in nature. For Ali, it taught him how to be more observant and to think critically.
Stephan and Sarita have developed an amazing program that promotes independence and growth within your child by giving them a chance to learn with movement, freedom, and imagination.