The Friends of the Middlesex Fells Reservation have announced they are now offering a new all-day program for students 5 to 10-plus years of age. Programs are offered to families in Medford, Melrose, Malden, Stoneham and Winchester, and surrounding communities.
They will be offer offering youth programs in the following levels: Forest Kindergarten, from 4-5; Forest Explorers, from 5-7; and Forest Adventurers, from 8-10-plus. Dates are July and August. The programs are expanding into an all-day format due to popular demand.
“Why should families send their children to our program? Our years of experience, our dedicated and well-trained instructors (all of whom CORI checked and have first aid and CPR training), and most importantly for the chance for the children to experience what we informally call ‘structured unstructured play.’ How do the children learn? Through experiencing nature at their own pace, the program is child-led.” The philosophy of the Friends is explained in more detail on their website, friendsofthefells.org/parents-instructor-info.
The program is now all-day, at a cost of $350 per week. According to Forest Instructor Kelli Michelle Hanson, the impact the programs can have on young participants has been clear to her during her time with the program. “We have had several children with Autism Spectrum Disorder attend our program. One struggles with being flexible when things don’t necessarily go as expected; one has Sensory Processing Disorder; one lacks an appropriate level of impulse control,” Hanson said. “Every day I watch children with ASD try to navigate a classroom, a playground, a gaggle of peers and teachers and therapists. And then I go to the Fells and spend two hours in a glorious setting with my co-instructor and a very small, integrated group of children and it is a completely different world. There is very little structure, and absolutely no ‘instructional materials.’ Just the sky, the wind, the pond, and endless amounts of sticks and rocks and leaves.”
Hanson said the programs are a perfect way to bring out the child in every youngster. “We build forts. We throw rocks in the water to see how far they will go and what kind of sound they will make. We search for the perfect hiking stick. We walk. There are no barriers between the children with special needs and the typical children,” she said. “There is no ‘us’ vs. ‘them.’ There is no natural or manufactured segregation. We all play together in the forest and discover whether a certain stick will float or sink. We all (to paraphrase an old adage) just get along. For information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 781-662-2340.