DANI: All right, here we are, talking again, you and I, one of the best parts of my week.
KATY: Woo hoo!
DANI: Today is very special because this month marks the one-year podcast anniversary.
KATY: Oh my goodness!
DANI: A year ago this month we started the Katy Says podcast, and I just want to say to you, “Happy Anniversary.” This has been a really fun year for me.
KATY: What’s the one-year anniversary? Paper?
DANI: Well, and here’s the rub: I didn’t get you anything.
KATY: Oh my gosh, I didn’t get you anything, either!
DANI: I know you’re not a “stuff” person, I figured, eh, she don’t care!
KATY: No, I don’t. I don’t mind at all. So, happy anniversary.
DANI: Happy anniversary to you. Thank you, it has been a blast.
KATY: Yeah. We need some champagne.
DANI: Yes, we’ve learned a lot. This episode of Katy Says is cool for other reasons, because we are going to talk about nature school. Right now, most kids in America spend 7 hours a day sitting in a chair inside a building for their education, but there are other options, one of them being nature school. Today we’re going to talk about the nature school in your community, and we’re going to talk about what other schools in the U.S. and around the world are doing to help decrease what is known as nature deficit disorder. We’re also going to offer some first steps that you can take to get a nature school started in your own community if you’re curious or maybe help find one near you.
KATY: Or, if I could just pop in, maybe if you’re like, there’s no way I’m starting a school, thanks, I already have a job – like, maybe just even taking tiny tidbits of what we talk about today and just implementing them 15 minutes a day into your life, what you do on weekends with your groups of friends. So – if – don’t turn it off just because you’re like, there’s no way I can, like, balk the traditional education system. We’re talking about, like, broader than that, I would say.
DANI: Absolutely. And I have some resources that we’re going to talk about at the end of the show for that very reason.
DANI: To help you kind of just take those bits and pieces and move them into your life, because yeah, you don’t have to go all Maria Montessori on us and start a new trend, but you could do little things that help get the same benefits as a nature school.
DANI: Yeah, I don’t have time to start a school, either.
KATY: Yeah, I’ll start one tomorrow in my free time.
DANI: Sounds good.
KATY: All right, bring it.
DANI: There’s a difference between nature camp, you know, like, Timbernook or when you go to camp in the summer, and a nature school. What’s a nature school?
KATY: Um, well, I guess it’s just it’s probably just the difference is – it has to do with time. You know, a camp is this isolated – you either go away and live there for a week or you go every day for a week and then you return to your regular life. You know, there’s – I’m just trying to – I’m trying to actually recall, I know I went to camp. But it didn’t leave that big of an impression on me. I think I went to, like, a Girl Scout camp a few times. But nature school is your schooling happening in a natural setting. And there’s a couple different types of nature school – you know, nature school is like a category. There are schools that have a much stiffer curriculum where they’re actually doing traditional curriculums just outside. And then there are schools in which the curriculum is nature, and that changes – I mean, it changes depending on the, I guess the mission of the school, but then also depending also on the year of the students. So preschools set in a natural setting would be different than 6th and 8th grades in a natural setting. And there are those types of schools, but they’re going to be different. So I would just say that what we’re talking about right now is schooling that happens in a natural setting, so everything that you are, um, not necessarily everything item to item that you’re getting out of school – but you wouldn’t be going to natural school and also to regular school, although there are survival schools, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about your curriculum, your preschool, your first grade, your third grade happening in nature.
DANI: Yeah, and there are probably more nature preschools, you know, and kindergartens than there are for older grades right now in the United States.
KATY: I would say so, and probably the world.
DANI: Yeah. Okay, so, why would a nature school matter to me?
KATY: Gosh, how long is this episode? I mean, I don’t know why it would matter.
DANI: Well, it is your anniversary, so, you can have anything you want!
KATY: Especially because I didn’t get you anything – feel free to talk! Um, why it matters to you would probably be different than why it matters to me. All I can speak of is why it matters to me. You know, right now we’re constantly spending billions of dollars on research, on people who are ill, on children who are struggling whether you’re talking about physically or emotionally or psychologically. Communities – there are so many problems, right? There are problems. Yet, for me, when you’re looking at trying to solve a problem you want to make sure you’re asking the right question, and I think understanding – especially, you know, after you talked about Nature Deficit Disorder at the beginning of this show, you mentioned it, and it’s the term that was coined by Richard Louv – and do you remember the title of his book?
DANI: Last Child in the Woods.
KATY: Last Child in the Woods. So that gives a good framework for – you know, there’s so many research articles on different aspects, like, we call nature an environment, but there’s all these different reductions of nature: to vitamin D, and light exposure and what’s coming off of the trees and an abundant amount of walking, and fresh air, and dirt, and microbiome, and all these fractured pieces. But when you put them all together, as you can read in Richard’s book – I talk about him like he’s my friend, my friend Richard, he wrote this book and you should get it. I just like to be familiar with people right off the bat. You realize that people have really assembled giant bodies of research for you and it’s like, okay, animals do well in a natural environment, there’s a particular habitat. So I just felt like – to continue in my own home the discussion about, like, the giant elephant in the room which is, we’re not supposed to be sitting as much, we’re supposed to be moving more, we need more outdoor time – yet the biggest road block to that is that we have this system in which you go into the school as a very young child and begin decades of sitting to prepare you for decades more of sitting. You know, it’s kind of my Stop the Insanity! Moment. Just be like, let’s – let’s just not – I couldn’t put my kids into a sitting school. I, personally, couldn’t. Like, I felt very out of alignment, if you will, with the decision like that, and we were very fortunate that – we did not have an existing nature school here before. It just happened to start the year that my oldest child was about to go into a preschool.
KATY: And so –
DANI: That was good luck!
KATY: It was good luck! And you know, they’re preschoolers. I was like, well, you know, I don’t have older kids. So a lot of people who have a lot of children or who are teachers, they have a broader sense of education and other parents have – like, I’m just really starting to like, the education for your children is a huge time consumption for your mind. Like, the number of decisions and the pros and cons list that you’re constantly having to weigh – it’s no joke. It’s a serious use of my – of my computer hard drive. Like, my memory’s constantly smoking, going, do I do this, or do I do it that way?
KATY: Am I not getting too much of this, or too much of that? Like, so – whatever parent is listening to this right now, it’s like, whatever you’re doing is like, there’s no judgment on whatever decision people are making. It’s just that this is what we decided was perfect and so we went into nature school. And why it’s important to me is mostly for physiological and biochemical and biomechanical reasons. I just felt that all of the things that I help people with later on in their life starts now, and so what if I didn’t – what if I learned from that experience, and had the opportunity to choose something different, and so I chose something different.
DANI: Wow. You benefit, and we benefit. Because then we get to learn about it while you’re learning about it, so that’s cool.
KATY: Yeah, I’m learning about it with you.
DANI: Yeah, that’s great. Let’s go back to that physiological requirement. I’m sure there are a lot of parents or kids that would balk at what would be required, because you’re not just sitting, you’re doing all sorts of stuff. Can you kind of go into that?
KATY: You mean what –
DANI: What kind of things – um –
KATY: You mean at nature school?
KATY: Um, well, it looks different – I mean, there’s – it’s – I’ll say that it’s constant movement, but it’s not like an exercise school. There’s lots of still inquiry, you know, lots of – you know, you’re moving through the forest in many cases, and of course, every day is different, so there is no – there’s not as strict of a routine where you’re trying to manage the space of a room. It’s like, you know, okay, this group goes over, you know, to this side of the room and you do this, now it’s time to wash your hands, now it’s time for your snack. It’s – the day has some general organization to it, but it’s really considered to be childrens’ interest-driven. You know, it’s always going to be safety – safety is the first and foremost, I would say, foundation of the school, so there’s never anything going on that’s unsafe. But essentially the kids are moving through some sort of hike loop, but of course, you can’t plan a school of 10 children on a loop because – on a real loop – because what happens if you find the salamanders that are starting to come out early?
KATY: And then you’ll miss that discussion if you have to keep going, you’ll miss the discussion of what salamanders coming out in February means as opposed to salamanders coming out in April means, and then that lends itself to broader discussions about weather and temperature, and things that we forget – how we learn them. If we think back to how we learn these concepts of temperature, like, a lot of times it was just, you know, in a book with a little picture of a temperature and a picture of something being frozen, as opposed to actually chipping the ice off – and, and also – anyway, we can talk more about that kind of stuff, less, like, individual things that my kids have experienced, but – you’re moving through, you’re having discussions, there’s songs. There’s sing-songy stuff that’s going on, and there are – there’s art. The art is using charcoal, finding fires that other people have left behind, and then therefore using –
DANI: That’s cool.
KATY: Yeah, using rocks and charcoal and –
DANI: Just to verify – these kids are outside all day?
KATY: Yes – there is – so everyone’s like, okay, so – it’s like outdoors as long as it’s not bad weather. No, it’s – there’s no building. It is a 100% outside school. They don’t start in a building and then move outside. You drop your kids off outside. They stay outside the entire time, even if it’s raining, and then you pick them back up when they’re done. And then there are some though safety types of weather where they are not allowed outside. So lightning, obviously, heavy winds –
DANI: Yeah, but think about the teaching moment!
KATY: That’s electricity, kids! You see how your hair’s standing up on its end?
DANI: Yeah, I mean, you got mathematics, you got odds, you’ve got physics – it’s amazing!
KATY: You could really talk about statistics. Um, outliers, when you’re looking at the layer – the one who is outlaid in front of you. Anyway.
DANI: You might want to talk to the administrators about changing that. That’s – anyway, go ahead.
KATY: Oh my gosh. What were we talking about?
DANI: Being outside all day safely.
KATY: Safety! So like, there’s some safety parameters that outdoor schools that will have depending on the area. For us, high winds is one because they’re in a forest, and trees blow down all the time, so that’s not – or they’ll change their location to a field, you know, so it’s kind of cool because there’s this dynamic ability of the school when it doesn’t have a structure. Um – and I’m trying to think what else. Yeah. 100% outside, baby.
DANI: That is fantastic.
KATY: Just like humans have been, like, you’re not made of brown sugar, people. The rain is fine.
DANI: The German word for that is Waldkindergärten – which is a school without walls or ceiling.
KATY: Okay, I just wanted to say – something that I just learned about you is that you’re fluent, or that you’ve studied many languages, and you were saying German is one of them?
KATY: Say it again?
KATY: Aah, that’s great. Did you get your money’s worth right there? Your degree’s money’s worth right there.
DANI: Yes, thank you, 6 years of college, thank you. Waldkindergärten. That’s the only word I know.
KATY: What does wald mean?
KATY: Oh, okay.
DANI: Forest. Okay, so: outside all the time. I guess, for me just as a parent one of the things that I would be thinking about is, well, if they’re always outside, you know, how are those foundations getting taught? But you said that they do learn.
KATY: Well, I think that’s a cultural thing. Like, even if we kept the curriculum identical, like spelling or whatever. The idea that that has to happen indoors is probably the first assumption that you would want to let go. There’s nothing that says you couldn’t do all of the curriculum that you do in your school on a park bench, right?
KATY: So it would be more like, where does the paper? Who has the paper? It’s like, where do you keep the stuff is really more the question, you know? And it’s like, well, every child has their own backpack.
KATY: So every child is responsible for – which I love – the relationship to their stuff – as opposed to going into a room where –
KATY: -- an overabundance of stuff is made convenient by the structure that houses it for them. But if a child has to carry their stuff – and the teacher, too – the teacher carrying, carrying their stuff for the day. You – it’s a much more organic relationship between comprehending just how much baggage you have, right? It’s like, it’s on my back, it’s squishing my bones, it’s pressing on my shoulders. And the children have the ability to decrease – you know, to take away – like, I asked my son, you know, I’m packing his backpack and then I was like, coming to this discussion of, you know, I don’t actually drink a full bottle of water a day. So I’d like to lighten my load by reducing the amount of water in my bottle to the water that I actually will drink, and I was like, -
KATY: It was just, I mean – that is a lesson in weight and measure that he came to on his own.
KATY: This idea – because he has experienced carrying more than he needs, and would like to not do that. And I’m just like, mindlessly filling the bottle full, you know, it’s like, take your water! I’m only going to be gone for a few hours. I know how much water I need. This is how much water I always drink, this is how much water you always pour out, you know, get with the program, mom.
DANI: That’s very cool, and also just – I mean, that side lesson in the personal responsibility which just can’t be taught with words.
KATY: Right, I mean – yes. It was just like a, wow! And then there’s a lesson of volume. There’s just so much that came out of that that I really loved.
DANI: That’s cool. What are some of the things – like math, or I don’t know. Tell me some of the things that your kids have learned in this last year.
KATY: Well, you know, they’re – so they’re little.
DANI: And I know they’re little.
KATY: They’re preschool, yeah, right, right. So I would say that the earlier lessons on math, you know, like – we come – I’m projecting on you. I come from schools where math has been very operational. You know, I’ve memorized these operations and I love them – I’ve memorized these operations and I’ve done them to different degrees and math is a very broad term for lots of different ways of solving a problem on like how things relate to each other, you know. So how things relate to each other’s been reduced to math so you can understand how they relate to each other, you can quantify it. And I would say that your early understandings of math have to do with the ability to see how things relate to each other. So there’s this really cool game that my friend who teaches at a preschool has, and it’s like – it’s like cats. It’s like a box of cats or a jar of plastic cats, and the cats are all different colors, and the cats are all different sizes. And actually, that’s not correct – it’s a box of animals. Different animals, different colors, different sizes. And the first thing that the kids are able to do is really sort these animals by color, so then they’re able to make a pile of blue, and a pile of green and a pile of red. But then if you say something like, sort these animals by type, it’s harder to pick out the cats because the cats are all different colors.
KATY: So you begin to learn how to sort by different categories, and so that’s – that’s usually the kind of, like, preschool and really even kindergarten math. Also learning how to count, and you’re learning sizes and things. So they get that in the same way only it’s not plastic toys that they’re playing with. It’s be more like, I need four pine cones. Like, if we’re going to make this fire, we need four pine cones. And so the kids, like, run out and they’ll each grab four, you know, and then you’ll have things to count. And then it’s like, oh, you know what, I need something larger. So you learn the concept of things that are larger and smaller, but then you also learn temperature. When is it warmer, and you have a thermometer, and they have a journal. You know, they don’t really know how to write yet, so earlier on the journals are more like drawing pictures of what you see or making maps. How far was that? Did we go farther than last time? How do we know? What are some – what are some external things, like we passed this tree and then this tree and this tree. And then what are some internal things – like, I’m just more tired. Just because you’re more tired, does that mean that you went farther or could there be other reasons why you’re tired?
DANI: Like your mom filled your water bottle up too far?
KATY: Yes, like, is your mom a jerk and she gave you four pounds of water to carry today?
DANI: I want you to stay hydrated, unnecessarily so.
KATY: Yeah. And it’s – and then there’s just a lot of respect and respect for other things, and animals, right? They’re constantly looking at animals. And the craziest thing is that I can go on a walk with my just four-year-old. This was when he was 3 ½ and he had only been in the school for a few months. He could point out the – like, he could name the trees.
DANI: Okay, that is cool.
KATY: He could name the trees and he could name the plants. Stuff that I had no idea. Our first moment of, like, this trust was this berry – this berry – you know, we’re new here so I don’t know any of the native plants that are here. And he’s like, my daughter was picking some berry because she wants to put every berry in her mouth. And he’s like, oh, she can have that, it’s edible, and I was like, okay, all right, you’re 3, what do you know? And she was like, not even 2 yet. And he was like, turn it, you see this star here? There’s 5 lines and a dot and you turn it over and the leaf looks like it has big, tiger teeth. You know, they use things like that – and I was like, what’s it called? And he’s like, oh, it’s a salal berry. And – and he was like, you know, he was saying, slaaalberry, like I could – I didn’t know what a salal berry was, and I was like, I don’t know! What do we do? Do we question his understanding because we don’t go to outdoor school? I don’t know if you’re right about that – but at the same time, do we want our son to accidentally feed poisonous berries to our daughter? So we just texted the teacher and took a picture of it, and she was like, oh, yes, that’s a salal berry. And I was like, we are at a place where our child knows more than we do, and it’s a constantly – it’s reverse relationship, it’s like, what’s this called? And he’ll say, oh, it’s a dandelion.
DANI: That’s fantastic.
KATY: Worth it, right?
DANI: Oh my gosh.
KATY: So, so – curriculum. If we’re going to talk about curriculum. I feel like his curriculum completely exceeds any expectation that I would have ever had, like, for me I was like, well, he can learn regular stuff later on, You know, after he’s had a couple years being outside – and it’s like, what he knows right now astounds me. And I know every parent, you just don’t expect your – this little bag of blobby bones turns into this thing that knows more than you do and you’re only four years old, and it’s because they are pattern recognition machines and nature and math and even language is all just patterns. And so if you can hone in your pattern recognition skills, if you are given such a broad exposure to patterns because you’re looking at 10,000 things in 3 hours because there are no walls or limitations to your school, and your school is constantly changing with the seasons – what they learn will blow your mind.
DANI: That is cool.
DANI: And one of the wonderful things about parenthood is when they do start to know more than you in certain things. That’s great!
KATY: I knew that was coming. I knew that was coming.
DANI: Really? Did you know I was going to say that?
KATY: No, no. I didn’t know that you were saying that. I knew the moment in which they knew more was – I just didn’t realize it would happen before their fourth birthday.
DANI: Yeah. That’s amazing. I – I want to go to nature preschool.
KATY: Well, our school’s actually –
DANI: I’m only 40 years too old, so.
KATY: Our school is starting an adult program.
DANI: That is awesome.
KATY: Yeah, so nature school. Like, we’re all in school all the time, right? We just call it the Internet.
KATY: I’m going to Internet – I’m going to school! Facebook, you know. And it’s like, I read 17 articles today, and if you took that hunger for learning and combined it with our hunger for being in nature, which you might not realize you have yet, and marry them together? (whispers) It’s amazing.
DANI: Cool. So if they’re outside all day. So pretend I’m a parent and I have some concerns. They’re going to be outside all day, you know – that’s just too much! I mean, aside from the lightning and everything – I mean, what would you say to that? How would you speak to that, if I’m all in except? Do they potty outside, do they eat outside?
KATY: Well, you know, logistic questions are great. I think the – you want to check this idea that you can be outside too much. That – like, that itself, that’s just a cultural thing, like, won’t you get sick if you’re not inside your house, you know? You don’t want to confuse being inside with rest. You can rest perfectly well outside.
DANI: I’m thinking more of the elements, and like clothes, and all that stuff.
KATY: Clothes, you have them. But elements, like, again – being outside is not hard on your body. Or, like, like, you will go to do a Crossfit session, and that’s hard on your body, and you’re hard on your body because it brings about an adaptation that you want. Being outside for 8 hours is a load to your body that causes your body to adapt and strengthen to it. So it’s all the same – adaptation just happens the way that it happens, and so you end up getting a body that is well-suited for being outside for extended periods of time. Your erector pili muscles are responsive. Your ability to regulate your temperature is practiced and responsive. Your immune system is strong. You are constantly engaging with the life that’s in the dirt and therefore your body beefs up to be able to survive dealing with all of the organisms that you encounter. Like, you are strengthened by being outside. But then again, don’t confuse that with our need for rest. I mean, humans and adults – like, if I go and spend 6 hours outside, I’m exhausted, which is why I need lots and lots and lots of sleep, which is why kids in outdoor school – mine, I don’t know about other kids – my kids, they’re asleep by 7PM, and they sleep all the way until 6AM.
DANI: I think you just upped the enrollment in nature schools across the United States right there.
KATY: Well, you know what, I’ve never had other kids. I’ve just had my kids and we have lots of friends and their kids will stay up – you know, they take – they’re on different nap and sleeping schedules than our kids, but I think that our kids are fatigued and then need long periods of rest to adapt to long bouts of exposure and so it’s just – fine. You know, also, though, as are the parents – so we ourselves have to go to bed very early because we’re exhausted, because we’ve been outside. You know, you’re working a lot more inches of your body. You’re not necessarily working, you know, your arms and your legs when you’re exercising. Your whole body has been processing information and – but logistically, you know, you can pee outside and then they carry a little squat toilet with them for pooping, because I’m sure, like – that was my thing, I was like, how do they poop? Well, first off what’s really interesting is that kids seem to regulate their – they regulate their bowels so that they go to the bathroom in the morning before school. Like, once they get on a routine, I don’t think that they – I mean, I’m sure that accidents happen or like, I just randomly have to start pooping right now, but –
DANI: It happens to the best of us.
KATY: Yes. I have a good story about that, but we’ll save it for another time. You know, if you’re not –
DANI: Not on our anniversary show.
KATY: No, that’s not romantic. That’s not romantic at all. We’ll save it for the – never mind, I’m stopping right now. Yes, so for the kids they carry a toilet in case of emergencies, you know, a little thing that you sit down and squat, and clean up – but other than that, what else do you need? Kids carry their own food on their back, they bring their own food and water, they take multiple rest breaks. The rest of the time they’re moving, but they’re always outside.
DANI: That’s so cool.
DANI: I was reading something that the gal that started the one in Vashon, which is very popular, it’s an outdoor school.
DANI: And she spoke to the whole being outside, you know, kids getting sick – I mean, just anecdotal evidence, but she said that being outside in the Pacific Northwest they were actually healthier because they weren’t sharing toys, they were further away from each other when they were sneezing and coughing, and there’s so many more things to touch outside. Like, it’s not just let’s all share, you know, these blocks but it’s a branch here and a leaf here. Like, all these different – their hands went so many different places that it’s just – just the incidence was much lower.
KATY: Well, I think that there’s two – one, being outside is – I mean, you can, you can look at, it used to be that old, like, you’re cold, stay inside, stay warm, stay covered! Which makes sense, but if you look at the actual data – there’s been a lot of over the past four or five years, like, if you’re sick, you might want to go outside because they found that regular exposure to cold air would actually boost your immune system. But it is also, you know, zoo animals get sick because they’re all too close together touching all the same exact surfaces and you’re not providing a very limited number of surfaces for all children to be wiping their hands and their snot, and you know your sneezes are not kept inside, and you just put them outside and –
DANI: Preschool is usually when kids start really getting sick.
KATY: And that’s what everyone told me, like, oh. And I was like, I just didn’t see it happening, but they’re outside – not just on school days, but almost all of the time. They are almost never inside ever, for the bulk of the day. They are certainly inside every single day for hours, but just compared to the bulk of the day, the bulk of the day is spent outside, and that’s a big deal. So yes, so my mom and my grandmother they’re in that – oh, don’t they just get sick? Aren’t you coming down with colds? And maybe because we call it a cold we associate it with being cold? I don’t know. But. There you go.
DANI: Do you have any special gear, that –
DANI: - that you have them in, or?
KATY: Well, gear – so gear is a big deal for nature school. If you’re going to go in year-round elements, and you can – if you just type in “outdoor school” or “nature school” you’re going to find hundreds – I mean, there are a lot more outdoor schools than people realize. A lot of them might be a little more low-profile and operate out of local nature centers or Audubon centers, and the reason I brought that up is because I was thinking, oh, well, we live in the Pacific Northwest, that’s kind of warm-ish compared to, like, Milwaukee or something. But I saw an actual – one woman had blogged about her nature school, and it was in the snow. I mean, these kids are in the snow, so it’s not a fair weather thing, just in the same way that humans for, you know, thousands of years have been outside in all weather. It’s radical only because our minds are kind of shaped by being inside all of the time. It might be done in a different way, and you need high quality gear because kids don’t communicate discomfort in real, like, objective, my feet are cold or I can’t feel – they just whine. You know, they just will behave in a different way, so you have to – every school usually has a requirement of gear. So here, in the wet season, is what we’re always thinking about, I don’t want to say protecting us because – we’re always just – you’re trying to create, um, you’re trying to create clothing that allows as much comfort as possible, and the kids sit right on the ground, so obviously you need some sort of what we call rain gear, but we use Oakiwear. Each school will have a list, and that’s local to Washington.
KATY: It’s a Vancouver – I think it’s a Vancouver, Washington company, which I didn’t know when we were ordering it. But it’s like, pants, they actually have just like, really thin, flexible rain pants – not, like, over-bulky, because remember –
DANI: Yeah, well, sometimes they’re real stiff and stuff.
KATY: Yes! We could do a whole episode on clothing, but so with rain gear, you don’t just need it to protect you from rain while you’re standing there, it needs to be very malleable. You have to be able to move in it; it has to be able to move with you but also not get hung up while you’re climbing a tree or whatever that you’re doing, and still provide warmth. And so, you know, good socks, shoes that are good at keeping the water out, rain pants, and they wear rain jackets – again, very light, not the bulky rain jacket that an indoor preschool, boots and rain jackets are meant to be worn outside for 30 minutes. Put that on, go outside for recess, and then take it back off, so the consideration of how well you move in it for an extended period of time might not be there because its primary goal is to just keep the water off. So I like Oakiwear because it seems to be designed with keep the water off while moving abundantly for an extended period of time in its design.
DANI: That’s cool, thanks for sharing that.
KATY: You’re welcome. And I’m not paid to say any of that.
DANI: You never are.
KATY: This isn’t a commercial, this is a personal endorsement.
DANI: Right. I guess we should talk about some things that people can do to either help create a nature school or – don’t get overwhelmed – duplicate, some resources or things you could do to help you still reap those kinds of benefits without quitting your job, selling your house, and starting a nature school.
KATY: Well, I mean, okay, so – go read that Kids Outside book. The Last Kid –
DANI: Last Child in the Woods.
KATY: Thanks. Sorry, I’m like, I still – just slaughter the names of – Kids Out
DANI: Kids Outside, by my friend Richard
KATY: Kids Outside.
DANI: I have to tell you about one that just came out that I just started reading, so I can’t speak to the awesomeness of it until the end but so far –thus far – it’s good. It’s by Scott Samson and it’s called How to Raise a Wild Child and it’s actually like, steps.
KATY: Oh, I read that book. Is it called Wild Kids?
DANI: No, it’s just How to – by your friend Scott?
KATY: Scott wrote Wild Kids. Oh my god!
DANI: Yeah, it’s good, but it kind of has step-by-step, different ways in different circumstances to help you get your kids into nature. So, anyway, maybe we’ll do a show on that once we’ve both read that cover-to-cover.
KATY: Yeah, and I think just – step one is just go outside more. Go outside in whatever way is comfortable to you. Like, you don’t feel comfortable in the rain, don’t worry about it. Just go outside more on the days where it’s not raining, but make sure that you don’t just have lots of reasons of why not to go outside and you just pull out different ones all the time for different scenarios. Like, when you might just not recognize, oh, I really just don’t want to go outside. There’s always going to be a reason to go outside, there’s also just many reasons to go outside, so just pick one, going okay, the next time it is sunny today, we will drop what we’re doing and we will go outside. So someone come up with that, who cares what gear you’re wearing? Just go run around outside. Also, like, a lot of parents will say – especially parents who will come to like, I really like this idea, they’ll be like, I like this idea of nature school but my kid just isn’t really a nature kid – only, really, just because they’ve never been exposed to nature. The parents themselves are uncomfortable. So at our school, there’s almost like a vetting process where you have to come to different – there’s nature school, but there’s also like drop in with the parents once a week nature, like, adventure club is what it’s called here, where they just come and spend a couple hours just roaming, and there’s a teacher leading it but the parents are there. So it’s kind of like a, I never did any of the mommy and me stuff but kind of like that, right? There’s someone leading it but the parents are kind of sitting there, and actually the parents kind of fall away. The more – you know, when you first start you’re kind of holding, like, oh, don’t get in the water! And you can hear a lot of, oh my gosh, don’t, don’t don’t don’t! Don’t do that! But eventually the kids are more afraid to do anything, because they’re like, I don’t know – I feel like everything is dangerous – but then the more they’re there, and everything is very safe – it’s just, it might not feel safe to someone who has never seen their toddler walk over a bed of rocks. Like, if your toddler has only walked on flat and level surfaces in the same way that you learn how to relax with them falling on flat and level surfaces because they just needed to get those muscles – you have to be comfortable letting them fall over rocks until they use different muscles. It’s a whole new walking skill. All of a sudden, all of the muscles and all of the motor programming for walking do not apply to walking over boulders – I’m just talking a river bed.
KATY: So they’re going to fall and then all of a sudden, parents have got both hands, and it’s like, oh, be careful, be careful! It’s like, once then, though they see that all it takes is a full day – and when I talk about the days of school, they could be 3-4 hours. Adventure club is a couple hours. Once the kids are allowed to get their nature muscles, which really aren’t muscles that only operate in nature, they’re just muscles that operate on different textures and surfaces, right? It’d be like going to the gym and doing bits of cross-training of sorts. Then all of a sudden, they’re stable, they get a little more comfortable, and then all of a sudden they’re like, I want to get on that log because other kids are on that log. Older kids are great hurdle-makers, or – not – they’re like benchmarks, right? They’re like, I want to do that – and then all of a sudden it wouldn’t have occurred to you that climbing up on a log was something you could do until you saw a 4 year old do it, and you’re 2 ½ and you might not reach it, but your arms are stretching up and you’re starting – just like when you first started to do a pull-up, you’re starting the motions of being able to do something, and then one day your leg is long enough and it goes over, and it’s just such a beautiful, organic training platform. And that’s only speaking to the musculo-skeletal side of things. Then there’s all of the mental things that come with competency, and efficacy. And community, and – that is nature. That’s the name of my book.
DANI: What, community?
KATY: I’m just going to call it, Nature and Stuff.
DANI: Nature. Nature and stuff.
KATY: Kids and Nature and Stuff.
DANI: Yeah. Kids and Nature and Stuff.
KATY: In stuff. Yeah. So, yeah. That’s my spiel on nature school. Would you pick nature school for your kids now if they had it? Do they have it there?
DANI: Oh my gosh, no, they don’t – and when I was, like, looking them up, I just – there’s so many in Washington, I was just thinking, oh, maybe I should move back to the Pacific Northwest. There’s so many options for adults and older kids, too, in Washington. But can I talk about some cool sites that kind of give you ideas and help you connect with these other things?
DANI: You know, within these communities?
DANI: A really great one – Childrenandnature.org, and that’s like a network that – you can actually – it encourages grassroots initiatives but you can look it up and connect with somebody in your community or near you. Somebody who is like, just trying to get their kids outside, or who started a little outdoor group or something like that. So that’s cool. Or who has more formal programs – and I think that was actually started by Richard Louv, who wrote The Last Child in the Woods, or he’s like a founding member of that. Nature Rocks is a great website, and it’s just – I have to give you the web address, you just – Nature Rocks. But that’s kind of a global program, to inspire families to enjoy nature together. There’s another site, Get Kids Outside Now – really straightforward there. Get kids outside now, which is basically what you just said. There’s a thing called the Walking Classroom, which actually provides lessons so that entire – you can get your kids outside if you’re homeschooling or whatever. You can even offer this to your school and they can all be listening to lessons while they are on a hike.
KATY: And I just wanted to say something about that, like, so I – I had this little note calling just to remind me non-nature outside – so say you are a traditional schoolteacher right now and you’re like, I want to do all these things, but I am limited, really, by the rules of my school. Consider just doing your regular, old curriculum outside – can you go, you know what? We are going to do math outside. It doesn’t have to be a school in or about nature more so than just being outside. The – the walking classroom, they put a lot of that – what do they call that base curriculum? I don’t know what – there’s a term for it, like the base curriculum that grades have, they just put it on tape so the kids just listen to it on a Walkman and go outside and walk around while they’re listening to it.
DANI: I don’t think the kids use the Walkman these days, Katy.
KATY: What are you talking about? It’s a Walkman, isn’t it? Like a tape? Like a little tape, a mix tape?
DANI: It’s like an mp3 player nowadays.
KATY: What are you talking about?
DANI: The kids would like, knock it against the ground like it’s a coconut and they don’t know what to do with it while they’re walking. What’s this?
KATY: Oh my gosh.
DANI: They gotta jump forward a little bit. The kids and the mp3s, that’s what we’re working on: digital.
DANI: But that’s true – you can do that – at my kids’ old school, they would, whenever they could do something outside, whether or not it was related to the outside, they would do it, and it was fantastic, you know? And the other thing is, people get concerned with their kids getting dirty, but gosh – they just get as dirty with tempera paint and Play-Doh and stuff all over themselves, so – what is it? There’s no real difference, dirt is dirt, so.
KATY: You know, this seals it: we do need to do a show on clothing, because clothing really does limit – I have heard out of the mouth of parents on the playground where we are, it’s like, don’t wreck your clothes. You are going to adjust your behavior to save your clothing, and we could just do, like, Maria VonTrapp and make some clothes out of curtains or something, for the purpose of going outside. You and I – what anniversary is clothes made out of curtains?
KATY: Okay, so, woo!
DANI: We’ve just gotta make it another year, and then we’ll have our friend make us – our talented seamstress friend can make us some matching dresses. Okay, a few more resources: the Nature Conservancy has great, outdoor lesson plans for either to offer up to your school or just do with your family. Same thing with the David Suzuki Foundation, it has little family challenges and lesson plans to get you outdoors together. And then a great site – and I don’t know if I found this through you or not, the Free Range Kids?
KATY: Yeah, Free Range Kids.
DANI: I think I did, yeah. That is super fun.
KATY: It’s super fun right up until CPS calls.
DANI: But those are great resources.
KATY: They are.
DANI: I know there are a million more.
KATY: But also just this: there’s so many – there’s a ton of resources and we can list them; we could post this on Facebook and get a list going underneath a post, like, post your favorite resource.
KATY: There’s also something called, like, Let Kids Play, I think?
DANI: Let the Children Play.
KATY: Let the Children Play is a great one.
DANI: Also super fun.
KATY: Two things: 1) if you want your kids in nature, just get yourself in nature and the kids will follow. Like, if you – if you want a kid who loves nature, just work on yourself to being someone who loves nature and the kids just seem to follow. And 2) if it all feels so overwhelming right now, just go outside.
KATY: Just go outside, like that is the largest step, even if it’s just on your front steps or on your front or back lawn. Just go there and sit down on the grass and your kids, as you know, will come lay all over you, but that is so much of what we’re talking about. It really – we can get technical and we can offer so many resources, but in the end it could just be that simple at first. That’s a good first step.
DANI: Sage advice.
KATY: Mmm. Sage. My son could probably identify that.
KATY: I don’t know what it looks like, on the other hand.
DANI: That was awesome, talking with you about this. I learned tons, and I hope everybody else did, too. Just a reminder for you listening: if you want to ask a question or the show, if there’s something you want us to talk about or you’re curious about something, you could go to Katy’s website, which is KatySays.com or RestorativeExercise.com, both of those, and there’s really cool ways that you can talk to us. You can actually record a question to us using a little widget off to the side of the site, or if you’re shy, you can type a question and we will get those, and possibly add them to future shows. Also, don’t forget that we love your reviews on iTunes and Stitchr because it really helps create a better show for you. It helps me do my job better, and we love feedback. Don’t forget to just take a few minutes sometime and give us a review on iTunes or Stitchr. Did you have anything?
KATY: I think that might be our anniversary present is a review or feedback.
DANI: Oh, that is an excellent idea – since you all forgot to get us something for our year anniversary, we will forgive you because you can just come in under the wire and give us a nice, thorough review on iTunes.
DANI: Thanks for – yeah, word. Well, thanks for your time, Katy, and thanks to all of you for listening.
KATY: Happy anniversary!
DANI: Happy anniversary to you. Ciao!