A Spring Hike, Plus 31

Have you heard about nature-deficit disorder? It is just what it sounds like–a problem we humans have due to a serious lack of time spent in nature. According to journalist Richard Louv, this affects many aspects of behavior, especially in children. You can learn more about this in his book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder and on his website.

last child woods

Well, my older son’s school is solving this problem one Friday at a time. In first and second grade, they have outdoor classroom time, and fortunately for me, I get to come along for the ride sometimes.


They get outdoors almost every Friday with their afternoon “nature walk,” which takes them down quiet neighborhood streets to nature areas in our city. The purpose of these walks is to let them learn through seeing and experiencing what kids in other schools learn on paper. For instance, instead of learning about seasonal changes in plant life through a handout, they learn it through personal observation and hands-on instruction from their teacher. These walks also get them used to being outdoors and walking for long periods and build their confidence to walk to places instead of being driven (they go to the neighborhood library on foot at least once a month).


In addition to the weekly nature walks, my son’s class takes several outdoor field trips during the school year. Last week I helped out and loved my time in nature with these 31 second-graders. We drove almost an hour northeast of Sacramento into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains to Hidden Falls Regional Park, just outside the town of Auburn. As the name implies, the park has waterfalls that are reached only by hiking down to a canyon.


Sadly, the light was terrible for photographs but just right for a long hike–at about 68 degrees and cloudy, we had comfortable walking conditions and even got sweaty on the way up the hills the last hour. As you can imagine, spotting the falls, eating a snack on the rocks before climbing them, and navigating twisting hilly paths were exciting times for these little adventurers. It was also a special bonding experience for the kids.


It was also an endurance challenge for their little bodies–I was actually sore the next day, but the kids seemed perfectly able! Amazing what they can do when they have the chance to funnel all their energy into a task like this.

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Because it’s spring, there are wildflowers of all sorts popping up here and there, including California poppies, the state flower.

Hidden Falls Regional Park: Nature Field Trip with Second GradersDSC_0058DSC_0034DSC_0040Hidden Falls Regional Park: Nature Field Trip with Second Graders

I have much more to say about this topic of spending time in nature, but for now, I’d love to know how you are getting out in nature this spring and, if you have kids, if their school has outdoor learning time.


  • Carol says:

    If you search for “Forest Kindergarten” you will find this is an old concept that started in Germany. There are outdoor schools popping up everywhere. You will probably be able to find one in your area.
    Not only do the kids not start their life by sitting all day, they are out in all weather. If you know about grounding, there is that too. It was initially for preschool kids and up to age 6 but now there are schools which prolong the ages of participation. Natural movement in nature!

    • Jenna says:

      Hi Carol, Thank you for bringing this up. I hadn’t heard of forest kindergarten but I’m familiar with the general idea. Actually, my son’s school has what they call an “outdoor kindergarten.” Some kids attend this for 2 years, others for 1. The older grades spent a small part of the morning lesson outdoors on most days, for example, practicing math in the garden instead of in the classroom. My older son didn’t attend K at this school, but my younger son will start with kindergarten there.

  • Carol says:

    It sounds great! My teacher wrote a blog post on school class rooms and how to think beyond the chair, if you are interested here it is: http://www.katysays.com/dream-classroom/
    Carol recently posted..Transitioning to a Minimal BedMy Profile

    • Jenna says:

      Thanks for sharing that link. Children in many schools do indeed spend too much time sitting at desks, something that was considered normal in the past but may not be the best for them. My son’s school does a mix of both.

  • Renuka says:

    Love nature hikes! Pretty wild flowers, fresh balmy air and lots of greenery…totally my kind of a place. 🙂
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