ORONO — Deanna Fahey grew up spending and loving her time outside.
When she became a teacher, her passion for the outdoors prompted her to incorporate nature-based learning into her curriculum.
“I realized a lot of kids weren’t playing outside and enjoying the benefits of nature,” said Fahey, lead teacher for the Forest Fridays Parent Group .
“And so for me it’s a very personal issue because I feel like you can’t protect what you don’t know and love,” she said. “And if kids aren’t outside knowing and loving their environment, why do they care about saving it?”
As the COVID-19 pandemic hit and schools were forced into hybrid learning, Fahey and other parents made the decision to homeschool.
“We decided to put together a nature-based group. We have some parents and kids that are home schoolers but also some that come from the public schools. Because they are on alternate days, it just so happened Fridays was one of their days they are not school,” she said.
When they are not in school or being homeschooled, they are meeting with their parents for Forest Fridays.
Fahey said she hopes the outdoors can help improve the students’ mental health.
“Just the statistics on depression in children, anxiety in children, ADHD, all of these things just springing up and a lot of the research suggests it’s because they are not interacting with their natural world or they are not playing outside,” she said.
.The group of 10 to 15 children and parents embrace the outdoors by working together and playing outside ..
SUPER:/KATIE PROCTOR/MOTHER AT “FOREST FRIDAY’S”
“It’s just a great group, too, and it’s community based. So we get to know our neighbors that are doing the same things we’re doing,” said Katie Proctor, one of the parents participating in the program.
Some studies suggest children spend only four to seven minutes outside engaged in unstructured activity each day.
The same study said they also spend more than seven hours in front of a screen.
Through Forest Fridays, kids spend upwards of an hour per session outdoors.