Nature School Moves – Podcast Episode #97

Katy Bowman and two teachers from Olympic Nature Experience talk about how to get more nature—and more wonder—into your life.

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0:00:59 Great new music! – Jump to section

0:02:32 Reader Question #1 – Moving while sick. – Jump to section

0:07:39 Meet Today’s guests from Olympic Nature Experience – Jump to section

0:09:38 Gratitude – Jump to section

0:17:21 Coyote Mentoring, models, and formats of nature education – Jump to section

0:39:24 What if I’m not a Nature Ninja – Jump to section

01:01:09 Favorite Thing about Nature School – Jump to section

01:15:53 Find Katy – she’s moving her DNA all over the place – Jump to section


Find more Katy Bowman

Find more about the Dynamic Collective

Olympic Nature Experience

Some more nature school links:
Natural Start Alliance
Children and Nature Network
David Sobel at Antioch University and his book Nature Preschools and Forest Kindergartens
Eastern Region of Forest and Nature Schools
Washington Nature Preschool Association
Northern Illinois Nature Preschool Association
Wilderness Awareness School
Children of the Earth Foundation
Cedarsong Nature School
Natural Start Alliance on Twitter

Katy’s live events in Canada and Europe

The Music for this weeks podcast:

Raven and Crow sung by Ashley Moffat from the Wilderbeats album “Live in Concert”

Ashley Moffat’s website
Ashley Moffat on Instagram

The Tamarack Song is by Joyce Saunders from the Wilderbeats album “Live in Concert”

Joyce  Saunders on Facebook
Joyce Saunders on YouTube
Joyce Saunders on Vimeo

The Dynamic Collective


My Mayu

Soft Star Shoes


Venn Design

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Access all previous Move Your DNA podcasts via your podcast provider of choice (Stitcher, iTunes, Libsyn, or Soundcloud).



It’s the Move Your DNA podcast with Katy Bowman. I am Katy Bowman, biomechanist, author of Move Your DNA and a bunch of other books about movement. This show is about how movement works on the cellular level, how to change your position as you move, and why you might want to, and how movement works in the world, also known as movement ecology. All bodies are welcome.  Are you ready to get moving?




KATY:  Hey all!  That is a little bit of Raven and Crow, performed by The Wilderbeats on their “Live in Concert” album. It was written by Ashley Moffat who now performs it solo. Her website is and you can find her on Instagram at @lilmissmoffet.  


I’m playing it because today we’re talking about nature education and sometimes, getting a bit more nature education in your life can be as simple as changing the music you’re playing—we’ve been listening  in our house to this album at home and during car rides and frankly, I am learning more than I did in high school biology. And, the method of learning—learning facts via oral or song formats, it works well for young brains. And I don’t have a young brain but it works well for me too.


If you’ve been a long-time listener, you know that I’m a huge fan of Vitamin Nature, for adults and children and thus I’m a fan of nature school, forest kindergarten, nature programs, etc. We’re going to be talking about these on our show today. I’m interviewing the director and a teacher from local nature educational program: Olympic Nature Experience. It is their goal and mine to connect as many people – kids and their communities – to nature, so listen up!  But before we get to that interview, our mailbag runneth over. Thanks everyone for sending in questions.

So this is a question from Mahina … sorry if I mispronounced your name. Everyone used to call me Catty – Catty Bowman. So there you go, with apologies!

How do I continue to move my body and get the movement nutrients my body needs (and the connection to nature that I crave) while I’m suffering through prolonged phases of illness? I have a 2 and a half-year-old and we’ve all had colds and flu,(and she’s listing kind of like all these things that they’ve had in the last 30 days) And we live in Seattle (not too far from me), so it’s cold and wet outside during the winter, which I actually love when I’m healthy, but is a real challenge when dealing with respiratory illness because the cold air makes us all cough more and I’m afraid of getting pneumonia. I feel like I’m losing all the progress I’ve made over the last six months because I’m cooped up inside. And also, I’ve been told before that sometimes if you do inversions (like downward dog or other stretches) during a sinus infection it can spread it and make the illness worse. Is that true or not?

 So to my answer is: I have no idea if inversions or if movement moves the fluid of infection. Hmm. I don’t know. You’ll have to talk to someone besides me. And then, but too, how do I exercise when I feel like I’m trapped inside? So I have a lot of thoughts on that, but to keep it short, you’ve probably noticed that around winter time I start posting pictures where I’m showing indoor obstacle courses. Sometimes they’re in our facility here. They’re in homes. We just did the dynamic aging retreat and we created – it’s snowy up there in New York right now in February – and we had 150 people going through kind of a natural movement obstacle course. And it doesn’t require any special equipment although I do recommend, if you’re going to be inside for a long time, a 2×4 is such a great inexpensive, easy to find piece of equipment that you can do a ton of stuff on for you and your 2 and a half year old and anyone else you might have there. But you build it out of pillows and you create a loop, you could create a loop through your house. This goes for snow days as well. This goes for days when maybe you can get outside but you just aren’t going to. Obstacle courses are great. And it can be pillows and cushions. And yeah things might be messy when you’re done but then there’s just more movement to put things back. So that’s one way, easy way, to get more movement when you can’t get outside. You can stay connected to nature because you’re still tuning in to those movements that your body uses in nature, right, so the calf stretch is nature depending on how you want to think about it. It’s a little bit of uphill movement. You can also bring in texture boxes if you want something besides carpet and linoleum and wood underfoot. If you want things that are lumpy and bumpy. Maybe don’t go out for a huge walk but maybe just go out for 10 minutes – so shorter durations and if you can gather, if you are close to a park or you know some place that’s green where you can gather pine cones or pine needles and things that are soft and bring them in. That’s what I would recommend. Just to scale everything back to what’s doable. So maybe it’s not like zero in the house on the couch and full monty running through the trees and the forest outside. And when you can’t get to that full Monty feeling just find one little thing. Maybe crack your windows a little bit so you’re not in the full cold that brings on a cough but you’re not in an overly indoor scenario too where sometimes the coughing can be brought up just by the contrast of the two. If you’re going from hot inside to cold outside, that’s a lot of adjustment that your body has to make very quickly. One of the reasons we keep our house cool and sometimes just open the door on a freezing winter day and no I don’t live in Minnesota so my west coast freezing is different. But it can be 30 degrees outside and we’ll still do a big opening and cooling off so that we can kind of not require so much adjustment or transition. Where inside and outside feels less of a firm line. So good luck with that.  And spring should be here pretty soon.


So thank you to our Dynamic Collective.  That is a group of companies that is sponsoring in part these questions and answering that I’m doing on Move Your DNA. And these companies are:  Earthrunners, Unshoes, Venn Design, maker of beautiful dynamic living space décor, MyMayu Outdoor Boots for kids, and Softstar shoes. These are shoes made by elves, people. For more info on these companies, go to the show notes. Click Listen, Click Podcast Transcripts and you’ll find them linked on top of the notes.


So, who is ready to get nature schooled? Today I am talking with the two Sarahs–Sarah Salazar-Tipton and Sarah Greenwald. Sarah Salazar-Tipton is the founding Executive Director of Olympic Nature Experience and a Lead Teacher at Owl’s Hollow Early Learning and Adventure Club. She has a B.S. in Marine and Environmental Sciences from the US Coast Guard Academy. She is passionate about connecting people to nature because she knows its rejuvenating and inspiring effects in her own life. Sarah Greenwald is a teacher at Owl’s Hollow. She has many years of experience in informal outdoor education along with Master’s Degree in Environmental Education and a Forest Kindergarten Teaching Certificate.  I want to know about where we can get one of those! So, without further ado…


Welcome Sarah and Sarah to the Move Your DNA podcast.  I’m going to have you each introduce yourself so everyone can get a sense of your voice.  You wanna do that? Who wants to go first?


SARAH S: I’m Sarah Salazar-Tipton.


KATY: The director?


SARAH S: The director of Olympic Nature and the mother of 3 kids.


KATY: Which should really be in the opposite order!  Maybe!


SARAH S:  I’m trying to reclaim my identity besides just mother.


KATY: I’m just Sarah!  How about just being Sarah.


SARAH G:  I’m Sarah Greenwald and I’m the administrative director and a teacher at Olympic Nature Experience.


KATY: And I just want to say to everyone listening that we are actually together, versus usually when I do a podcast I am interviewing someone who is far away. So this is already a more natural version of an actual face to face interaction.  And we are hanging out together in the offices of Olympic Nature Experience. They all share offices with us. So if the conversation sounds a little bit different, that’s why. So before we get started, or maybe to start, Sarah Salazar-Tipton is going to talk just a second about gratitude and where that sits.


SARAH S:  So for our nature school, gratitude is one of our founding principles. And I would say that that came in from some of the training and mentorship that we received. And so every time we meet together, whether it’s a staff meeting or when we start our day, we have a process where we do, where we speak out loud our gratitude and our intention for the day. So we’re going to start our podcast with that today. And I’ll go ahead and start. And um, I’m really grateful for water and warm water and delicious water and water that I use to clean things. One of my children was sick last night so I was so grateful for running water and it’s abundance and all the temperatures and taking a shower. So water is a really powerful source in my life and I do a lot of chores with it. So I’m really grateful for water. For safety. And for the opportunity to sit down and talk about something that I’m really passionate about.  And my intention today is to enjoy our time together and to speak from what I know well and not delve too far out of my real strong sphere of experience.


SARAH G: I am so grateful for the signs of spring and all of the birds I’m seeing. This morning I was watching them all eat the worms out of the grass and they looked so happy. And I’m so excited for sunshine coming my way. And like the kids say, I’m grateful for the whole universe and everything in it. And my intention is to have a really exciting conversation about nature schools and our community.


KATY:  And I am grateful for the ability to walk here. I walked carrying my giant awkward microphone that broke yesterday.  And the rain that I got to walk in. Just enjoying that sprinkle and also for the birds. For the birds and for the drivers out there who are paying attention to the walkers out there. I really appreciate that extra six feet that you go out of your way to give me as you pass by. And my intention today is, as always, to use elements, I mean … I want to go back to gratitude for a second.  Gratitude that the microphone and the computer and the internet are, too, things that are fashioned from nature, that are allowing us to share this conversation with you. And that my intention is that you walk away with some easy ways to incorporate more of nature education into your life and feel inspired to do so. So look at that. We’ve already done – you already have a takeaway. Just add a bit of gratitude, you know, and you’re way to …


SARAH T:  Gratitude can change everything.


KATY: Exactly.  Ok. So I guess before we go too far into the interview, there’s a lot of terminology around various elements of nature education. So I made a list of some of them. There’s forest school, nature school, nature kindergarten, forest kindergarten, coyote mentoring. What are some of the other terms that you might…?


SARAH T: Those are the big ones.


SARAH G: I would agree.


SARAH T: Especially when you’re talking about schools. There can be a lot of distinction between nature immersion, immersion curriculum. So these are different methods that people use in the actual ways of teaching. Coyote mentoring is one that we use as well. And then there’s, you know, kind of some of the big names that people know out there: Montessori. Waldorf is kind of a big one out there – they use a lot of nature in their curriculum.  So, and then there’s like, oh Reggio Emilia – so these are, especially in the preschool and early childhood education models, a lot of these things come together and synthesize at certain points too. And they kind of create – every nature school has its own unique kind of combination of these things. So let’s talk about some of those definitions. But before we even go there, I’d like to open up our minds to the idea that nature is everywhere all the time. Just like you said – we’re using a microphone. We’re using computers. We’re using showers. But all of these things come from nature and I think that one of the fundamentals of nature education as far as my experience goes is, reminding us that we are part of nature. And sometimes we have to go outside and immerse ourselves in a forest or a pond or a beach.  And that is the gift so that we can remember that we are a part of nature. And come back to feeling at home in ourselves and in nature. However, once we get that kind of switch turned back on in our bodies – which is why it’s so helpful to do this at such a young age – because children’s belief formation is really malleable at this point. They are literally developing their beliefs every day. And that’s why nature education at such a young age can be life changing in some ways. So I guess I just want to remind us that that malleability of our beliefs is available to us all the time and going out into nature, into the forest and things like that can be a way to help us turn that switch back on. We are part of nature. Everywhere we go is nature, even when we’re in the jetliner, you know, 50,000 feet above the actual firm ground. However, we can also access nature through our beliefs, through our ideas, and honestly, in my experience, in gratitude.  Even in the jetliner. Even if you don’t spend a ton of time in the forest. Or you live a city and it’s hard to get to a place that seems like a “natural” (quote unquote) environment, you can still access nature when you drink water. You are drinking a river. It’s like a tiny stream the way I think of it. Or a tiny pond. And we are almost as modern people, have water within… we’re extremely lucky. We have water within easy reach or easy walk most of the time. And so I think that’s the first thing. Reminding us that nature is everywhere all the time. And I’ll be talking a lot about that today. So then when we go into well how do we educate children in that belief? And there’s nature schools which are kind of any form of a traditional school which uses a curriculum that’s heavily based on nature. They meet in a building and maybe they take excursions outside. Or maybe they have a percentage of time that’s spent outdoors or indoors. We belong to a regional association and we’re creating a definition of what we mean by nature schools. And our state is piloting a program and it is also defining what nature school means and it’s for us it’s about 50% outdoor time at least and a strong environmental education component. So those are some pieces – nature school. Forest school often means that only maybe a little bit more time outside or often can even mean no building at all. Nature kindergarten or forest kindergarten often means that. Often forest kindergarten means no building – completely outdoor. Which is what we operate. We operate a totally outdoor program. What are some of the other ones that we were talking about?


KATY: Coyote mentoring.


SARAH S:  So now I’ve gone over kind of the types of schools, right? There’s nature school, there’s forest school, there’s forest kindergarten. And then those might be looking at is as a structure or maybe as an overhead of the – overhead’s not the right word.


KATY: I’m thinking academic. Where you get what you think of as school stuff. And I say that as a different to like, bushcraft school. For some people think where nature school means where I would go on a weekend to learn bushcraft skills. And it is a school in that sense meaning I’m learning something. But I think the programs that we’ll talk about today for the most part and the ones that you are operating are often times, instead of going to one type of school, you go to this type of school for children.


SARAH S:  Right. And so I think what would be clarifying is what I was just describing – those are formats.


KATY: Format. Got it.


SARAH S: So when we’re talking nature school, forest kindergarten, and forest school we’re talking what is the format of the school. And that’s what you’re touching on.


KATY: Right.


SARAH S: I go to a building. I go to not a building. I go to this beach. Whatever the format is.  And then now we’ll talk about curriculum models. And so I mentioned a few early childhood education curriculum models that we’re familiar with often is:  Montessori, Reggio Emilia, Waldorf. Those are well-known curriculum models. There’s also the forest kindergarten curriculum model. And that relies heavily on nature immersion which means you go out and you’re just surrounded by nature. This could be, this can literally be a lot in the middle of a city or public park. Or it can be a forest or a pond somewhere that you go to. Then there’s Immersion Curriculum which is you go out and you allow whatever comes up, the nature immersion, to be what you study.  So there’s a, you know, you’re walking along on the trail and you see worms. And everyone stops and you explore worms. And maybe you have tools on hand to help you explore worms more like magnifying glasses or you know you might create a little terrarium for one and carry it around with you for the day. Or maybe you sit still and observe it. There’s a bunch of different tools. So that’s Immergent Curriculum. You allow whatever come up to be the curriculum.


KATY: To immerge.


SARAH S:  And then we use a method, passed down from Wilderness Awareness School, called Coyote Mentoring. And it’s a way of – you can speak to this please too …


SARAH G:  Sure.


SARAH S:  It’s a way of using immergent curriculum as well as a planned curriculum to really deepen nature connections. So to get you to become really engaged and understand and feel like you belong. And understand that there’s a relationship between you and the worm that you find. It’s not just about, “oh pretty worm. Let’s put it in a box and have ownership over it.”


KATY: Right.


SARAH S: And my understanding of Coyote Mentoring and Nature Connection through Wilderness Awareness schools model, it’s more about “oh this worm is a being and we can respect it for its own life.”  Which might only last a few months long or two days depending on if the robin comes. And we can see a reciprocal relationship. And so that is the kind of the heart of what I consider to be deep nature connection. And so Coyote Mentoring is one method.  There are many many. And there are tons of ways to do that. Immergent curriculum is one. Structured curriculum is another. There’s tons of ways to do it. Coyote Mentoring is a way to synthesize kind of a structured format with immergent curriculum so that you can really deepen the experience.


SARAH G:  I agree. I would say that the coyote is the trickster, right? It’s like the kids don’t even know they’re learning. They’re so engaged in wonder and curiosity about what you are finding. And you have all these tools you can pull out to engage them in that worm. And they don’t even know half the time that they’re learning something.  And I think that’s one of the most wonderful beautiful things. They’re just so engaged and curious in the state of awe and wonder.


KATY: Interesting to that. I interviewed my kids about nature school and one of, I think a lot of parents, you know, “What did you do today?”  When you pick them up from school and it’s always nothing. But my son went on to explain that he’s actually learning less now. Like his perception is he used to learn more.  And I think it’s because there was maybe more of one type of curriculum and as he’s been in the program longer, his perception is he’s learning less because all he’s doing all day long is playing and just being. But he’ll constantly be rattling off all these things what I would consider to be facts or things that he’s picked up or understandings that he has. But his perception is, he’s not learning. Because he associates learning with sitting down to memorize or be tested.  You know what I mean? And I was like, “Yeah. Right on.” Ok, so I’m just trying to think of more clarification. So it’s… terms…


SARAH S: You know what I think is important is, these terms are not as important if you’re not going to go out and start your program from scratch. If you are going to go start your program from scratch, all you have to do is put these, let them be a touchstone once and you will find everything you need along the way. In the show notes we’re gonna link to a bunch …


KATY: So many resources.


SARAH S: So there will be – we’re putting on there some of the regional national players in the United States. I apologize for international people. I don’t have as much knowledge about the resources out there internationally. but there are some. There are definitely quite a few. But I think we don’t have to get too worried about it. We will be talking about them a ton. But I think the important things is just like any model of idea, there are a lot of variations. A lot of shades of anything. So there are different ways to educate in nature. Some education models in nature schools are very skills based and some are more what we call soft skills. Really delving into the connection side or the


SARAH G: Natural history.


SARAH S: Exactly. So there can be so many different formats. I remember hearing one of your podcasts where you talked about nature school with Dani, and I think even between the two of you there was the experience of multiple nature schools.  And so they’re very different. And they’re each evolving as well.


KATY: Right.


SARAH S: Depending on the teachers, the skillset, the history, the culture, the resources available, the training you’re including. So I think when we’re talking about Nature schools,  what we have to understand is, you can not paint them with one brush stroke.


KATY: Right.


SARAH S:  They come in various palates. And if it works for you awesome. And if not, you don’t need a nature school to connect with nature because it’s everywhere.


KATY: Right.


SARAH S: What we want to happen, actually, is to help ourselves figure out how to turn on that belief that we are a part of nature all the time. Everywhere.


KATY: Well and I think, too, the word nature that’s sometimes confused with wilderness, you know, right? So I try to use the word green space. Because you can find a green space on a roof in Portland.


SARAH S: You can find nature in the McDonald’s parking lot.


KATY: Exactly. So I think some people listening to this will be thinking of starting something but probably a much larger percentage is like, “I want this for people that I know.” And then there’s maybe even a broader group of I don’t have anyone to put into this but I’m gonna put my energy towards the idea that yes, this is something that the world can benefit from. And maybe applying it to community gardens or anything else. So the term nature shouldn’t be scary. It’s not necessarily something that you can transpose with bushcraft or survival skills. We are simply talking about a space, whether it’s a physical space or a psychological space for considering the idea that you are nature. We are nature. Which might be the first step.


SARAH S: And we feel better when we think when we understand that.


KATY: Right.


SARAH S: I think that’s where gratitude can come in so powerfully. When you can remember that actually you wake up every day and there’s water somewhere near you and you have access to it. And there are resources available to you like food, and connection and all of these things are made available because the earth is spinning with consistency for millions of years depending on your belief system. And nature is already, you know, almost when start to think about the magnitude of the earth and the systems and the biology and all of it, you almost kind of get … you almost can allow yourself to be like, “Woah, that’s crazy. This has been going on for our whole lives and I keep forgetting because I live in the middle of the city. And I walk along the city streets and I take a bus. And I forget that I’m actually a part of the rotating earth system.”  It’s so nature.


KATY: I know. I find it relaxing. I’m like, “Oh, this is going on. And this is here. And I’m just an ant and it’s fine. And guess what? I’m part of this beautiful thing..”  Ok, so let’s talk a little bit about Olympic Nature Experience which is, I would call more an organization than a school because it embodies or includes many different programs. So there were nature schools that we were talking about but then there’s also these smaller commitments, smaller time frame programs like adventure club. So if you were to quickly break down, maybe the arms, the limbs of Olympic Nature Experience what would they be?


SARAH G:  Right. So we do an early childhood education program which is our nature pre-school or forest kindergarten program and we call that Owl’s Hollow Early Learning. And we meet the needs of 3-6-year-olds right now.   And then after that, we found that some of our kids wanted to stay with us and they weren’t ready to leave and so we started introducing homeschool enrichment classes we’re calling them. And those are for, we have a kindergarten-aged class and then a first through third grade age class. And those are just to deepen and enhance the skills and to enrich whatever you’re doing at home with your homeschooling. Some kids we’ve even had them come from one day at public school.  They take the day off public school and they spend the day outside with us. And that is really neat. And then what Katy was talking about is Adventure Club which is our family playgroup drop-in program. And parents come with their kids. It’s happening this morning for the first time this season. I’m really excited to hear how it goes. And they stop in. We meet in front of our local Audubon center and then we go. We put on our creature powers. We go for a hike. We have a snack. We tell a story. And parents and their kids are with a trained naturalist and mentor who can give them the tools they need to spend time outside with their kids if that’s something that’s not comfortable or is comfortable and they just want a community of people to do it with them.  Would you add any other arms to our…


SARAH S: And then we do some camps.


SARAH G: Yeah.


SARAH S: And this year we’re trying to focus on having camps that run a little bit more accessible to public school kids so that when they have like a holiday from school then their parents can have some nature school childcare options. Or just an opportunity for them who might not be able to come to our enrichment programs all year can come at small points throughout the year as well as during the summer. So we do camps as well.


KATY: So let’s talk about a typical day. I mean I’m laughing at the word typical but let’s say a typical day of forest kindergarten. What does that look like?


SARAH S:  So they arrive and we have a curriculum mapped out and as one of our teachers said and I love this line:  “There’s what you plan and there’s what is.” And so they arrive, there’s a first half an hour. We call it inspiration time. So there’s an activity out. There’s a game that we’re thinking about running. And then there’s also free play and almost anything else you want to do. So for example, this week we’re learning about the letter p so we brought in plants. So then we dissected plants and they’re laying out with roots and there’s mud on them and maybe we are pulling a bunch of leaves. And I had a bunch of beans that needed to be shucked and they were shucking the beans and sorting them. And maybe they quickly tire of that because they’re preschoolers and so then they want to take the leaves and they want to put them on as a hat and run around and play a different game.  And they make that up. So that’s allowed too. That’s part of the nature immersion and fostering their imagination. And then we’ll have a game so we’re playing a different game. So that goes on for about a half an hour. Then we have a circle, we meet. We make agreements. That’s how we do a lot of our safety in our school is by creating agreements with the children instead of creating rules. And then we’ll discuss whatever we need to as a community. Maybe some of the children want to share something. And then we will go out on a hike and we’ll hike anywhere from 10 minutes to 30 minutes depending on how far they, depending on the time of year. Depending on how much they need to move to stay warm and comfortable. Their age range. How experienced they are hiking. Where we are in the school year.  Beginning of the school year we only hike a little bit because we have children who are getting used to carrying their own backpack and hiking in a group. And that might be scary. Or challenging. And then at the end of the year you can go so far because they’re just ready. They know how. Also their parents know how to pack their bag a little bit more efficiently maybe. And so we hike and we often do natural history studies along the way. We saw a newt and so we’re talking about a newt. And we observe the newt. And we might pull up some tools to explore. We might just sit there and observe or maybe we’re not interested so we move right past the newt. You know? And then we go to a place and then we have a snack or a substantial snack. It’s a lunch pretty much. And we have lunch and we talk and again we share gratitude before we do that. And also at our circle in the morning we have a song that we sing that is about gratitude and kind of saying hello to everything. So then we practice gratitude. We have a snack. There’s also a lot of opportunity to discuss things as a community. Make observations. The kids love, “Whoever has apples raise your hand.”   You know they love this kind of exploring together. And then we have what we call wonder time. So that lasts for about an hour and a half. And so we have stations out. And then again, free time and nature immersion is what we’re doing. So we have fine motor, gross motor activities out. We have maybe a writing activity out. We might have a science activity out. And these things are all extremely efficient because our teachers carry everything in our backpacks. So one of our gross motor that we’ve been doing for months now because they’re just enamored with it is mud kitchen. So it’s just a bag with stackable aluminum containers and maybe a couple of dinosaurs in there. And we just put it out. And then they just, they dig, or they find grass. And they make a bath for the dinosaurs or whatever it is. All they need is just a tiny manipulative to get them totally immersed. And then maybe we just have some beads out with some cord and they can string beads on cord for a fine motor skill and then maybe we have some papers out that are a plant and they get to paint on it and learn about the different pieces of plant. So everything is very efficient. It fits into our bags. We bring some books with us. And then we’re just helping them engage in nature for an hour and a half. Doing what they want as they’re called to do it. And then deepening the learning so you know, this is where the coyote mentoring is really valuable. So they want to play with the dinosaurs. And the dinosaur might be trying to kill the plants because they’re just young and they’re exploring and they’re trying to root up this plant. Well that’s an opportunity for us to talk to the dinosaur and tell the dinosaur that these plants are what dinosaurs eat and what are these pieces that you’re pulling apart.  Oh these are the roots. So it’s really engaging with a lot of questions and a lot of curiosity and through that we’re able to deepen their learning more and more and give each child an individualized learning experience. So if one child really wants to – we’ve had this before – only learn about planes, because they love planes. So we’re not gonna try to say, “Well you need to learn the parts of the root, I mean the parts of the plant.” Instead we say, “Oh well we need some leaves so we can make an airplane.” And then, so through their own passion, their child passions, we’re able to access what it is that we want to try to expose them to. And get them excited about it. Now they’re learning about leaves and stems and roots of a plant because now we’re making – we need the roots to tie the sticks together, the stems together so that we can make an airplane. So there’s an hour and a half of wonder time and we’re doing this kind of … it’s like a tension back and forth between following them and then kind of invisibly leading them. And then after that we hike back. Oh we have forest music. So we’ll sing some songs, make some music with whatever nature objects that we can find – rattle some stones in your hand or hit some sticks together. And then we’ll return hike. And then we have a story collecting at the end of the day where everyone gets to talk about their experience for the day. Which is really an important part of gathering in nature together – is to collect the stories. Because that’s where a lot of the children will learn – process their learning. Reinforce their learning and also re-engage with the passion and the wonder that they have. And then we have pickup.


KATY: Is that the best part of the day?  It’s the most relaxing.


SARAH S:  Sometimes it’s actually the most chaotic.


KATY: Well you have a bunch of adults ruining your flow.


SARAH S: Everybody’s in, yeah.


KATY: So you guys are moving a lot clearly, as instructors. This is a podcast where we are thinking about movement and the ways that humans move. So Sarah G you were trying to think of some of the movements that… I mean there’s probably not that many movements that the kids do that you don’t do at least in some way. At least the duration of them.  So what are they?


SARAH G:  I was brainstorming. We walk on uneven surfaces.  We’re all carrying our backpacks. Our heavy loads. Sarah was talking about those buckets. Sometimes they fill them up with mud and water and they are like these heavy things that they’re carrying round with them. They’re hiking on the trails. They’re climbing trees. They’re navigating obstacles. A lot of time we’re going through big tall brush and that’s challenge for a lot of kids.


SARAH S:  Andover and under logs. With a backpack too.


SARAH G: Your backpack is definitely… the other day we were playing a game on the trail and you run off and hide in the bushes. And there’s just backpacks littered on the trail because they’re like, “We can’t take these into the bushes.


KATY: I’m not gonna lose hungry bear because of this backpack.


SARAH S: Exactly.


SARAH G:  Let’s see, what else do they have. Navigating their layers of clothing in the winter.  I was thinking about temperature regulation. The other day it was sunny and beautiful and they all took off all their layers and I looked at Sarah and said, “They’re gonna have to put all those back on.


KATY: That’s right.


SARAH G: And then digging. Construction projects. Balancing on logs. It was snowy a few weeks ago and they were climbing up this log that was on an angle. And ti was really slippery. And they were managing and balancing and helping each other.  So those are some of the movements that came to my mind right away that we do.


SARAH S: And lots of up and down. Up and down. Up and down.




SARAH S: That’s what I notice all day long.




SARAH S: Even in our office which you all will be happy to know is largely furniture free. So I’m always noticing down on the computer, I sit at the desk and then I go walk across the room to go get the office supplies. And walk across the other side of the room to go get … so it’s like that in nature school. Up and down, up and down.


KATY: So I can hear people’s minds like tick tick tick listening to this. And we get a lot of emails when I put out a question about what do you want to know about nature school and there was a lot of people who were like … they are looking themselves for a connection to nature. I think so much of this came up around children with Richard Louv’s book: A Child in Nature.  This idea of Vitamin nature being so important for kids. But it’s important for all human beings. For all earthlings.  And there were a lot of grown-ups who were interested in changing their path to lead some… seeing this is a hole in their community. And they have a passion for it and desire. But they themselves are not “woodsy”. So I wanted to.


SARAH S: Neither am I!


KATY: Right right. So I wanted to break down the idea that you two, while you are excellent teachers and leaders of your nature program, you’re not McDodge coming fresh from the woods.  You don’t – you’re not fairies. You wear shoes. You have cars.


SARAH S: I’m not wearing a leopard print skirt that I made myself.


KATY: Exactly.  So you were talking about starting fires with your teeth. And this joke that “hey, how are you at fire starting. Are you a guru?  Are you a nature guru wiz?”


SARAH S: Yes. I’m excellent when there’s dry weather. Hot outside.


KATY: Right.


SARAH S: My wood is warm and chopped and I have all the tools like a hatchet and a knife and a lighter.


SARAH G: Firestarter.


SARAH S: And newspaper.


KATY: And massage!


SARAH S: Exactly.  No children around.  So I, yes, I can appreciate that it is intimidating and that we can have these ideas that you have to embody a certain skill before you can a) either go out and practice it or even do it safely. I think that’s a big thing for people is, “I want to do this but I don’t know where the safety margins are.”  So that can be very intimidating. And also, who am I to go out and try this thing. People are gonna see I’m a poser. If you’ve ever had those thoughts, rest assured other people have had those thoughts too. Including myself. So, I heard, and I did read the questions on one of your Instagram, people saying “How do I start this? Where do I?  What are my first steps?” So here are some steps that will be helpful. First, you want to really enjoy your connection with nature whether it’s a tiny, tiny little seed that you’re planting right now and just going outside and noticing where the trees are. How many trees are on your block? Walk it once a week. You probably are already walking some amount of the time if you are listening to this podcast.  So notice where the trees are. Notice where the nature is that you aren’t already noticing. When you’re driving in your car, just start to notice, are their birds on the wires? Are their birds on the side of the road, you know? This might be weird but are there dead animal carcasses on the side of the road. A lot of us aren’t even registering that. So the first thing is to just notice. If that is where you are, just start to notice. If you are already a naturalist, you’re used to noticing.  If you want to deepen your nature connection, a program that I really found valuable through Wilderness Awareness School is the Kamana Naturalist Training course. And it’s a self-led naturalist training course and they teach you how to notice. And they teach you how to begin to learn how to be safe out in the woods.


KATY: And it’s all online right?


SARAH S:  It is a book that you send away for and you do it. And then you can send it away and you get a certificate. And I found it really valuable. What it does it it start to tune you into your senses. It start to turn on in you the belief that …or that knowing that I am part of nature. Nature is everywhere. Even if I live in a city. They even give you tips for “if you live in a city you can still find nature.”  I live in the country.It’s very quiet. I really appreciate quiet. I went to the city for a conference over the summer and I was staying in a hostel right in the international district. So it was very loud, extremely loud. Very busy. I’m staying in this little tiny room. The only way out of the building is through the fire escape or the elevator thing. And it was kind of intense for me. And also, it’s the summer so it’s a nice place to hang out and be quiet. So I sat on the fire escape and I was doing my sit spot time, essentially, you know. Just looking at the tops of the trees and the doves and the pigeons that were flying around over the buildings and watching the sky. And it’s loud. And there’s people everywhere. But there was still so much nature to be had. In the middle of the city. In the middle of this crowded place where there’s a lot of people who are hurting and there’s a lot of homeless and drugs and things like that.  And you can see sometimes, sometimes we have to break out of our box of what nature is to be able to access it. So noticing is one thing. If you want to get in to really practicing of noticing, Kamana is a good resource. Or any kind of place where you can go and start to learn about the birds. Birds are an excellent resource in to learning about nature because they speak a lot. And they, they’re everywhere. Even in the city. And there is so much to learn from them. So going to a nature center and taking a birding class or looking online about birds. So there’s so many resources there. Then if you want to take it a step further and you want to start something, whether you’re a homeschool parent and you want to bring more nature connection into your child’s life, whether you are taking care of elders or somebody you want to help them connect with nature, or you want to start a program because you just think this is a need in your community or it’s a calling for you, basically you get comfortable with your relationship with nature, get very very curious about everything you’re seeing all the time. There’s a worm. Where’s it going? Why is it doing that?  Is this the time for worms? Just asking questions constantly. And then just start somewhere. You know, for me, I started adventure club 6 years ago, or 7 years ago now because I wanted to start a nature school and I didn’t know how. So I just started this little walk in playgroup and it’s really shifted formats over the years to figure out what would work for me. What would work for our community. What did people want to attend. I spent a lot of time showing up and nobody was coming. So it was really a slog in some ways, but it was also such a joy in other ways because I’d bring my kids. And we would play. And many years later that program is still going. So start something and there’s resources out there. The Hike-it baby is a place where families get together and they hike together. There’s Tinker Garden. There’s different places out there where people group together and meet and do that kind of thing, play with young children outside. Or start something. Just start a playgroup or a meetup or something on Facebook or social media or something like that. So you could just start. On the show link, on the bio, is that what it’s called, the notes.


KATY:  Show notes.


SARAH S: Show notes, thanks, we listed some regional players that we know in the United States. So if you’re interested in really getting something started more significantly, go check out the Natural Start Alliance, the Children in Nature network, some of these regional players. Eastern region of forest and nature schools. David Sobel and Antioch University on the west coast, there’s the Washington Nature Preschool Association. The Northern Illinois Nature Preschool Association. So these are the big players that I know of in the United States of places that support nature schools regionally and train nature schools regionally. Wilderness Awareness School and CedarSong Nature School also train teachers. So those are all in the show notes. Those are just names to put in the back of your head if you’re interested in starting something more significantly.


SARAH G: I would just add that I like to remember that I’m not the expert. And I don’t need to be the expert.  One of my favorite things to say to the kids is, “I don’t know the answer to that. That is a really good question. Let’s look it up together.”  Because then you’re teaching them the skills to be able to find the answers to their questions. They’re critically thinking. They’re engaged in science using a field guide if that’s the type of question that they’re asking. And you get to find out the answer together and you get to engage in being curious together. You’re not the expert and you don’t need to be the expert. You can find the answers with them.


KATY: You’re going to school too. You’re going to school.


SARAH G: Yeah.


SARAH S: And one of the last pieces to that too is get curious and allow yourself wonder.


SARAH G: Mm-hmm


KATY: Mm-hmm.


SARAH S: You know, that is like, “Woah. The flower is blooming. Can I pause and be in wonder with that?” That is such a touchstone for, I think, nature education.


KATY: I feel like we’ve lost a lot of wonder because of the magic Google box that we all have in our hand. Anytime you want to know anything you just are so quick to look it up to be told what it is.  There’s no speculation. There’s no time of “Maybe it’s this or that.” So it’s been fun, I’ve written before about sometimes putting away guides or digital look up pieces when you’re out there just to have the phase of “what is it? ” And that goes for nature and also for movies and songs from the 90s that you can’t recall.  Just let yourself wonder. Let yourself wonder about what the lyrics were and who sang it and what movie it was from. Because I feel like my brain is losing its ability to search and create because all of the answers are given to by someone else.


SARAH S: And that’s actually a part of the – that’s exactly the heart of the type of teaching we do. Because when a child says, “What kind of tree is that?” And you say, “Oh, that’s a cedar tree.” They stop being curious. They think they have the answer and that’s the end of it. But we don’t know a million things about that cedar tree. We might know a lot about cedar trees but we don’t know what that cedar tree is doing.


KATY: Right.


SARAH S: In that moment. Is it drinking more water now than it was in the summer? Is it drinking less? How much water is it giving off?  How much, is it, how many micro causal connections does it have to all the trees around it? What kinds of roots does it have and can we use those for anything?  There’s a million questions to ask. And when we start to realize how little we know, we can be not only in the sense of “I wonder” but in awe.


KATY: Right.


SARAH S: That sense of wonder as well.  And so there is so much that’s gained by being curious and also knowing that we don’t have the answers. We don’t have to have the answers. That gigantic earth ball is still holding us with all the things going on.


KATY: I’m on the bus and on the ball at the same time. Well and to that point too, I’m, and our personal family, we’re really trying to watch classification systems like being from a really traditional biological mindset, really trying to go well, “some people would call that a cedar. But even if you’re … but it isn’t’ ‘a cedar’, that’s a name for it.” Here’s five names for it.  I feel that that’s really important in these times where we’re really trying to understand inclusivity and diversity. To recognize different but equal perspectives on things. You could consider it part of social science. I consider it a part of really great biological science is to recognize the various classification systems. Which leads me to another question. Which is like what are some considerations around accessibility and inclusivity, diversity with nature education? Are there hurdles that you are jumping or thinking about?  What can you weigh in on that?


SARAH G: The Natural Start Alliance just did a national survey of nature preschools in the United States and they found that we are mostly serving white kids and most of those kids can access nature in some way other than nature school. Nature school does not need to be their primary avenue to access being outside.  And so at our organization, we started talking a lot about what barriers we can reduce in order to be more inclusive of all kinds of people and kids who want to do our programs.


SARAH S:  And it is a big conversation in the movement – in the nature school movement. The Natural Start Alliance did a national conference in the summer in August and the topic was Inclusivity, Diversity, and equity. And they did a really nice job of bringing in various perspectives and helping, I’ll speak for myself, helping me understand the different types of diversity and the different types of inclusivity and some of the barriers. A lot of the times you create a barrier because you don’t know. You create a structure that works for you but you don’t realize that it doesn’t work for other people so you’re inadvertently creating a barrier for some people. So understanding that that is happening and being open to the idea of seeing it from other perspectives is really valuable.  So it is part of the conversation. RIght now we are working with the Department of Early learning in Washington state on a pilot program to license outdoor preschools and nature preschools. And there is a big conversation and some of the team, some of the other nature schools are really doing an awesome job of continuing to advocate for diversity and inclusivity. Recognizing that if we make these considerations or set up this structure that we are really limiting the ability of some people of economic means or of social structures or culture and heritage and ethnicity…they’re not going to find it as accessible. So how do we lower those barriers? And how do we constantly take them into consideration? It’s a challenge for us. Extremely challenging. We have to, of our primary concern of all times is safety. We are operating in public parks, in woods, heavily wooded areas.  In one of our parks literally, there is a cliff, not super close.


KATY: It’s there.


SARAH S: Then there’s like roads and people that are out in these public parks. So having a child run away is extremely dangerous. Now, there’s all kinds of ways to consider that. And there’s all kinds of things that we do to set safety and protective measures. But it’s very challenging for us to accept a child who can’t stay with the group to a certain degree.


KATY: Right.


SARAH S: And we have all kinds of ways that we work with the children to make sure that they can. So we don’t have to have children that are super excellent at following directions and staying with the group but we do have to have children who are going to not consistently run away from the group either. And so it’s challenging because sometimes we’ll have a child that isn’t ready for that and or if we have a child that has some special needs, maybe we can’t accommodate it because we’re running at such a lead ratio. There such so many things to consider. So it is a question we’re asking ourselves. It is something we’re working towards.


KATY: There’s a couple things that that brought up for me. For one, I followed that conference. It had an excellent twitter feed so you can search the hashtag. I’ll see if I can find it and put it in the show notes and you can see people quoting takeaways of various presentations as well as if you go back to the line up of who was speaking you can connect with them and their work which is much bigger than the 30 minute presentation that they did. Sometimes there’s entire books on – I love that word barriers. Someone has thought a lot about a single barriers. That’s what it is. There’s an expert in various barriers and that you just have to kind of cultivate an exposure to many different people who have thought deeply about many different aspects and then glean what you can and what you can change right away. The other thing was, and I just put this out if you get my newsletter, schools aren’t the only thing going nature. We’re starting to see therapists go nature. So there’s new occupational therapy that’s offering therapy in nature. And so I think sometimes we put it on the school to provide the sole source of nature but one of the ways I think that trying to figure out how to get more nature when the school isn’t prepared to handle everyone all of the time is to look for other avenues. Like maybe just as parents adding a little bit more exposure to nature so that we’re not just dropping someone at school who has not had previous exposure to nature. But if someone is getting therapy, I’ve seen speech-language, OT, and PT now in parks with small groups. So it’s almost like they’re seeing as more as understood about how things work, how therapy works, how movement works and that nature provides all of these – well natural environment for these things to happen, I think that the benefit is not only are they getting therapy, we’re also getting exposure to nature. So I don’t think it’s going to have to be only schools. Eventually, I’ll see this Vitamin Nature stuff happening in other elements of our day.


SARAH S: That’s really cool.


KATY: Yeah. It’s exciting. It’s exciting. Ok, my kids go to your school. I learn a lot from them all the time so I’m constantly being educated. So it’s outside of their education that I think is benefiting from the school. What other sort of benefits do you see coming from children who have deepened their relationship or their understanding of nature? Have you seen it trickle into other elements?


SARAH S: You’re asking how does it affect people’s lives out of school?


KATY: Yeah outside of the child is now getting the thing that they need, you know, like, I have found that yes this is what they need but I’m am being enriched for their enrichment. And the trickle, I guess trickle down or trickle up or out is I’m more motivated to bring more people in the community to it. I want to make it more accessible. So I’m motivated to do that because this is so much more than Vitamin N for a kid, and their brain and their muscles. To me, it’s a salve on the planet. On the giant ball I’m swirling around on. So what are the other…


SARAH S: One of the things I think about nature education is it’s so contextual. So, you know, yes we’re learning about plants and the letter p, but what we’re really learning about is how do we create more resiliency in our bodies. How do I stay comfortable when the weather is changing? How do I stay comfortable when I am intimidated by this log that I have to climb over? How do I find comfort or soothe or bring in emotional regulation tools?  There’s so much learning that’s happening in nature. Not that that’s not happening elsewhere as well, but there are so many variables that are outside of your control: the teacher’s control and the children’s control. And so there’s this constant practice of resiliency. As well as, then, critical thinking. Responding. Curiosity as we talked about. Wonder. And awe. All of these things, in my opinion, and my experience, develop a love for learning, create critical thinking, problem-solving, resiliency, emotional… yeah resiliency is the word – the ability to respond creatively to things.  And I think that children take that with them. And so then when they go into – and there’s a lot of studies out there that talk about that. Not only that but nature itself is soothing to the regulatory system. And so they go outside and it’s been, I mean anyone who has been – especially if you’re on the east coast – you’re inside in the winter and you’re getting a little stagnant and you’re like, “Oh it’s so nasty out…” It’s cold, it’s wet. Maybe it’s just to get in your car. Or maybe it’s to go for a 10-minute walk. Or maybe it’s a to go for a 40-minute walk, or 2 hours or whatever. And maybe you’ve had this experience: you go outside and it’s really uncomfortable. The kids are crying. Everyone’s cold and what or whatever the experience is. And when you come back in, you always feel better. Almost no matter how bad the experience is outside, as long as you’re not hypothermic maybe, you feel better coming back inside. So I think that is what nature does to us. It helps us create – go outside of our comfort zones, go to the edge of the comfort zones. Create a little bit more space there and flexibility there. And then when we are fully inside our comfort zone we actually have a lot more tools to play with and we are ready. We’re honed in. Our nervous system is more in regulation and we can focus more. There’s so many studies and books and things out there that talk about those kinds of things so in my opinion, children, whether they go to nature school, whether they free play outside, whether it’s on the playground at school for 30-40 minutes whatever, it’s always of benefit because they’re contextualizing their environment and learning all these things. That being said some of the other benefits that we’ve seen are: empowerment, you know, this resiliency in friendship. We really teach the children to lean into each other and ask for help and things like that. And then those things also trickle into the families from what I’ve heard. They’ll say they’re more enabled as a family to go outside because now their child isn’t as resistant. Or “We like to hike and now our child can actually hike with us.” Or we do have some families that say “we want to get into nature but we don’t know how. Now we feel like we’re around a community that can help us like that so our child is more comfortable so we’re learning to be more comfortable.” So there’s a lot of trickles. Trickles out.


KATY: Ok so my kids had a question when they heard about this interview they’re like, “We want to ask a question.”  So the first question was: What do you love most about teaching nature school?


SARAH G: That is a good question. Do you have your answer?


SARAH S: My top three.  It’s a trifecta of awesomeness. I love singing the nature songs outside. They bring me a lot of joy. So I personally sing a lot on nature school. Sing a lot of these earth wisdom songs as we call them – or I call them. And looking up at the trees and seeing the wind passing and seeing  – just looking up and seeing nature. We were at this overlook, it’s like a trail and there’s a little hill that goes down and paths and you can see the mountains in the distance and then there’s a meadow right there and sitting in the sun. And it’s just like, playing with the children, rocks, dinosaurs, buckets and then you look up and there’s mountains or you look up and there are the trees swaying. So that is my second favorite thing. And then laughing with the children – I just love it. It’s such a joy. So those are my top three. Sorry..


SARAH G: I would say that I get my daily dose of nature and to be outside with amazing little humans. And the sense of community both with the families, with the staff, and with the kids. I know them so well and I get to be with them and see them at their best and their worst and their challenges and their successes and I think that that is probably one of the most rewarding things.


KATY: I love that you say that it’s a community with the kids because we had a stressful even at our house and Finn came up and said, “Try this breathing technique. Sarah’s husband does it all the time and it calms him down.” He’s just as interested in what your lives and you and I love that that’s what you brought home from that.  It wasn’t a curriculum thing but it’s a relaxing breathing technique. Ok. And so, the other question was, I have to laugh because … and I have this recorded because I was recording when I was interviewing them. The question from Roan was: What will nature school be like in the future but it was amended by Finn which is, what do you think nature school will be like in the future because you don’t know.


SARAH S: Awesome.  Well – contextualize future. Are we talking 2 years or are we talking?


KATY: I think that you can answer however you like.


SARAH S: I would like to envision that nature school is accessible to everybody so that it is in public school. It’s part of the public school curriculum. It’s accessible for free to people and there’s so many ways that it is available that it is not even a thing anymore.


KATY: Yeah. It’s not school and nature school. It’s just school. Pick your poison.


SARAH S: Yeah. Exactly. And that we are all so in the mindset of that we are nature that we’re thinking about, you know, at this point, we’re thinking about nurturance and attachment and things like that in how children are raised and I wanted to be at some point part of that conversation.  How are children, we talk now in the United States about read to your child from the youngest age, but we also at some point be, remember take your child outside every day. Let them touch and explore and put things in their mouth or whatever it is at every age too. So I hope that’s the future of nature school. That it is nature all the time.


SARAH G: All the time.


KATY: It’s like tooth brushing right? We have had many successful public health messages come out that are based on, hey we have realized that this early is something that decreases the need for things, therapies, down the road. So take care of your teeth, brush every day, make sure you exercise a little bit. That nature will be one of those things which will be more efforts to make sure it’s available to everyone.  We’ll have to be lockstep with that. Ok, so before we go I get a lot of questions I answer to per podcast. And we have a collective that sponsors them. Each part of the collective sponsors the second question. Today it’s MyMayu.


SARAH S: Oh great!


KATY: MyMayu outdoor boots sponsor this kind of question or tips section that we’re about to go down because they are also a sponsor of your nature school.


SARAH S: Thank you, Suzanne.


KATY: She’s so great.  So I get a lot of questions about gear. I’m sure you do too. I remember, Sarah, when you were starting before you launched the big school, you were trying to figure out gear. And gear is so essential. And I like to broaden the idea of gear to be beyond clothing but also the food that people pack with them. Because I think that if you’re used to sitting all day, that your nutritional needs, energy needs, ratio needs, would be different than if you’re out moving. So that gets lost sometimes. Kids aren’t hanging. Like I’m having a hard time taking my own kids out for a hike. And it’s like, you might want to check their gear, including what they’re being fed because that might be the key. I mean I have figured out the balance of food that can make for a 10-mile hike for little kids. But it’s like a chemistry experiment.


SARAH S: Does it include a lot of chocolate.


KATY: It includes some chocolate. And it actually includes the promise of chocolate. They’re not fueled by chocolate, they’re fueled by the promise of chocolate on the other side. But anyway, what are some gear tips that you have? General. I mean you guys filmed a ton of amazing videos that hopefully some day will find up on one page of your website so someone can just watch and look at all of them and see all that work that you did. Because it’s super helpful. But what is your best gear tip?


SARAH G:  Best gear tip?  I think it’s what’s comfortable for your child, right?  Sarah and I were actually talking about this the other day. You could spend $40 on a pair of rain pants and they’re never gonna wear them.


KATY: Right.


SARAH G: Because it’s not comfortable for them. So finding what’s comfortable for your child. Asking other parents what’s comfortable. We have a closed family facebook group and a lot of the times new families will come on and will ask “What does your child wear? What do they like? What’s comfortable to them?”  And if it’s not comfortable to them they’re not going to wear it, and they’re not going to keep it on so what’s the point of sending them to school in them.


SARAH S: Although please still send rain gear. Even if your kids aren’t gonna wear it. We might still just get on them if they want to …  I would like to say for MyMayus, one of our families in particular found that putting cornstarch in the boot at the beginning of the day, maybe that came from your family even. I know it circulated around, putting cornstarch in can help the child navigate getting their foot in and out.  So that’s been helpful. A lot of parents in our school using MyMayu.


KATY: Which has got Roan yelling every morning, “Where’s my flour?”  I was like, “What do you mean?” And then she’s like, “my corn starch”. It just slips the boot right out.


SARAH S: And then I understand you just pour it out at the end of the day.  So I think that finding the right gear is great. I joke that nature school uniform is pajamas. Because fleece is easy to come by in pajamas.  So you know, layers is key. Being flexible. And I think, you know when you want to talk about gear and having it be bigger than just the clothing you’re putting on. I think you have to include mindset. Recognizing that when you are going outside, especially if you’re going outside to go to the edge of your comfort zone, whether that’s a 30-minute hike with your kids. Which I did for the first time yesterday. I’d never taken my kids hiking all by myself before. And we got on the trail for about 30 minutes and everyone was melting down and I was like, “Awesome. We did this. This is great. Let’s go”


KATY: Better than being inside.


SARAH S: And also that was the edge of our comfort zone. I learned a lot. Why am I uncomfortable with this. Oh for x, y, z reasons. So you know when you go to the edge of your comfort zone, recognize that you’re actually learning a lot there. So the mindset is really key. We’re just going to go out to the point where it’s no longer fun. Maybe that’s what you do. Or maybe you just say we’re just gonna go out for 20 minutes. And then you’re still having fun at 20 minutes so you stay for another 10. So you don’t have to make it epic actually. What you want to do is make it attainable so that you have a positive experience. So one time my husband went outside with our children. He got them all bundled up and they literally played in the puddle in the road in front of our house for 20 minutes, got sopping wet, and then he took them back in and he’s like, “I think I took longer to get them dressed than I actually was outside with them.” But they came back in and they had that experience of “oh we feel so much better.” So making it attainable is part of the mindset I would like to encourage as part of the gear. And recognizing there are going to be challenges.  And if you can mitigate those challenges with promises of chocolate, maybe that’s the right tool. Or recognizing that sometimes you need to experience – we do this at the school – it’s ok to experience the meltdown, actually.


SARAH G:  Yeah.


SARAH S:  Sometimes, not every time. You get to choose when you want to do that. But you can experience the meltdown because there’s a lot to learn. Oh this is why we put on that extra coat. This is why we x, y, z. You know later when you’re calm and comfortable again then you can talk about and learn from. So, you know, those are part of the gear options too is the mindset. I think food is a bit one.


SARAH G”  Yeah.


SARAH S: One of the parents taught me recently that they pack four proteins.


SARAH G:  Yes.


KATY: Protein is a game changer.


SARAH S: It’s a game changer.


KATY; It’s a game changer


SARAH S: And if that means that you pack some foods that you buy special for nature school day or special for the hike or whatever it is. So having a lot of protein. I would say also having a decent amount of carbs.


SARAH G: Or a warm drink in the winter. The kids who have a warm drink and who are warming on the inside there’s such a difference in how much they can handle for being cold if they have a warm drink with them.


KATY: Very comforting.


SARAH S: Another thing is fear. Recognizing that we are modern people and we probably have a lot of fear. Conscious or subconscious.  And recognizing where you’re taking your fear along with you. So it doesn’t mean that it has to inhibit you. Maybe you just go to the edge of that. So, for example, I took my kids hiking and I had some fears. So I went to where I felt like I could still be safe and comfortable. Explore the edge of what I felt comfortable with but not go outside where I felt safe, you know. I stayed where I felt safe. So we went hiking for a half an hour and I realized there are no more people on the trail and I’m an hour up a mountain with no cell service and I have three kids. I’m like, I’m not feeling safe anymore.


KATY: Yeah.


SARAH S: We were at the edge of our comfort level for other reasons before that but now I’m not feeling safe so I’m gonna honor that and move back to where I feel safe. So recognizing that I’ve seen some discussions on Facebook and different forums and things like that about how people feel around being safe outside with their children. And safety is a huge one. Especially when you’re trying to role model for your children. So if you feel uncomfortable touching bugs or being out on a trail, you can subconsciously model that for them. Which is ok. Because it’s better than not going at all maybe.  But you just have to recognize where you have your fear and just maybe honor it and also when you can notice it and recognize that it’s at play here. Because I think that fear is another piece of the …


KATY: Gear.


SARAH S: This is the gear that we’re taking with us. So, that might not be the heart of the question.


KATY: Well I think it’s actually better than the heart of the question because it recognizes that you’re showing – you’re showing up




KATY: With things. And you can move things around or choose things or be aware of different things and how those things that you’re bringing are affecting your experience.


SARAH S: Especially if your fear is that your children will get too cold and then they’re gonna have a meltdown and it’ll be uncomfortable.  Then you notice, I feel fear about this and then I bring extra clothes even if that’s not what they’re gonna wear. Or we plan a shorter outing or we make sure that we can be successful so that we want to try it again later.


KATY: Well that was amazing. Thank you, both. Where can people find more about Olympic Nature Experience and see pictures of what’s going on daily?


SARAH G: So our website is And you can find us on Instagram and Facebook as Olympic Nature Experience.


KATY: All right. Go follow them. It’s inspiring. And it’s just the little videos that you post are great ideas for someone who is thinking – you don’t have to start a nature school but you can do almost everything that’s on there in your backyard. you can do it in a park. I used to do nature babysitting. Where I would say I’m going to this park and I’m going to do this one-mile loop. I feel ok with five toddlers, or whatever, and that would be my contribution. So there’s a lot of ways to do it.


SARAH S:  Absolutely.


KATY: All right. Anything else that you want to leave the peoples with?


SARAH S: Thank you so much for this time and I would just like to encourage, you know, you to enjoy a little bit of nature today. Maybe just listen to the bird songs. It’s spring some places in the world. And the birds are out and the sun might be shining or maybe the clouds are epic-ly dark and gloomy but they might be beautiful too. So I hope that you can just enjoy a little bit of nature and be grateful for it’s effect in your life today.


KATY: Friends if you want to dig deeper into some of the ideas we just talked about around nature education check out my book Movement Matters. You will find lots of resources for naturing up your homeschooling if you do that. Or just bringing a little bit more nature to your kids’ education however they get it.  Movement Matters is a great resource. Thanks to Sarah Salazar-Tipton who helped compile that appendix. As for me, I will be moving my DNA all over the place this spring.

I am headed to Canada in May. British Columbia specifically. I’ll be in Victoria and I’ll be in Vancouver. I’m going to go to Europe as soon as I get back from Canada. Don’t worry I’ll take two days off. Europe – I’m coming for you in June. I’m going to be doing events in Scotland, in England, in Germany, in Spain. I’m going to be doing Res events for you restorative exercise specialists out there in Italy and in the Netherlands.  If you want to find out what I will be doing, go to the show notes. We will link to all of these events. And you can also find out more on my live events link on the calendar on While you’re there sign up for my newsletter. Come say Hi on Social’ll find all kinds of movement tips on Instagram/Nutritious Movement. If you have any questions or if there’s something you’d like to know, email We really appreciate your questions. If you enjoy listening to Move Your DNA, please consider leaving a review on iTunes, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Your review helps other listeners decide if they should take a chance on this podcast!


So, on behalf of everyone at Move Your DNA / Nutritious Movement, thanks for listening. We appreciate your support! Thank you also to our sponsors in the Dynamic Collective, and thank you to Joyce Saunders, who wrote the Tamarack song. What is a Tamarack, you ask? Joyce and her band the Wilderbeats will fill you in. Find them at and find more links to Ashley Moffat and Joyce Saunders‘ music in our show notes.




VOICEOVER: This has been Move Your DNA with Katy Bowman, a podcast about movement. Hopefully you find the general information in this podcast informative and helpful, but it is not intended to replace medical advice and should not be used as such.


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