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Outdoor Enrichment Friends

“I met him in August. We are all best friends!” One kid smiles as he describes when he met both of the boys next to him. “I met you last summer!” He points to the other, who agrees. Just like that all three boys run off to a tree to play some more. 

Friends may come and go, but young nature enthusiast friends will be remembered forever. The YMCA of San Francisco encourages outdoor education programs as a catalyst for positive self-development skills and nature diversity comprehension. Outdoor programs have grown in popularity since the pandemic. They are a tangible and safe model for families, especially those combating the issues aligned with virtual learning. Many families strained to find peer-to-peer engagement programs with social activities for their children during virtual learning this past year. Kids who found our outdoor programs like ours have instantly become best friends.  

Learning from home created new challenges for families, and the YMCA’s enrichment programs offered new growing opportunities for their children. “The outdoor program was a lifesaver for our family!”- Alice Kwok says about her two sons who are in the Fort Scott program out of Presidio YMCA.  

Alice’s two sons (one in 4th grade and the other in 1st grade) needed some sort of socialization when the pandemic began, and schools closed. “My sons went to public school and automatically had to learn at home. My husband and I were also working from home. It was a difficult swift change,” Alice notes. 

Households have become both school, home, and work offices. Outdoor adventures and activities that are critical for young developing minds were harder to come by. The Kwok family decided they needed outdoor enrichment for their children. Since late summer 2020 both of their sons enjoy our outdoor engagement Fort Scott program in the Presidio.   

This outdoor enrichment program at Fort Scott is dedicated to educating children about nature classification and cycles, developing environmental conservation skills, while building critical social and cognitive skills with group projects and activities. Children learn about the diversity of nature and how it is reflected in their own communities.   

“The staff is wonderful, qualified, and innovative with my kids.” Alice continues, “they love their new best friends who are also the same age as them. Now we have play dates, and it’s made it all easier to get through this pandemic.”   

This has been the only place to socialize for many of the children in our programs over the past year. “I love the Fort Scott program because it’s completely outdoors, the location is great and beautiful, and safe. They can climb trees and run around like children should be doing.” Alice responds.  

The staff at Fort Scott see the direct impact of children playing and interacting with nature. Building a child’s confidence in nature can boost self-esteem while creating new friendships and learning outdoors. This is an essential part of our YMCA youth development model. Sara Sedwick, Outdoor Education Coordinator, says that “Outdoor education for our youth is how we’ll save our world. These programs intrinsically teach students how to connect with nature and each other.” 

“This is a way to get children to explore and experience the world they live in and sometime right next to. We draw on connections.” Sara says.  

Our Fort Scott program currently offers 3 different cohorts with around 26 children. They have activities at Crissy beach and hike around various nearby locations in the Presidio. There is much to do around the Presidio, they search for insect and bird environments and learn about trees and cycles. According to the families and their children there's an endless advantage to getting kids active in nature.  

The YMCA of San Francisco will also launch the Bold and Gold program for building team leadership while going backpacking for older youth. Learn more here