Unstructured Nature Time for Oakland Students

image-3When children have unstructured play time in nature, their imaginations come alive. They are better observers, they ask questions, and they become more comfortable with their surroundings when they are able to explore nature on their own. Despite its benefits, all too often, unstructured play time is limited for kids today, especially in the outdoors.

Video games and, yes, even structured sports can take away from self-exploration. Unstructured play time in forests, by creeks, or in meadows offers students the chance to set their own objectives, while building critical thinking and problem-solving skills and improving social interactions.

The League is all about nature play in the redwoods which is why we, in partnership with the City of Oakland’s Rotary Nature Center, recently brought over 100 students from Burckhalter Elementary in Oakland to Joaquin Miller Park to do some much needed “playing” in the forest. These after-school students from kindergarten through fifth grade spent three hours playing animal games, exploring the creek looking for critters, and hiking through the redwoods.

img_0676Screams of excitement came from the students’ mouths when they found a centipede or a worm under a rock. “When do we get to go hiking?” was asked numerous times until the opportunity came to trek through the forest.

All 106 students ended their time at the park with a three-minute silent sit beneath the redwood trees. To my surprise, it was the easiest part of the day. As the students plopped down on the redwood needles and cones, they silently listened to the forest. Not one peep was heard from a student; a moment of silence in a world where busy and noisy city streets are probably all they experience.

I can’t help but finish my time with their students with a huge smile on my face – they got dirty, they experienced something new, and they spent the afternoon in the redwoods.

You can find out more about our education programs and education resources on our Redwood Learning Center pages.

Tags: , , , ,

About Deborah Zierten

Deborah joined the League's staff in 2013 as the Education & Interpretation Manager. She brings with her extensive experience teaching science, developing curriculum and connecting kids to the natural world.

Many of the most magnificent redwood parks and reserves you and generations of Americans have enjoyed, including Redwood National Park pictured above, have been partially funded by the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Photo by David Baselt, redwoodhikes.com

What the Election Results May Mean for Redwoods


After a long, divisive presidential campaign, the election is finally over. While we’re all working to move forward and understand the implications of the election results, there is much that we do not know. Our initial assessment is limited to preliminary announcements from the Trump transition team and the rhetoric of the campaign trail, rather than firm policy positions of the president-elect. However, we do know that the change in Washington will directly impact the work of Save the Redwoods League and the future of redwood conservation.

High school students get hands-on experience studying climate change in the redwood forest at Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve.

High School Students as Citizen Scientists


If you ask high school students what the impacts of climate change have been, they can tell you that the polar ice caps are melting, that we have extreme weather, and that California has been in a drought for the past few years. But if you ask them how climate change will affect our forests and the plants and animals that live in them, they find it harder to come up with an answer.

Leave a Reply

Join our newsletter

Get the latest redwood updates in your inbox
   Please leave this field empty