If you want kids to get outside and engage in nature play, it isn’t necessary to find someone with a degree in environmental education. You will need an administrative person who can handle the logistics of letting people know about the program, answering questions, checking if permission or fees are required to hike in certain locations, and arranging guest speakers or program leaders.
Then, you will need someone (or several people), who can handle leading a group of children through nature. Not everyone needs to be a nature expert; some people can introduce art in nature or writing in nature themes. Kids may keep their interest in a weekly program if they get a different leader each week, or a few leaders rotate. These leaders could be parents or paid presenters. A large group will require a presenter to lead the topic and then another adult who can watch for and manage behavioral issues.
Describe the children in the group ‘” If, in your enthusiasm to get participants, you open the program to children of all ages you could end up with a group of six year olds and a couple of ten year olds. The older children could become bored or simply figure the program is for younger children. Boredom can equal disruptions, even with normally well-behaved kids. A wide age-range can create difficulty in planning appropriate learning or physical activities.
If parents be present during the program this can mean the presence of a wide age range of children that will be interested in the nature club as well as kids who are there only because a parent was bringing a sibling. Should you want to create a drop off program, where parents leave their children with you, then it would be considerate to find a location where the parents and younger children can wait.
How often will your club meet? ‘” A weekly meeting holds the day and time on the calendar so parents don’t book their child for another series program that conflicts with the nature club. A regular day and time gets established in everyone’s mind.
This also leads to the question, will you meet in all seasons, all year, or is the nature club connected to specific months during the year? Consider how you’d contact parents if a meeting has to be cancelled as well as how you’d handle the nature club coordinator’s vacations.
Determine a time range ‘” Do you want to gather for an hour, an hour and a half, or two hours? Will parents and younger siblings be present for the program or will they be waiting somewhere else? Do you want to incorporate time after the meeting time for picnic lunches or snacks to encourage socialization of parents and children? Where are you allowed to picnic?
How will children get to the location? ‘” Will you meet at the same location week after week or will you go to different locations each week? If parents are carpooling is that up to them to arrange or will this coordination be another service that you offer?
How will children register? If you always meet at the same time and place then preregistration may not be required. However, if you travel to different locations or occasionally arrange for a paid leader, you might want confirmation that people will attend. How far in advance will you need money to pay admittance fees or fees for paid programs? You may want to consider setting up a PayPal account.
If parents aren’t present on the walk, you may want to have contact information and information about allergies as well as medical or behavioral issues. Parent-leaders may not be prepared to deal with the array of issues the children could have; how will this be dealt with?
What is the cost of the program? Are there fees for hiking at certain locations? Do some leaders require art materials or bug catching supplies? Will you hire professional environmental educators to lead some classes? Would it make more sense to collect the same amount of money for each class and keep it in a separate account or do will you keep the program free and plan accordingly?
Does it have to be this complicated? Yes and no. You want to know that children are going to attend the nature club. If parents and children know what they will do during a club meeting they may be more inclined to participate. If you are going to do something special that requires that you pay in advance, you want to know that you will be reimbursed. Remember, while it could take a lot of work in the beginning, once the nature club gets started it will be easier to run.