CNY Children Are Playing to Learn CNY Children Are Playing to Learn

Outdoor Life Learners helps kids grow through a unique nature immersion program.

By Peyton Smith MARIETTA, N.Y. (NCC News) — While living on the west coast, Shannon Delaney traded in her corporate job for the kitchen in order to help other people. She is now a certified holistic chef and has brought her expertise to Central New York. Delany’s job is about helping people live healthier lives, she said.

“So I use food as medicine,” Delany said. “I work with people who have symptoms and are at a point in their lives where the pharmaceuticals are not necessarily working or they need additional supplements.”

For the last year, Delany and her 2-year-old son have attended a “Mommy & Me” program with Outdoor Life Learners, an organization dedicated to growing the next generation of environmental stewards. Outdoor Life Learners fosters these skills through outdoor immersion programs, said co-founder Amanda Steencken.

“We don’t teach,” Steencken said. “The key to this working is to remember that we are facilitators of the learning process, but the kids are the architects of their own learning.”

Steencken began Outdoor Life Learners with co-founders Lori Harper, Carrie Empie, and Benga Quick as a nature club for their kids. They now offer a weekly workshop led by guest mentors on themes such as art, woodworking, and outdoor cooking. Harper said this approach is more natural.

“We do more holistic learning instead of breaking things into chunks and saying, ‘This is math, this is language, and this is science,’” Harper said. “We do it all together.”

Delany led this week’s workshop on outdoor cooking with a holistic approach. She used a dutch oven to teach about 20 students how to make chicken soup over a fire. Her goal was to teach kids how food impacts their lives.

“You’ve it heard before, you are what you eat,” Delany said. “And so in that space it’s about nourishing your body to give it the support it needs to help it heal or help it maintain an optimal level of wellness.”

The best way to do this is to eat more foods that naturally energize your body, including nuts, fruits, and vegetables, she said. There is no definitive one-size-fits-all holistic diet, so you need to find what works for you, according to Delaney.

“We’re all like snowflakes and have these unique constitutions, so it’s really about figuring out what does, and more importantly, what doesn’t work for you,” she said.

While Delany kept her lesson simple for the kids, these are important skills to learn at a young age, she said.

“That’s what great about Outdoor Life Learners,” Delaney said. “Kids get exposed to so many life skills, all while immersed in nature.”

She added, “It’s great to watch the progress with my own son, and it’s even better to be a part of the learning process.”

Reported by
Peyton Smith

Peyton Smith

Peyton studies broadcast and digital journalism and sport analytics at Syracuse University. He is active in several on-campus media outlets. At CitrusTV, Peyton is the day reporter for Tuesday News Live at 6:00 and has served as the executive producer of Orange Press Pass and CitrusTV NOW. He also works with WAER Radio and is on the ACC Network Production crew, where he helps broadcast live sports events through linear and digital telecasts. Peyton looks forward to advancing his career in broadcasting, production, and journalism.

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