Where Learning Happens Naturally...

The basic tenet of Outdoor Life Learners, “nature + free play = lifelong learners that never lose their curiosity, awe and passion”, is the common denominator across all our programs. We draw from several different educational philosophies, such as play-based learning, forest kindergarten approaches, child-led and inquiry-based learning, Waldorf's holistic (heart-hands-head) education, Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences, and sensory-based experiential learning, to name a few. 

Our participants learn:

Independent and group play skills: We encourage a lot of free play which gives children the option to work and play together in a group or explore their environment independently.

Fine and gross motor skills: through play with outdoor materials and through exploration of the natural world your child will develop fine and gross motor skills along with trust and appreciation of their body for all the amazing things it can do.

Problem-solving and social skills: children are encouraged to work out problems on their own under the observance of an adult who will give suggestions and step in if/when needed.This creates an opportunity for the child to practice sharing, politeness, conversation, and empathy on their own terms.  

Respect and empathy toward living things: Along with learning to be a good friend, children will be exposed to the natural world of creatures and plants and learn how they benefit us and the world we live in.

To communicate needs and feelings in a socially appropriate manner: Through peer and adult communication children will learn and be encouraged to talk through their feelings and how to manage them.  

Our staff are considered:

Mentors: We are committed to staffing our team with caring, nurturing adults, who are willing and able to forge strong relationships with each child

Role models: Our staff will teach by doing. They will model weather-appropriate dressing and fire and knife safety. They will model conflict resolution as needed, helping each child work through issues in a gentle, respectful manner. They will strive to maintain a cheerful, positive and inquisitive attitude.

Facilitators: Our staff will make materials, books, tools and nature-based experiences (hikes, tree climbing, sledding, snowshoeing, animal tracking, tree identification, pond observation, and countless other experiences) available to the children, and during every class. They will be on hand to guide children in completing tasks and accomplishing activities, always encouraging them and helping only when needed/requested by the child.

Please use the Programs pull-down menu for a complete list of our program offerings.


An Exceptional Learning Experience for 3 to 6 year-olds


Where 6 to 12 year-olds get to Dive Right In

Every week children meet at our Nature Home. After morning gratitude and song circle, kids set out to explore the area. Children are free to roam and explore and spontaneous, unstructured play is encouraged whenever possible. At the same time, kids are encouraged to be self-aware and aware of their surroundings, in order to be safe at all times. This delicate balance is carefully and tactfully moderated by our team of skilled, nurturing mentors who are always onsite, nearby and on-hand for the duration of each class/session.

During each session, we introduce seasonally-relevant topics for discussion and additional experiential learning. Within a framework of subjects and activities developed by our experienced staff, we also strive to follow the child’s interests as much as possible. As allowed, our teachers will encourage each child to push their own limits, and discover something new about themselves, their peers and their world. The true skill of our educators lays in their ability to merge each child’s interests with the lesson plan on any given day.

While there really is no “typical day” at OLL, generally speaking we strive to include/accomplish some or all of the following, in order to meet each child’s need for a routine and to ensure a well-rounded experience:


  • Children arrive ready to run and explore and play

  • Opening gratitude and song circle

  • Brief introduction to the day’s/week’s topic (this is done in any number of ways, including but not limited to, a simple question to get their imaginations going, reading a short story, narrating a short story/tall tale or fable, a short game or a challenge for the children to solve, etc.)

  • Basic chores (clearing out fire pit, gathering wood for the daily fire, tending to the garden, etc)

  • A hike

  • Free play

  • Snack and Stories

  • More free play

  • A craft or other activity (i.e. making woodland musical instruments, setting up a “country store”, wood carving, cooking over a the campfire, etc)

* Younger kids and older kids may or may not spend the morning together, depending on what is going on that day, what interesting hike is available or what project or activity develops based on interest.

  • Lunch

  • Closing gratitude circle for our Hike Tykes

  • Hike Tykes go home and enjoy the rest of their day

  • Older kids carry on with their day’s project, a new hike or activity

  • Closing gratitude circle

  • Twitter

P.O. Box 638 Skaneateles, New York 13152