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Local Focus: Outdoor Learning Opportunity in Charlottesville (& Anywhere)

By Krupa Balasubramanya - October 5, 2020

If you’ve been following our social media, our own personal challenge for the month of October (which we would love it if you joined!) is to slow down and do less.  We like to think of it is as doing less and doing it well. With this in mind, if you live or are near our home base of Charlottesville, Virginia, we’d love to introduce you to one activity that can help you to do both (as ironic as that may at first sound). Charlottesville’s own Nature Nook Education Series at Wildrock is a great way to learn through play—In nature!
The Deets
Wildrock is a volunteer-led outdoor adventure that is dedicated to “creating a special place in nature for family bonding, creative play and quiet reflection.” Located off Route 810, this wilderness wonderland is tucked away outside the cares of city life. Complete with an apple meadow, meditation stream, walking labrynth and playscape, there will be no shortage of activities and opportunities to relax and reflect whether coming here alone or with friends. 
Due to concerns surrounding COVID-19 and social distancing, reservations are required and entries timed (though once you’re in, it’s up to you how long you stay). Open Wednesday’s and Friday’s. 
                To complete your reservation, Click HERE .
For more information, click HERE.
Why Learn through Play?
Play is not just a fun and engaging way to learn. As it turns out, it’s actually a pivotal building block of learning in and of itself. Play affects even a child’s ability to learn by developing key skills “such as inquiry, expression, experimentation, and teamwork ( Whether running, dancing, climbing or rolling, where adults see pure silliness, there is critical development at work. A playful child is a creative child, a socially-adaptive child, and a mentally flexible child. Through play, a child may learn to create and adhere to governing system of rules, may teach themselves (or simply become more equipped to learn how) to regular their own emotions and think before they act, and may become more comfortable with taking calculated risks and exploring their own environment. All of these are important developmental milestones for becoming well-adjusted adults ready to face the world with kindness and compassion.
OK But I’m An Adult! What about Me?
All work and no play can make anyone feel dull, depressed and disinterested. While play may specifically help children to learn, it also serves an important role throughout the whole lifetime of the human experience. Think of it this way: Whereas a child’s play may initially build the vehicle, an adult’s play helps maintain it. The list of benefits are truly astounding, from relieving stress to improving brain function, boosting creativity to improving connection with others, play is a way to reconnect with others and find your ground in a chaotic world. Which, if you didn’t already see it coming, points to its tantric benefits as well. Remember: Tantra is a transformative meditation that combines movement, breath and sometimes sound as a way to open up the body (both physically and emotionally) and release negative energy away from the energy core. Practitioners of Tantra aspire to be fully present in a given situation or experience as a way to heal from the trauma of the past and shake off unnecessary anxiety for the future.  
What If I Don’t Live In the Charlottesville Area?
No problem! Charlottesville’s Wildrock is just one of the many places you can get outside and get learning in the gigantic ol’ U-S-of-A. And you don’t have to go far or buy a bunch of equipment to make it happen. Getting outside and getting in nature can be as simple as going for a 10 minute walk on your lunch break—Or it can be an intentional time of leaving your home for an extended period of time to truly bask in the glory of the wide open world. Whatever you have time for!
Here are just a few ideas to get you started, wherever you are:
·Reading on your couch? Grab a blanket, find a tree, and read outdoors instead!
·Pack a picnic—Or a snack. Whatever it is, get out of your kitchen!
·Leave your phone at home and go sit outside, either on your porch or on a lawn. Observe the weather: What do you feel? What do you see? How does it change?
o   Close your eyes: Identify 5 things you hear, 5 things you smell, 5 things you feel
o   Try to find 3 things you never noticed before about your neighborhood or your park
·Bring a bit of nature back indoors: Find a stone to keep (you can paint it or simply keep it in your pocket for good luck), take a picture and frame it for your nightstand, or simply notice how your skin and hair smell “sun-kissed” (hopefully not sweat-drenched) when you go back inside
·Grab a stick and make designs in the dirt
·Organize a grouping of rocks or pebbles in an intricate pattern along a path
·Grab some sidewalk chalk and start scribbling!
·Meditate on these words: “I am here and I am happy just to be”

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