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Revive Outside: Opening Minds to Nature’s Gifts

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toddler girl running on trail with family

There’s no prescription that can improve physical and mental health at the same time better than simply spending time in nature. That was the spark behind Revive Outside, a new program launched earlier this year.

Kestrel volunteer and newly retired psychologist Michael Hutton-Woodland worked with Becca Feidelson, TerraCorps Youth Education Coordinator (2021-22) to create the pilot project. Building on Michael’s professional connections to area youth-service organizations, they planned a series of sensory exploration walks at local conservation areas for families with young children from the Northampton Parents Center and the Northampton/ Hadley Family Connection, as well as teens and young adults from Community Action Pioneer Valley’s Youth Council.

Michael said, “Becoming comfortable in nature is a developmental process. I love seeing children, parents and young adults open up to the wonder of nature, and feel how restorative it is to just breathe in the scents and listen to the sounds in the woods.”

I love seeing children, parents and young adults open up to the wonder of nature, and feel how restorative it is…

Revive Outside is opening a pathway outdoors for families who otherwise don’t get out into nature, allowing parents to be with their children in a new way. “We weren’t rushing to get to a destination, but walking at a pace to observe and take in beauty,” Michael said. Parents commented on how engaged and calm their children were, and how much stamina even the youngest ones had.

Michael Hutton with toddler for Revive Outside
Michael Hutton-Woodland takes a close look at a stump with a toddler during a Revive Outside program.

Staff from Community Action Pioneer Valley said that the program provided their group with a restorative, fun outing to get to know each other in person after a year of Zoom gatherings. It was a first experience in the woods for some. “There was a sense of adventure, joy, and connection during our trips. None of the youth had visited these conservation areas before, and they were able to experience them as resources to support their mental, physical, and emotional health.”

Nearly all the youth and families who participated in Revive Outside said they look forward to returning to these nature areas. The program will continue in the fall offering more opportunities for youth and families to experience the healing power of nature.

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