Friends of the Fells announces All Day Youth Programs in the Woods


MELROSE, MASSACHUSETTS – This summer, children will now have the opportunity to play and learn all day at their own pace in unique local nature programs at the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s (DCR) Middlesex Fells Reservation.


By popular demand, the Friends of the Middlesex Fells Reservation announces full-day (9 am – 4 pm) versions of two core programs: Forest Explorers for children in K-2nd grade (ages 5-7) and Forest Adventurers for 3rd  to 5th grade (ages 8-10).  The flagship program, Forest Kindergarten, geared towards children ages 4-5, still offers half-day programs (morning and afternoon) as does Explorers and Adventurers.  These 2½-hour sessions run from 9-11:30 am and 12:30-3 pm for all groups.


Each day at Friends of the Fells Summer Youth Programs children explore and play in an experiential learning environment. They observe and learn about nature – plants, animals, earth, and sky – spending time with peers away from electronic devices and improving overall fitness. All of the offerings are structured with a 6:1 ratio of children to instructors, with two experienced and well-trained instructors per session, ensuring each child receives individual attention and guidance. The skilled instructors have been thoroughly trained, CORI-checked, and have CPR & First Aid training and certification. Through what the program informally terms “structured unstructured play,” summer sessions have also successfully integrated children with special needs, including Autism Spectrum Disorder, with children who have typical capabilities.


Depending on the children’s interests, the older age groups will have additional learning and recreational options, including engaging in environmental science, reading the work of nature writers, field sketching, poetry writing, photography, and more.


Kelli Hanson, a Forest Kindergarten instructor since 2016 and a special education teaching assistant, describes the program’s experiential quality in this way:


There is very little structure, and absolutely no “instructional materials.” Just the sky, the wind, the pond, and endless amounts of sticks and rocks and leaves. We throw rocks in the water to see how far they will go and what kind of sound they will make. We search for the perfect hiking stick. We build forts.


All summer youth programs run from July 9 through August 31 (Monday – Friday). Full-day sessions are $350 per week. Half-day (morning and afternoon) sessions are $150 per week. All will center at the DCR Botume House at 4 Woodland Road in Stoneham.


To register for Friends of the Fells youth programs visit:  To review the program’s philosophy, instructions for parents and caregivers, and a roster of Forest Instructors visit:


Friends of the Middlesex Fells Reservation


The Friends of the Middlesex Fells Reservation is dedicated to the protection and harmonious use of the Fells; promoting awareness, policies and programs to honor and preserve the ecological, historical and recreational resources of this urban forest reservation.  The goals of the Friends of the Fells are to instill awareness and appreciation of the Fells as a valuable natural and historical resource which will foster a sense of stewardship within the larger community; to develop programs for recreation, enjoyment, and study of the Fells which are harmonious with landscape and habitat; and cooperation with others, develop and advocate for policies designed to preserve and protect the Fells Reservation.  For more information about the summer programs or to join the Friends of the Fells, please visit

Department of Conservation & Recreation

DCR manages state parks and oversees more than 450,000 acres throughout Massachusetts. It protects, promotes, and enhances the state’s natural, cultural, and recreational resources.

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