- Courtesy of Sage Mountain Botanical Sanctuary
- Sage Mountain Botanical Sanctuary
Attention, Orange and Washington county residents: If you've ever wanted your middle schooler to put down their phone and take a walk in the woods, we've got an afterschool program for you.
Starting on September 1, middle schoolers in Orange and Washington counties can spend three hours every weekday afternoon at Sage Mountain Botanical Sanctuary, a 600-acre wilderness in Orange. From 2:30 to 5:30 p.m., outdoor educators will lead them on hikes to study animal tracks, help them learn shelter building and navigation, and teach them to make a fire, among other skills.
Funded in part by an Expanding Access grant from Vermont Afterschool, the program is geared toward youth who might not otherwise have access to nature-based enrichment programs. Families can qualify for scholarships and sliding-scale tuition, as well as transportation options.
The sanctuary, founded in 1987 by herbalist and author Rosemary Gladstar, has been running youth programs, including summer camps and school field trips, for 30 years, though this is its first afterschool offering. Executive director Emily Ruff said the program applies the educational philosophy of the Washington State-based Wilderness Awareness School, "creating a safe environment in which children can play and explore their world, identify their unique gifts and passions, [and] develop problem-solving skills and self-sufficiency to foster a deeper level of learning and connection with themselves, their peers and the natural world."