Get inspired by nature
10/10/2022 by Muse Abdi, M.B.B.S., B.Biomed.Sc., M.P.H.; Talor Gray, M.P.H.; and Brian A. Lynch, M.D.
Outdoor learning is a vital opportunity that can support a healthy and fulfilled life. It's an enjoyable way to directly experience the natural world while gaining many essential physical, mental and emotional health benefits.
Everyone can explore and learn in nature. Many studies show that outdoor learning can increase or enhance self-esteem, peer relationships, independence, exploration, leadership, environmental awareness, friendship skills, values and decisions, social comfort and spirituality.
You should be learning outdoors this fall because it not only aids your overall health, but also you will gain a direct connection with the environment and a deeper relationship with the natural world.
Here are some of the outdoor learning activities happening this fall. Get inspired by nature and take advantage of these outdoor events:
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Minnesota state parks and trails throughout the region offer a variety of learning opportunities to experience outdoor learning:
- Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park and Whitewater State Park offer year-round naturalist programs, including hikes, snowshoe walks, fishing programs, campfire talks and various hands-on demonstrations and skill-building activities. Check out the Minnesota State Parks' event calendar to find programs. You can search by park or activity.
- The Minnesota Outdoor Skill and Stewardship Series is a weekly webinar series introducing a variety of outdoor skills and topics. Each webinar begins Wednesday at noon and lasts less than an hour. These offerings require no travel and fit into busy schedules. Learn about fishing, hiking, camping and more.
- The Becoming an Outdoors Woman Program allows women to gain new skills and improve techniques in a relaxed, fun and supportive atmosphere. Program topics range from archery and fly fishing to foraging and more.
- I Can is an outdoor skills program for beginners. It is designed for families. Programs introduce participants to fishing, camping, biking, paddling and archery through hands-on instruction from experienced and friendly crews. All gear is provided, and the experiences are free or affordable.
You also can use the Forest Bathing Walks scheduled as Park Rx programs:
- Nature Rx Presentation, Oct. 13, 1–2 p.m., La Crescent Public Library.
- Forest Bathing Walk and Presentation, Oct. 15, 10 a.m.–noon, Pettibone Park in La Crescent, Minnesota.
- Guided Forest Bathing Walk, Nov. 5, 2–4 p.m., Whitewater State Park.
- Gratitude Forest Bathing Walk, Nov. 26, 10 a.m.–noon, Whitewater State Park.
- Winter Solstice Forest Bathing and Bonfire, Dec. 21, 3:30–5:30 p.m., Whitewater State Park.
Reach out to Sara Holger, Whitewater State Park naturalist, to schedule Nature Rx presentations and forest bathing walks.
Olmsted County Park Programs for Fall
The Dr. Paul E. Zollman Zoo houses over 30 species of wild animals native to Minnesota that you can learn about for free. Meanwhile, the surrounding Oxbow Park offers outdoor enthusiasts a chance to pursue their favorite activities, including hiking, fishing and camping. The park also features picnic areas with a covered shelter and playgrounds for the kids.
This fall, hike with a naturalist to find out what makes leaves change from green to yellow, orange, red and brown, or come enjoy Boo at the Zoo and Pumpkin Party and say hello to the animals on Oct. 29 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Chester Woods Park
Chester Woods Park is on the headwaters of Bear Creek in the rugged bluff country of Southeastern Minnesota. The park features approximately 15 miles of primitive trails winding through a variety of inviting natural habitats in the undeveloped areas of the park. A mile-long hard-surfaced trail links the campground, boat launch, fishing pier and picnic areas.
Motor vehicles and bicycles are restricted to improved roads and designated trails only. Stop by to explore the natural prairie life and you may spot a whitetail deer or wild turkeys on your learning adventure
Since 1972, Quarry Hill Nature Center has been a leader in providing hands-on natural science education. Natural science and outdoor programs for all ages are offered year-round. These programs include formal K–12 science curriculum, one-of-a-kind experiences for adults and nature-themed birthdays for kids. Quarry Hill makes science learning fun.
The Nature Center is in the 329-acre Quarry Hill Park and features an indoor exploration hall with more than 30 species of native Minnesota animals. Admission to the Nature Center is free, and it's open year-round.
The park is open daily and features 11 miles of trails, a fishing pond, fossil quarry and historic structures from the Rochester State Hospital quarry and agricultural operations. Upcoming programs include the annual Halloween event, Creatures of the Night, Saw-Whet Owl Banding and the family-oriented series "Beyond the Book." Some programs require registration and a minimal fee.
Muse Abdi, M.B.B.S., B.Biomed.Sc., M.P.H., is a community health specialist and Statewide Health Improvement Partnership active living and health care strategist with Olmsted County Public Health Services. He serves on the Southeast Minnesota Park Rx Work Group, educating health care professionals on the importance of prescribing time in nature and public awareness of the health benefits of the natural world.
Brian A. Lynch, M.D., is a primary care pediatrician at Mayo Family Clinic Northwest in Rochester. He co-chairs the Primary Care Work Group of the Mayo Clinic Obesity Council and chairs the Primary Care Obesity Task Force. Dr. Lynch works closely with the Southeast Minnesota Park Rx Team to promote the physical and mental health benefits of spending time in nature with his patients and colleagues.