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York nature school founder builds resilience through outdoor learning

York nature school founder builds resilience through outdoor learning

  • A few years after starting Seven Tribe Playground preschool, Brenna Logsdon is now working through the Department of Education to make its elementary program a licensed school.
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Brenna Logsdon jokes that she is, “as city as they come.” When she moved to York County six years ago, she had never even considered opening a nature school. But life had other plans.

As a former high school social studies and history teacher in Baltimore, Brenna was no stranger to the world of education. When her son reached preschool-age, she knew traditional school wouldn’t be a good fit.

So, Brenna created her own preschool. In September 2019, Seven Tribe Playground opened in York. While it’s technically within city limits, just north of York Hospital, it features seven acres of space where kids can learn and explore.

“I saw the joy come back in my son’s face,” she says. “He’s excited about learning, he’s excited about friendships, he’s excited to be himself.”

Finding a home in nature

With complete freedom to pick and choose her curriculum, Brenna settled on a nature school. Students spend most of their day outside, come rain or snow or shine.

Inside the school building, extra sets of clothes and muddy boots line a hallway where there’s rarely a kid to be found. Rather, they’re sitting in classes in a hollowed-out hedge or a grassy dell.  

They’re building with tires and logs in the Yes Space—a playground of free moving materials that the children shape how they want.

Brenna, who serves as director of Seven Tribe, designed multi-age classrooms to give younger children a chance to learn from the older kids. This also gives older students an opportunity to be leaders in the classroom.

There’s not a digital device in site, though one classroom has a real typewriter where, through play, students begin to master keyboarding.

“The power of being outdoors—it’s amazing for kids’ wellbeing, for staff wellbeing,” Brenna says. “We encourage risk-taking around here, and it’s amazing to see 3-year-olds do the monkey bars. They are just confident resilient kids.”

‘Living my dream’

When COVID-19 hit, many of the Seven Tribe teachers, including Brenna, had kids in traditional elementary schools who were suddenly sitting at home on screens while the Seven Tribe students spent the day learning outside.

“That was so miserable,” she says. “It was just a horrible experience for our family.”

That sparked Brenna opening the Seven Tribe elementary school.

While it’s currently considered a home school enrichment program, Brenna is working through the Department of Education to make it a licensed school. She plans to continue expanding one grade per year through eighth grade.

“I’m living my dream job right now,” Brenna says. “I don’t want to lose sight of what we do.”

Going forward, her goal is to remain small and eventually move to a more remote space where her students can experience school in the woods.

“I want to create a conscious generation connected to each other and the earth,” she says. “I want to do better by our kids. You can only do that if you give them your time.”