In HearSway, Uncategorized

Business is blooming with the start of DIRT Outdoor School’s first-ever semester for 4 to 8 year-olds in Robbins. The program was launched by 28-year-olds Baillie Hult and Rachel Halleran who say they’ve been pleasantly surprised by the community support and feedback.  “Parents are choosing to expose (their kids) to the outdoors in this format,” says Baillie. The pair became besties nearly three years ago when their preschoolers were classmates.

They eventually joined a local homeschool co-op and found themselves leading many of the lessons. That’s when it dawned on them that they could start their own outdoor school on Rachel’s 21 acre property, where they had already held nature-based learning events for their own children, ages 2 to 6 and their friends. By last Fall these the two cones on a pine were ready to turn a new leaf as long as they could do it together. The first day of outdoor school was March 5th. Baillie likes to handle the business side, like paperwork and logistics. “Me filling out a form is sad,” says Rachel, who prefers the creative side and lesson planning. “Her ideas always come full circle…and social media posts look way better when she does it,” adds Baillie. 

Baillie and Rachel have seven students for now that they’ll meet with for spring session Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. DIRT Outdoor School is as messy as it sounds. Students have several acres of forest and trails on Rachel’s property to explore and learn through play and interest-lead lessons. “There are great classrooms,” says Baillie, who currently works as a substitute preschool teacher in Moore County. “But I think kids learn better when they have more tangible things to do.” The outdoor setting allows students to alternate quickly between structured learning and “running wild.”

Rachel was homeschooled and enjoys how much it has changed since she was a child. “You don’t really have to be home, or alone, there’s so many groups. This is the environment I want my kids to be in and now it’s right here at my house.” With days filled with tracking forest creatures and discovering mushrooms, it’s a path that Baillie, who was formerly Military Police in the Army, never expected to be on. “These little people are so cool. They have their own thoughts and they’re really incredible.”

Rachel and Baillie love providing access to the outdoors for children. “A girl had beautiful pink rain boots that turned brown with mud,” recalls Rachel. “She clapped and splattered finger paint all over her face. It’s adorable but I feel a little bad because the students are getting into cars all dirty.”

Besides many more scrub-down baths in the future, DIRT Outdoor School is working on their summer camps and Fall curriculum. In the long-term, the ladies are looking at offering after school care and some sort of program for children older than 8–something they were both surprised was in high demand. As a pending nonprofit, they also hope to have a scholarship program for next year. They’re still taking applications for the Spring and Summer. Register here

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