Richard Louv

The Biophilic Nature of Serenbe - Steve Nygren

Photo credit: Jennifer Grayson

Photo credit: Jennifer Grayson

We have come into such an intellectual society that we have forgotten the miracle of where we live. And the miracle of our own being.
— Steve Nygren

In this first episode of our second season, I interview Steve Nygren, the founder of Serenbe—a microcosmic urban utopia set on 65,000 acres of preserved forest land, a mere 40 minutes south of Atlanta’s expanding sprawl. Yet to paint Serenbe as the latest picture of the New Urbanist movement (or as a green community, or a nature community, or an “agrihood,” as it’s been called in reference to the 25-acre organic farm the town is centered around) wouldn’t do it justice, as my family and I discovered when we called Serenbe home for two months this past summer.

Here, during an epic walk in the woods, Steve and I delve into the biophilic theory underpinning Serenbe’s design—along with the journey that took him from “having it all” in Ansley Park as a successful restaurateur to a life of deep nature connection for his family and Serenbe’s burgeoning community.

Show notes:

  • Serenbe’s origin story

  • Steve’s farming roots in Boulder, CO

  • Richard Louv and Last Child in the Woods

  • Why 68 percent of people don’t like where they live

  • “We have removed what I think are the two most important things for a vital life: and that’s connection to nature, and connection to each other”

  • The New Urbanist movement and inspiration from the English countryside

  • Preservation, development, and a model for balanced growth

  • The elephant in the room: affordable housing 

  • The problem with “intentional” communities 

  • The biophilic community, the awakening of intuition and Serenbe’s sacred geometry

Learn more about Serenbe (or maybe even plan a visit) on the Serenbe website, events page and Life at Serenbe blog. You can also check out Serenbe on Twitter and Instagram.

If you enjoyed this show, subscribe on iTunes so you don’t miss the next one (and don’t forget to leave a rating and review). The theme music is by Paul Damian Hogan.

The Freedom of Forest Kindergarten - Erin Kenny

Photos of  Cedarsong Nature School  reproduced with permission by  Erin Kenny

Photos of Cedarsong Nature School reproduced with permission by Erin Kenny

Children cannot bounce off the walls if we take away the walls.
— Erin Kenny

I am so excited to bring you this thought-provoking conversation with naturalist and educator Erin Kenny, an international leader in the forest kindergarten movement and the founder of Cedarsong Nature School -- the very first US kindergarten based on the German waldkindergarten model. If you haven’t yet heard of waldkindergarten (or forest kindergarten, for that matter), it is very much as it sounds: an entirely outdoors-based early childhood education program which, in Cedarsong's case, goes on rain, snow, or shine on five acres of magical native forest on Vashon Island, a ferry's ride from Seattle.

But forest kindergarten is also so much more: Here, Erin and I talk about the crisis of nature deprivation confronting today’s generation of children and parents; why this unique style of education is a compelling and desperately needed solution; and the remarkable learning that emerges from the deep nature immersion experienced at Cedarsong. Amazingly, forest kindergartens are only just taking off here in the US (despite having existed in Germany for more than half a century and where there are now more than 1,500 in existence), so if you're eager to join this burgeoning  movement as a parent or an educator, don't miss Erin and this eye-opening episode!  

Show notes:

  • Cedarsong Nature School: rain, snow or shine

  • Our modern-day indoors culture

  • The gear: How Cedarsong kids dress for school

  • Erin’s childhood spent outdoors in wild spaces

  • Today’s academic pressure, the stress and anxiety from transitions and overscheduling

  • The importance of unstructured, free play outdoors

  • “For millennia, the way young children learned was through direct connection with the natural world”

  • The domestication of our children via modern-day education

  • Fredrich Froebel and the history of forest schools

  • A day at Cedarsong Forest Kindergarten

  • Natural science lessons and place-based exploration

  • Compassion scaffolding

  • Forest kindergarten as “an early intervention program”

  • Where do the kids pee?

  • How to find a forest kindergarten

  • The Cedarsong Way forest school teacher training program

  • Advocating for forest schools at the legislative level, and what’s next for Erin

You can learn more about Cedarsong Nature School on the school’s website. Erin’s book Forest Kindergartens: The Cedarsong Way, documentary DVD and teacher training packet -- along with the schedule of her upcoming teacher trainings and speaking tours -- are available at ErinKenny.com. Cedarsong also has a wonderful Facebook page where you can check out photos and videos of the school in action. 

If you enjoyed this show, subscribe on iTunes so you don’t miss the next one (and don’t forget to leave a rating and review). The theme music is by Paul Damian Hogan. Want to chime in on this episode or have an idea for a future show? Connect with me via my Instagram page, I’d love to hear your thoughts!