The Importance of Outdoor Play: Visiting NYC Parks with Camp Corlears

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July is officially National Parks and Recreation Month – and each summer, we celebrate getting outdoors and exploring New York City’s beautiful parks through our Urban Explorers program at Camp Corlears. While spending time at these parks is fun for kids, the exploration has many educational benefits.

Three Corlears teachers created the Urban Explorers program as a way to have a “really play centric” program that “afforded kids a way to get outside, and also increase their knowledge and awareness of the geography of New York City,” explains Alex Gelman, Director of Auxiliary Programs and Community Engagement at Corlears.

From June into early July, campers in our Urban Explorers program, who are roughly 7 through 11 years old, have a chance to visit parks throughout the city’s boroughs. This summer, they visited 5 parks throughout the city, including Chelsea Waterslide, Domino Park in Brooklyn, and Pier 51.

“Kids are playing outdoors less and less, and because of this, they can miss out on building important developmental skills,” says Sara Nixon, an Urban Explorers counselor and 8/9s teacher at Corlears. “There’s so much evidence that outdoor play is significant to a child’s learning and development.” The benefits include getting exercise, building problem-solving skills, experiencing imaginative play, taking risks, and practicing teamwork.

This summer, Urban Explorers also challenged campers to make observations and dig deeper, looking at their experiences through a social justice lens (much like the overall Corlears curriculum) by talking about the importance of playground accessibility.

Overall, campers in the program were able to come away from the summer with a new appreciation for the city around them.

“You don’t need to leave the city to play outdoors, and recognize that parks are a really valuable public space we should all be able to have fun in and enjoy,” Alex adds. “The hope is that our campers feel empowered to take advantage of that and appreciate what’s around them in these spaces.”

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