Starting a Parent Co-op

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Does your child love nature? Maybe you want to get outdoors more often this fall. As part of our fall, we’re organizing a cooperative nature club that will run once a week on a weekday morning. We’ll all gather at the local farm or in the forest and learn about seasonal occurrences in the forest, read a story, and go for a walk.

We are going to take turns organizing this with several other families. This means that the group size is small and that each of us will take a turn organizing once a month. That feels reasonable. We’ll also have broad themes that are mutually agreeable and focus on those for the fall. I plan to have some free exploration time too and some time to sit quietly or work on an independent project.

What are we going to learn about this fall? So far, we’ve decided to learn about cones and seeds, the salmon life cycle, mushrooms, winter birds, tracks and scat, and local bugs. We also have the chance to learn at a local farm that is actually a petting zoo as well, and we hope to learn about carding and spinning wool and dyeing it as well. I’m hoping that we can sneak in a little bit of volunteer time and groom the animals as well to learn about animal husbandry. These are all city or suburban kids, and the time in the forest and on the farm might not be something that all of them have experienced, at least not as an everyday occurrence.

A parent cooperative is best kept small. When you know everyone in it, you feel comfortable with the people who will be teaching each session. You know that they will show up. Your child also has the opportunity to play regularly with children who can become family friends. The beauty of the cooperative is that if no one else shows up, you can simply explore with your own children. If others show up, they can join in the fun as well.

A nature cooperative or any kind of cooperative is also great for families on lower incomes or tight budgets. It’s virtually free. You meet in a public space, and you can use materials that are free or within whatever budget you set for yourselves. It’s completely up to the families involved.