Young girl in hand-made animal costume for Youth Village parade

Youth Village and Nature Connection at Firefly Gathering

Building relationships with nature early on can make a huge difference in your child’s journey to getting to know themselves deeply, and in reclaiming their birthright: the ability to be in nature with ease. In this spirit, youth at Firefly are fully immersed in the goodness of nature at Youth Village during class time for adults and teens.

It’s been said that the health of any community can be found in the wellbeing of their youth and elders. At Firefly, we take this to heart. As we prepare for the Annual Firefly Gathering 2023, one of our most important considerations is how we welcome and show up for adults, teens, and children with Youth Village. More important than the immersive activities we have planned for children and teens ages 3 – 17, are the safeguards and community that will help create this memorable and grounding earthskills “summer camp” – for both kids and adults alike.

Children joyfully running down hill with Youth Village staff

At Firefly Gathering, grown folks tend the enchanting interweaving of connecting with the Earth and her creatures during classes with our experienced Earthskills instructors. During class time, adults and teens explore guided time to tap into their innate abilities to learn and create within the natural world. 

Meanwhile, young ones at the Gathering are doing the same. Our Youth Village runs concurrently with class sessions, giving parents the freedom to enjoy their own classes without worry, and to make their own Firefly memories. For five days, your kids will be singing, foraging, painting, hiking, story-telling, building, connecting, and creating… and so will you!

Youth Village

kids at youth village crafting with staff
Youth in costume at Parade
Photo credit Sarah Tew Photography

When we introduce nature’s calling and fuel it with purpose, we help establish that wellbeing and our kids’ ability to commune positively with the Earth that we inhabit and embody. In this spirit, youth at Firefly are fully immersed in the goodness of nature at Youth Village during class time for adults and teens. 

Staff and volunteers at the Village are led by Chelsea Spitzer, an experienced child care professional specializing in nature-based programming. Chelsea carefully curates a balance between structured learning and free social play, creating a unique microcosm of the greater gathering throughout the week. Come Saturday, youth kick off a celebration parade where they are the stars – along with the stilt walkers. Chelsea shares, “we strive to treat our youth with the respect, care, and honor that they deserve – they have so much wisdom and with the right supportive trellis we create through structured programming, they thrive and bloom!” 

Chelsea stepped into leadership at Firefly when former Youth Programs Coordinator, Marissa Percoco, became the Executive Director of the organization and thoughtfully chose her replacement. Having raised her own four children in this community, it was crucial to Marissa that the quality of the care remain a focal point of Firefly. “Chelsea is one of the kindest and most competent people I know; in her heart, but super grounded. I have not had to worry about the youth at Firefly- I know they’re having a great time.” 

Youth Village has offerings for kids starting from 3 (must be potty trained) to 12, running during class sessions at Firefly Gathering: generally 10:30 am – 5:30 pm, with a break for lunch. 

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Young Firefly Gathering attendee showing hand-made blacksmithed hook

In support of community building among youngsters, teens are encouraged to take regular classes by day in community, then enjoy their own hearth in the evenings. Teens are offered a sense of freedom and autonomy at Firefly that is crucial at this age, alongside the room to grow their relationships and interact with earthskills all their own. With competent adults present to help balance between fun and focus, the Gathering tends the vulnerable transitional time between youth and adult.

Cultivating Connection with Nature

Have you ever noticed how kids can sometimes pick up new concepts, magically – as long as it isn’t their parents teaching those concepts to them? Introducing the natural world and helping kids grow a healthy relationship with nature is a delicate task that we accept with honor. The amount of time, love and energy that goes into cultivating a space for youth to learn, play and flourish shines in lessons, new-found friends both human and plant-life alike, and the kind of inclusive understanding of nature that inspires mindful interaction.

Helping our youth build relationship with nature can make a huge difference in their journey to getting to know themselves deeply and reclaiming their birthright: the ability to be in nature with ease. 

When we engage in a hands-on way with nature, something just clicks. In addition to building trust, confidence and community within the natural world, we enter into a deeper connection with the land and ourselves; a sense of stillness and solitude. Being in this awareness with your children nourishes the soul and strengthens the ties that will last a lifetime.

Join us this June for an unforgettable time for the whole family at the Annual Firefly Gathering, June 20-25 2023. Register here

Mother and children relaxing by the lake at Firefly Gathering

WRITTEN BY

Firefly Gathering

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Kimberly Dunn

Finance Manager (she/her)

Having grown up in a multicultural family, Kimberly’s love for languages and traditional cultures is infused into everything she creates. After many years overseas, she now calls the Appalachian mountains her home and continues to keep the adventure alive by staying close to the wild. Kimberly is a singer songwriter, dancer, women’s circle facilitator, personal finance astrologer, bookkeeper, yoga teacher, and chef.