Put Down the Books: Great Outdoor After-School Programs

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The school bells are ringing and the classroom door is wide open: it’s back to school time! It’s early rising, organized learning time, with play hours cut drastically short. There’s no doubt that come the first day, kids will be longing for summer days sparkling with glorious adventures. Keep the warm vibes alive by enrolling the young members of the family in an outdoor after-school program. Awesome, sunshine-filled afternoons, a chance to burn off squiggly kiddo energy, and maybe even learn a thing or two–there’s nothing like a little balance between books and the great wide somewhere! Here’s the scoop on outdoor after-school classes in the Bay Area:

San Francisco

Kids Outdoor Club
The brainchild of San Francisco father of three, this outdoor program is based in Speedway Meadows. Kids will have a blast one or two days a week showing their skills in a “World Cup” soccer match, running like lightning during capture the flag, or discovering the world around them while hiking and tromping through sand dunes. Day trips to hot spots in San Francisco include the trails and terrain of Land’s End, the beaches and fields at Crissy Field, the Marine Mammal Center in Marin, the ducks and turtles of Stow Lake, the sand dunes at Ocean Beach, the Conservatory of Flowers, the beauty of the Botanical Gardens and much more.

Speedway Meadows, Golden Gate Park
30th Avenue, from Fulton Street
Days: Selected by parent
Hours: After school until 5:30 pm
Phone: 415-407-0813
Online: kidsoutdoorclub.com


Vilda Foundation
Founded by a woman who as a child explored the wilderness of the Finnish islands, the Vilda Foundation strives to rebuild the awareness that creates a deep connection to the world around us. Budding naturalists will love planting trees, clearing brush, finding frogs in a creek, or creating natural dyes with berries. Kids will explore the open spaces of Marin county, look for native birds, animals and plants, create musical instruments out of wood, and learn how to keep the outdoors thriving.

Fairfax (meeting at Manor School)
Days: Tues, Wed, Thurs
Hours: After school until 5:30 pm
Phone: 415-717-3919
Online: vildafoundation.org

Mt. Tam Adventure Camps
Started by super active dad and founder of Playland Sausalito, Mt. Tam Adventure Camps offers after-school flag football programs at all the Mill Valley schools. Open to the public, once a week kids will be able to chase each other down to their hearts content, all while building coordination and teamwork skills.

Hours: One hour after school
Days: Mon – Fri
Phone: 415-377-9678
Online: mttamadventurecamps.com

East Bay

Trackers Bay
This family-centered organization has a vision to help foster a deep appreciation for the natural world and community. The Transported After School Outdoors program (TAO) offers an awesome look into the world of ancient skills and arts. The kiddos get a ride from school and spend the rest of the daylight hours working together to learn about nature, art and the power of community.

Days: Mon – Fri
Hours: After school until 6:00 pm during Spring and Fall; until 5:30 pm during Winter
Phone: 510-575-9444
Online: trackersbay.com

PAL Outdoor Adventure Club
This after school program is sponsored by the Berkeley Boosters Association, which is a crew of local businesses, citizens and law enforcement offering healthy, exciting after school alternatives to kids in the area. The Outdoor Adventure Club follows some of the outward bound ideals, which include exploration and discovery of the outdoors right in our backyard.

1642 University Avenue, Berkeley
Days: Mon – Fri
Phone: 510-845-7193
Online: berkeleyboosters.org

Peninsula/South Bay

Hidden Villa
After a full day of school, give your child the chance to spend their afternoons exploring Hidden Villa’s farm and wilderness. Our education staff will help students self-direct their learning as they work in small groups  to engage with our farm animals, observe wild critters, take hikes through the forest, discover native plants, cultivate their green thumbs, and express their creativity and curiosity in a natural setting. Through inquiry-based learning, this program will reinforce the new Next Generation Science Standards used in most classrooms and feel more like play than instruction. Your children will come home from Hidden Villa full of fresh air and more closely connected to our natural world.

Los Altos Hills
Online: hiddenvilla.org

Cool Coyote Camp
Each week the cool coyotes will explore a different nature preserve, spend time hiking in the woods, climbing trees, exploring tide pools, ponds and creeks.  Local mother Kathy Banks offers her program to kids ages K-3rd Grade and with a limit of 6 per group, your kiddo will really thrive. They’ll explore locations such as Moss Beach Marine Preserve, the Russian Ridge Open Space and learn about making goat cheese at Harley Farms.

Days: Mon – Fri
Hours: Noon to 4:30 pm
Phone: 650-400-3054
Online: coolcoyotekidscamp.com

Science and the Outdoors at CuriOdyssey
Grab those microscopes and head for Nueva School, where kids will have a chance to complete their own electrical circuits, have close encounters with the local wildlife and be amazed at natural phenomena occurring right before their eyes!

6565 Skyline Boulevard, Hillsborough
Days: Wed
Hours: 3:30 pm – 4:30 pm
Phone: 650-342-7755
Online: curiodyssey.org

Do your kids have an after school outdoor program they adore? We want to know!

— Gabrielle Cullen

photos courtesy of Cool Coyote Camp, Bill Mulder and Paul Schultz via Flickr, and CuriOdyssey via Facebook

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