Felix Neck offers education with safety protocols

Expansive wildlife sanctuary provides opportunities for fun outdoor learning.

Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary is offering outdoor homeschool and afterschool options for Island students, according to Felix Neck naturalist and educator Liz Dengenis.

For the past 50 years, the sanctuary has been a place for people of all ages to connect with nature, and embrace their inner adventurer.

With a number of different place-based education options, Felix Neck continues to provide an escape from screens, especially for kids.

Dengenis said Felix Neck will still be working with the charter and public schools as much as it can, but there will still be students undergoing remote learning for extended periods of time. With more than 250 acres of winding trails and sandy spits of beach, Dengenis said, the sanctuary provides endless opportunities for not just meaningful education, but activities that are important for childhood development — playtime.

“We really have a big focus on utilizing the outdoor space that we have to provide targeted education for different age groups, and separating those unique learning needs for each student,” Dengenis said. “After the 1918 pandemic, there was a huge success, especially in urban areas, in transitioning into a place-based outdoor classroom.”

Although Dengenis said outdoor classrooms won’t overcome other hurdles involved with educating kids under stringent health protocols, she said getting them outdoors empowers them and provides appreciation for the natural spaces they enjoy.

Dengenis said she is concerned that sciences, which often require more direct interaction, will be less of a focus, compared with core education like math and English. She acknowledged the importance of core curriculum and classroom learning, but since Felix Neck educators can’t be in the classroom, they are transitioning to their outdoor classrooms to provide interactive learning experiences for kids.

Since Felix Neck conducted summer programs, Dengenis said, there is already a structure in place to adhere to all health and safety guidance and mitigate the spread of disease.

“We don’t want kids to miss out on those key moments where they establish a relationship with nature. I learn well through videos, and you can learn about a caterpillar online. But there is no replacement for going and finding a caterpillar in nature,” Dengenis said.

Apart from nature journaling and sit spots, where kids are sitting alone and are safely distanced, Dengenis said they will be wearing masks, and sanctuary staff will ensure all health guidelines are followed.

Complete schedule of five-week sessions

Homeschool at Felix Neck 

Tuesdays, Sept. 15 to Oct. 13, grades 3 through 5
Thursdays, Sept. 17 to Oct. 15: grades 6 through 8
1 to 3 pm
Members $240, nonmembers $250

Afterschool Outside 

Tuesdays, Sept. 15 to Oct. 13, grades 3 through 5
Thursdays, Sept. 17 to Oct. 15: grades 6 through 8
3 to 5 pm
Members $170, nonmembers $180