By Taylor Boyd
Want to learn about nature and outdoors survival?
Nature Freaks Wildlife Education can help.
The organization works to give youngsters a hands-on education in an outdoor classroom. Participants learn survival skills in the wilderness that include identifying plants and animals.
Chad Lange started the organization that provides in-depth learning experiences in 2010. He patterned the educational offerings after classes he taught at the Reynolds Homestead, where he taught three different age-based classes during multiple summer camps.
Lange said the focus for youngsters below the fifth-grade level is on introducing them to nature by going on a walk through the woods and talking about the animals they encountered.
He taught older participants five basic wilderness skills: creating a shelter and fire, foraging and hunting for food, and finding water.
His classes for the Homestead’s College of Adults provided a more detailed version for older attendees, with participants creating a survival kit, making snares and fish traps, and learning about edible plants.
The classes are hands on. “It’s how I learn, so it’s how I teach,” he said.
And while the majority of classes are on his property, Lange said he could conduct classes elsewhere. “It’s Patrick County. There’s property everywhere,” he added.
The lesson plans and guidelines of his classes mirror the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) for age levels, with a focus on ecology, animal habitat, insect anatomy, classification, and metamorphosis.
He has received interest from homeschool groups in Patrick County and Danville, as well as single parent households. Lange also previously worked with Boy Scout troops in the area to help with nature badges, something he hopes to continue.
Lange said he was inspired to start his organization after working as a camp director at an environmental education camp in Ohio.
It was the “best job I’ve ever had,” he said. His college background in fish and wildlife and natural resource management also helped propel him to start the program, which had been stalled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Homeschool is getting big right now. I’d love to bring this back, and bring outdoors and nature and hands-on learning back,” Lange said, adding the education he provides is needed.
He said he has encountered “some kids who haven’t roasted a marshmallow, or walked through a stream, or found a turtle or frog.”
Nature Freaks will “show kids how cool nature is” and help get them back outside, he said, adding he is currently booking classes with groups or parents that need help.
The fees are nominal, at $12 per student or $10 per student for a group of 20 or more. Ice water is provided to all participants.
For more information, visit Facebook.com/NatureFreaks, or call (276) 692-4738.