By Taylor Boyd
A Spencer man is determined to get youngsters outside through his Nature Freaks Wildlife Education program.
Chad Lange, organizer, said he started the program in 2010. It is designed to provide in-depth learning experiences through hands-on classes in an outdoor classroom.
The educational offerings are patterned after classes he taught at the Reynolds Homestead, Lange said, adding that 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.
Older participants are taught five basic wilderness skills: creating a shelter and fire, foraging, and hunting for food, and finding water, he said.
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 most classes are on his property, Lange said he could conduct classes elsewhere.
The lesson plans and guidelines 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 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.
Lange is currently booking classes with groups or parents. Fees are $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.