Outdoors Rx: A prescription for outdoor activity

Want to get your kids outside, discover new places in your area, and meet other families interested in the outdoors? AMC’s new Outdoors Rx program helps you do all these things—and win prizes.

Earlier this winter, my 4-year-old daughter and I went for a hike organized by Susan Brown, the youth and family outdoor community coordinator for AMC. I found out about the event in an online calendar, signed up by email, and showed up at the designated spot, Prospect Hill Park in Waltham, on a Saturday morning. There we met Brown and a family from Waltham, who had learned about the event via Facebook, thanks to the parent-teacher organization at their 7-year-old son’s elementary school. Given the wet and slippery conditions, we agreed to walk on the blacktop road into the park (closed to cars for the season) and explored for about an hour.

The park, founded in 1893, is a popular urban oasis, so the tracks we spotted in the snow were mostly those of dogs and squirrels. But Brown, an energetic redhead who says “I’m never in the office,” made these footprints interesting for the kids, showing them laminated cards of different animal tracks and helping them identify what they saw. The kids also enjoyed watching meltwater bubble beneath the ice on the edges of the road, and seeing park highlights such as Dinosaur Rock and the stone shelters on the Boy Scout Trail. Brown pointed out squirrel nests in the trees and helped everyone read a map of the park, teaching early skills of appreciating the outdoors with a light touch.

Outdoors Rx was developed in collaboration with MassGeneral Hospital for Children and launched in September 2013. Through the program, kids in the pilot communities of Waltham and Framingham can get a prescription for physical activity outdoors from their doctor or other health-care provider. AMC offers how-to and where-to information to help families get outside and leaders like Brown organize regular activities in the two communities. Children participating in the program are awarded points redeemable for prizes ranging from water bottles to a free stay at AMC’s Ponkapoag Camp in Randolph, Mass.
Although neither my daughter nor the boy in the other family on the hike I attended had received a prescription from a health care provider, Brown encouraged the kids to log their activity and participate in the program. But the walk itself seemed reward enough for them.

Learn More
Find out about the Outdoors Rx program, including times and locations for upcoming activities in Waltham, Framingham, and elsewhere.

Photo by Ryan Smith. In warmer weather, Susan Brown of AMC helps a young hiker on an exploration of Hammond Pond Reservation in Chestnut Hill.

Great Kids, Great Outdoors is an Appalachian Mountain Club blog, written by Heather Stephenson.

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