Shannon Rozea spent ten years of her childhood living on the sprawling grounds of the Crane Estate in Ipswich, Massachusetts, where her father was the superintendent of the property. Discovering and exploring nature on more than 2,000 acres overlooking the Atlantic Ocean nurtured Rozea’s career path. The Bristol resident earned a BS in landscape architecture and regional planning from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and then worked in the field before taking a sabbatical from her career to raise her young children. During that time, she redirected her knowledge and passion for outdoor learning into the Green Team at Guiteras Elementary School in Bristol, where her children went, creating a Discovery Garden and other programming. The work garnered recognition by Save The Bay Bristol and inspired Rozea to create Thrive Outside, a nonprofit partnering with community spaces and schools to design dynamic safe outdoor learning zones, all complemented with professional teacher development and outdoor educational training.
OUTDOOR FREEDOM: I remember clearly [when my family moved] on my fourth birthday; we arrived at night and the next morning looking out the window – I was amazed at where we had landed. There was a herd of deer on the landscape and the sun was coming up. It’s imprinted on my brain. We had the run of this property [at the Crane Estate]. My parents always said go out and play. We had no neighbors; it was just me and my brother and all this nature to explore.
IT TAKES A VILLAGE: I threw myself into volunteer work at Guiteras Elementary School. Another mom, Brooke Merriam, and I formed the Green Team. We were excited about getting kids outside and learning. The landscape at Guiteras is amazing. We came up with a plan, worked with Bristol Town Planner Ed Tanner and we received a grant and did fundraising to support the project.
SEED OF INSPIRATION: After the Guiteras experience, I had the inspiration to start Thrive Outside. I learned about the Boston Schoolyard Initiative, which transformed 88 schoolyards from derelict-looking asphalt grounds into amazing outdoor learning areas coupled with teacher outdoor learning. Thrive was formed in December 2017, and by January, we had three projects so I knew I was on to something. We now have a staff of five and a board of directors. A good thing that came from COVID was that schools started looking to the outdoors as a learning environment.
GET MUDDY: Our whole mission is to connect kids to nature, learn about it, fall in love with it, and achieve environmental literacy so our children will understand ecosystems, habitats, animals, and climate. Our fundraiser is an all-ages family obstacle course with mud. It was the idea of board member Amy Boutchie. We have two humongous mud pits to crawl through. Our board chair Marc Domina is our “mudmaster.” He is a Warren volunteer fireman so they come and blast everyone down with the fire hoses. I smile for weeks after.
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