Roots and Wings Forest School in New York Mills is gearing up for summer fun, with many opportunities for children and families to Opt Outside in Otter Tail County and surrounding areas. Roots and Wings is a non-profit, nature-based school that seeks to inspire confidence, curiosity and community through year-round education in the great outdoors for youth ages 3-12.

Roots and Wings is a recent recipient of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources “No Child Left Inside” grant program. 

“This successful outreach grant program continues to send resources to schools and organizations to help get children outdoors,” said Jeff Ledermann, DNR education and skills team supervisor. “These grants boost outdoor programs and initiatives all around the state, especially in communities with limited opportunities to connect with nature.”

The school will utilize the $18,000 they received in grant funds to purchase equipment to enhance outdoor education programs for youth and introduce new outdoor activities including fishing, biking, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, camping and more. Funds will also be used for field trips to state parks and other outdoor recreation areas during the school year.

This summer, the school will utilize some of the grant-funded equipment during their new one-week summer camps for ages 7-12 to be held at Glendalough State Park in Battle Lake. Each camp will run Monday-Thursday throughout July and August and offer a specific theme or topic. Camp themes will include fishing, nature art, pollinators, and separate girls and boys Adventure Camps featuring an overnight camping experience in the park. More sign ups are needed for these camps to run successfully, please visit to learn more and register your child today.

Funded outdoor equipment will also be made available to families and community members who may not have access to the equipment needed for participating in certain outdoor activities, expanding access to the great outdoors. Equipment will be available to rent starting later this summer, including family camping kits complete with a tent, sleeping bags, cooking equipment, and all other essentials needed for a night under the stars—the cost of which can easily add up for a family new to camping. Winter equipment including skis and snowshoes will be available to rent as well.

“Our main goal is to increase accessibility, opportunities, and participation for youth and families in outdoor activities and experiences in our local communities,” said School Director Leona Cichy. “We are excited to continue to expand our offerings this summer with help from the DNR’s grant program, moving us closer to our vision of providing outdoor education and experiences for all. In 2023, we served over 100 youth from 19 different towns in 4 different counties. It is clear there is a regional need for more nature-based programming, and we are committed to meeting this need as we continue to grow through our variety of year-round programs and events.”

The school also has a low-cost, extremely fun virtual event currently running through June 29th. The Amazing Chase is a two-week, app-based outdoor adventure and “friendraiser,” offering outdoor trivia, challenges, and scavenger hunts around the lakes area, with families earning points for each challenge completed through the app.

Last year, The Chase had over 80 families compete for prizes. To sign up, download the “goosechase” app and enter event code W89ZZ5. The event will conclude with an in-person event held at the school on June 29th from 12-3 p.m., featuring a mud pit to play in, forest activities, and a rubber duck race. Rubber duck race raffle tickets are available at the school for $5, and the first duck over the finish line will win $500, with prizes for 2nd-10th place as well.

Those who are interested in learning more about Roots and Wings Forest School and the programs they offer, can visit their website at or contact Director Leona Cichy at or (218) 325-0234.