Beginning next week, the boreal forestland of east Anchorage’s Russian Jack Springs Park will ring with the joyous sounds of kids playing among the trees and shrubs of this 300-acre favorite among local residents.
With school scheduling upended by the COVID-19 pandemic, fall is looking decidedly different this year. The team at Into the Woods Alaska is ready for the challenge, though, with half and full-day programs for kids to explore the outdoors and shake off an all-online classroom.
Bordered by Boniface Parkway to the east and Pine Street to the north, with Debarr Road bisecting its two plots, Russian Jack Springs Park has a long and interesting history with the city of Anchorage. First a homestead to immigrant Jacob “Russian Jack” Marunenko in the early 1930’s, then a minimum-security prison farm that provided much of Anchorage with vegetables until the 1960’s, the park now features a nine-hole golf course, hiking and biking trails, and access to the Middle Fork of Chester Creek.
Russian Jack Springs Park is the perfect place for Into the Woods to set the standard for play-based outdoor education. Campers will have the chance to explore the big and small parts of the park, from tiny plants to towering trees, and everything in between. They’ll also take advantage of access to Chester Creek, starting at the springs themselves, where water burbles from the ground and flows into the main fork of the creek and, eventually, into Cook Inlet.
We here at Into the Woods want our campers to understand their role as stewards of Anchorage’s natural spaces, and will do our best to provide kids with hands-on activities that reflect our philosophy of “Be Kind, Be Safe, and Be Respectful” to all things in our world. Look for stream studies, outdoor art, plant and tree identification, outdoor games, drama, and lots of time to simply play in the woods.
The AK Kids Camp is for all kids age five to 12 in the Anchorage area. Our goal is to provide scholarship opportunities in the near future so those families facing financial challenges can still send their youngster to a session at Russian Jack Springs Park. As we grow, we look to our Into the Woods families for feedback, since these are unique times, indeed.
Registration for the Wednesday full-day program is full, but there are many opportunities for half-day afternoon sessions Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Check out the calendar today and register your outdoor explorer for a fall like none other.
~ Erin Kirkland, Russian Jack Site Director for Into the Woods Alaska