"Going for a short hike, watching the ducks, and letting your kids roll around in the dirt can have a much larger impact on their lives and the health of our planet than you may realize."
Alisa Geiser and Aly Nicklas are the founders of Born Wild Project, a website and social media community dedicated to inspiring families to spend more time in nature. In conjunction with NOVA, an all-female production company based in Colorado, Born Wild Project launched its first-ever film on December 8. The film, Raising a Wild Child, examines a series of millennial parents who use social media to build a community of other outdoorsy families. It's about the power of nature and community. "We hope that families take what we’re doing, use it as tangible inspiration, and go outside with their children," says Nicklas.
REI talked with Nicklas to hear more about the project and film.
Tell me about why you wanted to launch the Born Wild Project.
Kids aren’t getting the time they need outdoors—and that’s a topic we felt was worthy of taking on in a big way. Born Wild was originally going to be a short film about three women who were raising their kids with an outdoor-centric lifestyle, but we realized soon after we put the idea out in the world that it deserved to be something bigger. I read Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv several years ago—I hadn’t realized that childhood had changed so drastically in the U.S.—and what that might mean for upcoming generations.
When we launched our social media accounts for the film in September of 2015 we had an instant following that was really engaging with our message of the importance of spending time outside with your kids. We realized this was an important topic, and that we were talking about it in a way that families were connecting with. By the by the time we launched our Kickstarter that December it had evolved into a three-part film series and an online platform with tips, trick, how-tos, interviews and stories from families all over the world.
Why do you think it's important for families to spend time together in the wilderness?
We connect so much more deeply with each other when we are disconnected from the bombardment of distractions we have in modern culture. When the tv is off, the phones are mostly tucked away without service, and we’re engaging in the present moment.
Any tips or tricks for getting little ones stoked on the outdoors?
From what I've seen, kids like being outside more than they might let on, or even recognize themselves. Even older kids. I’ve seen teenagers grumble about going on a hike, but 30 minutes later they’re marveling at a waterfall or chasing their sibling down the trail with reckless, childish abandon. We feel happier outdoors and unencumbered by all the pressures of society to fit in, but sometimes it might take us a minute to be open to feeling that freedom. And we know it can be hard for parents because getting outside can be a challenge even without kids. I think the key might be to not give up and start small. Your kids will look back and thank you for it, I promise.
Why did you decide to create Raising a Wild Child as your first film?
The film came about in an organic way: I had been approached by three of the subjects, Morgan, Shannon, and Brooke, about doing a photo shoot for an article they wanted to write about the subject of getting outdoors with small children. I’m a filmmaker, and I immediately thought this could be an interesting topic to explore, and I pulled my business partner Alisa in right away.
Alisa and I found it really interesting how these families were managing a balance between connectedness with social media and connectedness with nature, and using social media to inspire themselves and others to get outside. That juxtaposition led to how we ultimately decided to structure the film. We see Raising a Wild Child as an introduction to this lifestyle and mindset—what these women are doing isn’t extreme or unapproachable for many people, even those in an urban environment (Brooke lives in Salt Lake City, for example). It’s a stepping stone into a whole new world.
What does the film mean to you personally?
Neither Alisa nor I has kids yet, but we were both raised with nature-loving parents, albeit on opposite sides of the country. Alisa in upstate New York, and myself in Alaska. I spent every minute I could outside, building tree houses, bossing the boys around, fishing, following bear tracks. That upbringing has absolutely shaped who I am today. It cultivated curiosity, leaderships skills, tenacity, and most importantly, a deep and abiding love of wilderness. I’ve been incredibly privileged to have had the opportunities and experiences that have come from this lifestyle, and I’d want all children to experience that—to feel that wonder for our planet and its wild places, and to know that they’re a part of that.
What do you hope people take away from Raising a Wild Child?
That even the seemingly small actions—going for a short hike, watching the ducks, and letting your kids roll around in the dirt can have a much larger impact on their lives and the health of our planet than you may realize. It’s up to us to protect our habitat, and we tend to protect the things we love. So if you raise your children to love nature, they’ll grow up not only healthier, but also more likely to take a stand for our environment. And that serves all of us that inhabit Earth, animals and humans alike.
We’re diving right into editing Wild Inheritance, which we filmed this past August in the Wind River Range in Wyoming. It’s a beautiful and touching story about one family who has been taking their kids into the backcountry there for three generations—we followed them with Grandma Jan leading the way, with her children and a slew of grandkids (six!) behind her. It’s a study in the risks and rewards of making wilderness and wildness the family jewels.
Lead photo: Brooke Froelich with her son, Huck, and ski mountaineer Caroline Gleich | Photo: Alisa Geiser