- [Announcer] Support for Carolina Impact comes from our viewers and Wells Fargo.
- [Narrator] Wells Fargo has donated $390 million.
- Honey, like I said, you get your own room.
- [Narrator] To support housing affordability solutions across America.
- You're never gonna get it!
- [Narrator] Doing gets it done.
Wells Fargo, the Bank of Doing.
- [Announcer] This is a production of PBS Charlotte.
- Just ahead on "Carolina Impact."
- During the C19 pandemic, outdoor schools like this one popped up across the country, including South Carolina.
"Carolina Impact" is introducing you to one such school in Fort Mill to learn more about this education trend and if it's here to stay.
- Strike up the band and then strike up the band again and then strike up the band again.
I'm Jeff Sonya outside the Blumenthal Performing ArtS Center for a week of student concerts by the Charlotte Symphony.
- And we'll take you to an early morning fitness club started in Charlotte that's become Global.
"Carolina Impact" starts right now.
(upbeat music) - [Commentator] "Carolina Impact," covering the issues, people, and places that impact you.
This is "Carolina Impact."
- Good evening ,thanks so much for joining us, I'm Amy Burkett.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, schools across the country looked for ways to bring students safely back into classrooms.
One solution that gained popularity was to bring classes outside.
"Carolina Impact's" Rochelle Metzger and videographer John Branscum visit an outdoor preschool in Fort Mill, South Carolina where being in nature becomes a part of the learning process.
(upbeat music) - [Rochelle] On this sunny, but brisk March morning in Fort Mill, South Carolina, a dozen four and five year olds are busy playing in the woods.
They're not taking a break from the classroom, the forest is their classroom.
From the moment they're dropped off in the morning.
- [Teacher] Good morning to the flora and fauna and all around.
- [Rochelle] The children enrolled in the half day preschool at Anne Springs Close Greenway, spend the day outside in the park.
- Hey, what's your favorite thing about Greenway School?
- [Rochelle] Brittany Mills says it can be tough keeping up with her energetic four-year-old daughter, Everly.
- I enjoy playing.
- Being with your best friends.
- [Rochelle] When it came time to enroll in a preschool, the former early education teacher says she thought she knew what she wanted.
- As we kind of tour different schools, I realized like her personality and just her uniqueness wasn't gonna be contained by four walls and it wasn't going to be fulfilled by just inside classroom materials.
Being here out in nature, she's really able to just be herself.
- [Rochelle] The nature-based program places a strong emphasis on outdoor exploration.
Kids are encouraged to be creative, to build, dig, and get their hands dirty.
- We are constantly building activities and centers and processes around what they wanna learn.
For instance, my group, which is at the outdoor classroom right now, we are really into building, so we're doing marble runs, building castles.
- [Rochelle] Teacher Melissa Thomas says no day is typical.
Jenn Berman, the program coordinator says the children, and at times the weather, guide their lesson plans.
- I think the biggest adjustment for parents is learning how to dress appropriately for the weather.
We always recommend layers.
- [Rochelle] Being fully immersed in nature can be a challenge for kids too at first.
Megan Mazzucco says adapting to the environment was part of the learning process for her daughter, Maggie, who's now in her second year.
- Last year, she had a hard time getting her feet wet when they would go on Creek Day and she just had to work through that.
- Mazzucco says Maggie's confidence has grown and the nature-based instruction nurtures her love of creatures, big and small.
- I like animals and I want to be a vet because when you're a vet you get to see lots of animals.
- I love when she comes home and tells me about the creatures that she saved or you know the houses that they built out in the woods.
I wonder what that is.
- [Rochelle] It might not look like a standard preschool curriculum, but Berman says they are preparing the kids for kindergarten.
- We talk about letters, numbers, shapes, pre-reading, pre-writing.
They're always getting opportunities to write, to read.
We just do it in a much more natural way out here versus looking at a worksheet that says A, B, C. - [Rochelle] Anne Springs follows the guidelines for the North American Association for Environmental Education, or NAAEE.
The school also adheres to South Carolina state standards for early childhood education.
- We're lucky enough to have a place like this where she gets to play in the mud and learn science through nature and experiencing the world around her.
- [Rochelle] Katie Lee says her five-year-old daughter, Nora, is thriving in the outdoor classroom environment.
She says the developmental benefits have been both educational and emotional.
- And I think through this program and the incredible teachers that they have here, they really helped her come out of her shell.
- [Rochelle] Instructor Smitha Sasidharan says the children are encouraged to talk about their feelings.
They also use calming activities like yoga, meditation, and painting.
- We coach them through their emotions, talking one-on-one, helping them figure out solutions.
- [Rochelle] The outdoor-focused approach to learning is exactly what Lee and her husband were looking for when they found Anne Springs during the Covid-19 pandemic.
- She was enrolled in a different preschool and we just weren't comfortable with the policies that they had in place.
And we happened to find the Greenway Preschool.
- [Rochelle] The preschool at Anne Springs first opened in the fall of 2019, with one class, 16 kids enrolled.
The pandemic hit later that school year and interest in the outdoor preschool surged.
Today there are four half day classes with a total of 60 kids and more on the wait list.
- And I really think the pandemic has helped kind of with that push of people wanting their kids outdoors and finding that, you know, we can do all the same stuff that we would do inside four walls.
We can do it out here.
- The increased interest in Anne Springs mirrors a similar trend nationwide.
According to the Natural Start Alliance, a research arm of the NAAEE, over the past decade, immersive outdoor classrooms have gained traction in the United States, particularly for younger age groups.
The alliance reports that between 2017 and 2020, nature schools more than doubled nationally to almost 600 and can now be found in nearly every state in the country.
However, research also found that for some populations access to these programs is disproportionate.
Disparities in access to high quality education are widespread across the United States and nature-based programs are no exception.
A research study in 2017 by the Natural Start Alliance found that all children are not equally represented in outdoor preschools.
White children are overrepresented while dual language learners and children with disabilities are underrepresented.
- I think the school could definitely benefit from our diversity.
It is something that we have continuously worked towards in our four years of existence and it's something we will continue to work towards.
- [Rochelle] It's part of the Greenway's mission to connect as many people as possible with nature, it's beauty, and it's bounty.
- Just seeing her in her element like it just makes me so happy.
She just gets to fully be a child and it's celebrated.
- [Rochelle] Whether they continue the non-traditional or move to a traditional classroom in the future, parents like Mazzucco and Mills say their kids are developing a sense of wonder and an appreciation of nature that will last a lifetime.
For "Carolina Impact," I'm Rochelle Metzger.
- Thank you so much, Rochelle.
My friend Brittany's daughter, Everly, was in that story and I'm just so glad to see she's getting cuter and cuter every day.
Well, the Greenway Nature Preschool offers education scholarships.
Families can apply for financial assistance through the Anne Springs Close Bridge program.
Application forms and eligibility guidelines can be found online.
You'll find a link on our website at pbscharlotte.org.
Well, harmony between the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra and Charlotte Mecklenburg schools at a series of symphony concerts for thousands of CMS students is what's happening.
For most, this is their first experience seeing and hearing the orchestra at a concert hall in person.
And for some, maybe the launch of their own future musical careers.
"Carolina Impact's" Jeff Sonier and videographer Doug Stacker, join the kids at Charlotte's Blumenthal Performing Arts Center with more.
- Yeah, Belk Theater here at Blumenthal is a concert hall, but for one week every year, well, it doesn't look or sound like that at all.
(dramatic music) When CMS is in the house, well, it's more like Symphony 101 as Charlotte's fifth graders line up to meet "Beethoven's 5th."
(dramatic music) - Let's go.
There we go.
(dramatic music) - Good morning.
- [Jeff] That's Ruth Petersen greeting them at the door.
She's a project manager for the arts department at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, partnering with the Charlotte Symphony for four days of kids' concerts.
Every CMS fifth grader at every school, 12,000 5th graders in all, getting an opportunity to see and hear, and maybe even dream a little about what it's like up on that symphony stage.
- It gives the the students, some, their very first chance to come to the symphony and see the different instruments, to see people who hopefully look like them that are playing these instruments.
- [Jeff] Most of them have never seen a concert like this before.
- [Ruth] Most of them haven't.
And if you look at their faces when they're walking in, you can see the delight at looking at Blumenthal for the first time.
- [Jeff] And this first time fifth grade field trip concert often sounds less like a day at the symphony.
(dramatic music) (audience clapping) (dramatic music) And more like a night at the movies.
(dramatic music) - We have Star Wars, we have Harry Potter happening.
And so, even- - [Jeff] Peyton Wulff is the Charlotte Symphony's learning manager and she says these small symphony concerts started long ago in a decade, far, far away.
The 1950s actually, when the plan was to bus school kids to the old Charlotte Armory.
But, then the Armory burned down so the orchestra went to plan B, which was a series of symphony road trips instead.
For a while you were bringing the concerts into the schools.
- It's a different experience when the schools come to the concert.
- It is.
It gets the kids out of the classroom to kind of give them a different environment to learn.
- [Jeff] Later the school concerts moved to Ovens Auditorium and when CMS didn't have enough bus drivers to transport all those students, well volunteers from Charlotte's Women's Association and the Junior League took bus driving classes and got behind the wheel.
And today, well the buses line up for blocks along the curb outside the Blumenthal as the kids inside the Blumenthal enjoy a hand clapping, sing along, nearly 70 year symphony tradition.
(students singing) - We build a curriculum around the pieces that they're performing today, so they get to know it before they come to the orchestra to see it performed.
And so, it gives them a bowl of, oh, I can do this someday or I wanna learn this instrument.
- The energy of children is something unique.
- [Jeff] Taylor Marino is the principal clarinetist for the Charlotte Symphony and he still remembers his CMS field trip concert.
- So, I started clarinet in fifth grade at Elizabeth Lane Elementary School and then joined the band program at South Charlotte Middle School.
(upbeat music) Funny story, I actually lost my clarinet that I was renting.
So, my mom's punishment was to force me to take private lessons when she got me a new instrument.
And that was maybe the first time I realized, okay, maybe this is something I really like to do.
(clarinet playing) It's a magical thing to have your family and to play in your hometown.
You know, watching, playing in the orchestra I watched growing up and that gave me so much when I was young.
(dramatic music) And knowing at the end of the day, regardless of what anybody tells you, if you really wanna do something, you can do it.
(dramatic music) - [Jeff] That's the message Marino wants today's fifth graders to remember long after these concerts are over.
- It's one of the most important things as the symphony is being involved in education and sharing what we do with young people 'cause if that wasn't shared with me when I was young, I wouldn't be doing this today.
- How many of you get overwhelmed with big feelings sometimes?
Yeah, you're human, so it happens.
- [Jeff] The same message that all these symphony musicians wanna share (dramatic music) with Charlotte's Musicians of the future.
- I think musicians love it 'cause like I said, it's one of the most important things we'll do because without that there is no future of music.
(dramatic music) (audience clapping) - Local charter school students were also in the audience for the symphony's week of field trip concerts, which it calls One Musical Family and much like your annual family reunion, well, the schools in the symphony already planning for next year's week of concerts as well.
- Thank you, Jeff.
At pbscharlotte.org you'll find more about the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra's long history of performances with local students.
Just click on our link to the symphony archives.
Next up, it has been called the best nutrition an infant can have, breast milk.
But in the United States, breastfeeding today is not as dominant as it has been in previous generations.
Statistics show among those who do breastfeed, the likelihood of them doing so for longer than six months is very low.
For women of color, who according to the World Health Organization and the CDC, have higher mortality rates during pregnancy, the number who breastfeed is even smaller.
Yet doctors and nutrition experts say it can make the difference in a child's life.
As Beatrice Thompson explains, in Charlotte, one group of women have taken on the statistics with an eye to changing the outcome for women of color.
- Made a flower.
It's everyday learning.
He's teaching us a lot.
Is it tasty?
- [Father] It's the best decision that I think we could have made for our family.
- [Bea] Meet Rachel and Timothy Dean, new parents and their entry card to the parents club, three-month-old Jackson Dean.
They're among the growing number of new parents, and in particular parents of color, who are on the front lines of an old form of nourishment for babies, breastfeeding.
- There you go.
- There was no doubt in my mind that what we were gonna be doing with breastfeeding him was gonna be the best thing for him.
- [Bea] Rachel is a lactation consultant and dietician and works with moms of color.
She sees firsthand women who want to provide the best for their newborns but are unsure about breastfeeding.
- We are breastfeeding more,, but still not as much as our white counterparts.
You wanna try to roll over.
- And we wanna increase the rate of women breastfeeding, black women breastfeeding, as well as increase the duration and the time period of breastfeeding for African-American families and families of color.
- [Bea] LuGenia Grider is a certified doula.
The word doula comes from the ancient Greek, meaning a woman who serves and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to the mother before, during, and just after birth.
- We work very closely with other dieticians, lactation consultants, childbirth educators, the healthcare systems here in our area, as well as with doulas to help everyone close the gap so that disparities can decrease in our community and we can see the health benefits and the legacy of that.
- [Bea] More than a decade ago, Dean and Grider started Queen City Cocoa B.E.A.N.S., short for breastfeeding education, advocacy, normalcy, and support.
The Charlotte-based nonprofit provides a support system for families of color and it has come at a time when national statistics on black maternal health and that of their babies are dismal.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, breastfeeding disparities do exist.
Fewer black infants are ever breastfed compared to Asian, white, or Hispanic infants.
Infants receiving WIC, the Federal Nutrition Program, are less likely to ever breastfeed.
And young mothers between the ages of 20 to 29 are less likely to ever breastfeed than mothers over the age of 30.
The US dietary guidelines for Americans, along with the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization all recommend that infants be exclusively breastfed for about the first six months of life with continued breastfeeding while introducing appropriate complimentary foods for one year or longer.
Although most infants receive some breast milk, most are not exclusively breastfeeding or continuing to breastfeed for as long as recommended.
Queen City Cocoa B.E.A.N.S.
points out two important points.
Families can save more than $2,000 a year by not buying formula and they say breast milk is designed for the baby and it's gentler on the infant system compared to another animal's milk.
- We know that those statistics, if they are increased, can change the health statistics across the board for women of color, for family and childrens of color, decrease in diabetes, breast cancer, and a numerous amount of other things like asthma that attack the African-American community.
- I knew I wanted to try to breastfeed.
I knew about the the health benefits of being able to breastfeed my child.
- [Bea] This savvy attorney learned of Queen City Cocoa B.E.A.N.S.
while in the hospital.
It led her to become a board member and to encourage other women and their partners to consider the health of their child first.
- [Karen] They were able to be a huge source of support for not just myself, but my husband, who would be there on the front lines with me.
So, we have our breastfeeding support group for the birthing person or the mom, and then we also have Daddy B.E.A.N.S.
for the father that is a part of that breastfeeding family.
- [Bea] And for a new dad like Timothy Dean, information and a dad support system can make the difference for one who has questions.
(baby laughing) - There's no fear at all, but there's no shame in having questions either.
I had some questions for my wife about how the process works and what it took to really feed him and give him nutrients, the daily nutrients that he needs.
- [Bea] Through their organization, Queen City Cocoa B.E.A.N.S.
services range from workshops to lactation consultations, weight management, infant weight monitoring, and virtual support groups.
For the business woman who breastfed both her daughters, making the Cocoa B.E.A.N.S.
connection made a difference for her family and she says it can make a difference for many moms of color looking for support.
- Being able to look to other people who have maybe hit a wall at different points along that process, but could tell me how they overcame it.
I think that really helped in keeping me on the road and continuing to pursue the goal set.
- [Bea] Their next goal?
Increase the number of women of color who are lactation consultants.
They're collaborating with Johnson C. Smith University and Novant Health to develop a pathway, making it the first historically Black college and university to have this type of program.
In turn, JCSU is working with North Carolina A&T University to develop a program there.
As for the next generation of healthy babies, among them will be Jackson Dean, who seems to be quite comfortable with his parents' decision on the best pathway for his nutrition and health.
For "Carolina Impact," I'm Bea Thompson.
- Thanks Ba for sharing some more important information with us.
Well, finally tonight, a lot of car owners love to put rear windshield decals or bumper stickers on the backs of their cars.
While most are pretty obvious as to what they're promoting, there are some that have likely left you guessing as to what it represents.
One sticker you've likely seen around town is a circular black and white sticker with F3 in the middle.
"Carolina Impact's" Jason Terzis takes us to the heart of F3 and shows us how an idea that started a dozen years ago in Charlotte has become global.
(alarm buzzing) - [Jason] It's just after 5:00 AM, barely a car on the road.
Most people still sleeping, morning rush hour yet to begin, but back in the shadows off Providence Road, you'll find them.
- One, two, three.
- [Jason] It's an early morning workout.
It takes place every single day.
- It fulfills a man's need and drive for purpose.
One, two, three.
- We're middle-aged men and we just didn't wanna be fat anymore.
- [Jason] A combination of stretches, strength training, and running.
- We just knew that there were a lot of men that needed this.
- [Jason] But there's no personal trainers, no gym memberships to pay.
All guys have to do is simply show up.
- We plant, grow, and serve small workout groups for men in order to invigorate male community leadership.
- [Leader] All right, right hand high.
- [Jason] This is F3 Nation, Fitness, Fellowship, and Faith.
It's part workout group, part military style boot camp, and part fraternity.
- As I like to call this, grown man recess.
Like this is, you know, like this is adult playtime.
- The credo is, we leave no man behind, but we leave no man where we find him.
- [Jason] It all started on 1-1-11.
January 1st, 2011 when a few friends decided to branch off from a weekend workout group they'd already been in.
- First day we got 30 guys.
- Which I thought was New Year's resolution, right?
Not gonna see it again.
Next week we had 32 guys.
- How to count is based on the military system of counting during physical training.
We modify it to keep it simpler.
- [Jason] David Redding spent nine years in the Army, but after getting out and going to law school, he had some trouble staying in shape.
- And I would lose the same 30 or 40 pounds over and over again.
So, I was looking for a way to be more consistent and I thought if I worked out with some other guys like we did every morning in the Army, we had physical training every morning.
That way I would have a reason to get up and go out.
- At the time, I was watching a lot of "Colbert Nation," "The Colbert Show."
(dramatic music) (eagle screeching) And I said, I like "Colbert Nation," why don't we do F3 Nation?
And that was how it came about.
- [Jason] The early morning workouts are generally 45 minutes long and take place seven days a week, rain or shine, with most of the guys going to about four or five workouts a week.
- That brotherhood, that support, just the push for everyone to be successful in the workout and do the most that they could was enough to bring me back the next week and it snowballed from there.
- That's really the band of brothers type element that forms within a small workout group.
- [Jason] To lighten the mood during workouts, some good natured ribbing of one another is common.
And over the years, guys have developed their own jargon.
Words, letters, and abbreviations describing things.
FNG for example, stands for friendly new guy.
- We call the exercises weird and funny things.
A lot of pop culture references, you know, kinda end up in there, particularly if you're kind of that Gen-X ish age, you know, all those 80s and 90s references.
- This is not something that you're gonna experience in a formal gym by any means.
No one's gonna normally come up to you and make fun of your shorts or talk to you in a manner that might be slightly derogatory.
That's just simply the nature of it.
- [Jason] And everyone who attends gets a nickname.
- The nicknames are just a, it's kind of part of the tribalism of it.
- [Jason] Nicknames like Alby, Hello Kitty, Dark Helmet, and Ruby Slippers.
- Snowflake, Tin Cap.
We say it has to be kind of slightly insulting.
That's kind of part of it, right?
- You got a buddy back home, if a guy's got a big nose, he's the schnoz.
I mean, he's not wondering if he has a big nose.
He knows he's got a big nose.
- And quite frankly, it's what most people will remember about an individual is perhaps that nickname.
And so, it just became an easy way to meet and get to know people on a different level.
- All right, any announcements?
- [Jason] The workouts always end with what the guys call the circle of trust where they make announcements and go around the circle with each guy saying his name, nickname, and age, it's all about building camaraderie.
- Hi, Frank, Full House, 39.
- Full House.
- Matt Rose, Jewel, 36.
- His weights, Cornwallace, 28.
- [Jason] What started in Charlotte has gone worldwide with F3 groups now in 48 states in more than a dozen countries.
- I'll go visit family in another state.
I'll just hop on the website, figure out if there's a workout and show up.
And they're like, oh, you're from, they love it.
You know, they're amazed to see somebody from another place come by.
They're excited to have you there.
You get to find out a little bit about their traditions.
- There's a guy out in the Puget Sound who has started an F3 workout inside the prison.
- And what's happened is you've seen these great expansion of it because we're reaching so many different men at so many different levels and that perhaps to me is the part that shocked me the most is just to how deeply we've connected with men at all ages and all stages of their life.
- [Jason] What's made F3 such a success, the guys say, isn't the free workouts, it's something else.
- We were an exercise group for a while, but we became a leadership group pretty quickly and that's really what we still are.
- We aren't here as a workout group to get men more fit.
That's gonna be a byproduct of the fact that we are here to unlock the man that you were created to be inside you.
That's what we're here for.
That's what I'm here for.
- That's the mission of F3.
Plant, serve, and grow small men's workouts in order to invigorate male leadership and that male leadership occurs as men come together and something unique occurs when they work out together.
And from there, a man's decision is to take steps within their own life, is completely up to them, but we've just seen magical things happen.
- [Jason] The guys take turns leading the various workouts, have developed a foundation, and volunteer in the community.
- If you see a bunch of guys in black T-shirts with the F3 on it on the side of the road, they're not looking for trouble.
They're probably picking up trash.
- [Jason] From Charlotte to around the world, F3 is building male friendships and creating leaders all while breaking a little sweat in the process.
For "Carolina Impact," I'm Jason Terzis reporting.
- Thank you so much, Jason, for your extra effort of getting up so early in the morning to capture that story.
For those of you who simply don't want to get out of bed that early on weekdays, you'll be happy to know that weekend workouts take place a little later in the morning.
Well, that's another story sent to us by one of our viewers.
If you have a story idea, please email us the details to email@example.com.
Well, that's all the time we have this evening.
Thanks so much for joining us.
We always appreciate your time and look forward to seeing you back here again next time on "Carolina Impact."
Goodnight my friends.
- [Announcer] A production of PBS Charlotte.
Support for Carolina Impact comes from our viewers and Wells Fargo.
- [Narrator] Wells Fargo has donated $390 million.
- Honey, like I said, you get your own room.
- [Narrator] To support housing affordability solutions across America.
- You're never gonna get it!
- [Narrator] Doing gets it done.
Wells Fargo, the Bank of Doing.