GLENDALE, Calif. — People are spending a lot more time online lately during this pandemic, especially kids. Most schools are in session, online in a virtual classroom. But there's a program in the Los Angeles area that's taking the classroom outdoors. It's called Biocitizen L.A.

Its after-school program has a mission to get students "off the screen, and into the green." And the group has stuck to that mission throughout this pandemic. This fall, the nonprofit's "Our Place" program is taking kids to locations throughout the Los Angeles area, including northeast L.A., San Fernando Valley, and West L.A.

What You Need To Know

  • Biocitizen L.A. is a program in the Los Angeles area that's taking the classroom outdoors

  • Kids are taken to locations throughout the Los Angeles area to explore the environment

  • Because of the pandemic, things such as classroom sizes are a little differently this fall

  • The program costs $50 per day and offers scholarships

Soloman Mark is one of the students. He recently met up with a Biocitizen group in Glendale. The program lasts for 13 weeks, and participants meet two or four times a week.

The 6-year-old loves nature and lit up as he saw a bird in the Los Angeles River. Solomon loves being outside.

"I like that it's pretty free, and there's a lot of life," he said.

The day's activities range from nature journaling to hikes, to games, and much more. Benny Jacobs-Schwartz is the program director for Biocitizen L.A. He said even a simple game of tag could come with a lesson about the environment. He calls the lessons a "nature upgrade." He explained how the kids play tag by using nature.  

"Our boundaries were denoted by specific trees," he said. "So, like, you know, don't go past the sycamore over there, and the sycamore over here, and the oak tree over there." 

Its lessons, he said, are designed to help kids appreciate their surroundings. And to hopefully create future stewards of the environment. Because of the pandemic, Jacobs-Schwartz said they've had to do things a little differently this fall.

He said groups are kept smaller — about ten kids per group. Parents are required to pick up and drop off kids, were in the past they used a van to do some of the transportation. All students must also wear masks, and new safety procedures are in place, such as hand sanitizing before games. Also, they take temperatures when parents drop off their kids. 

These are all changes that Jacobs-Schwarz said are helping kids get outside and around each other. He said it's more vital than ever. 

"They're basically on their computers all day, inside, by themselves," he said. "Like, humans are social creatures. And kids especially need to be around one another." 

He said nature and the outdoors are a space where kids can be kids while learning things without the school feeling. During a recent class, Jacobs-Schwartz taught the kids about different types of birds found in the area. He drew different beaks and asked the kids to point out the birds. 

"The whole point is to infuse learning with the experience," he explained.

And that's why the activities also include a hike ranging from one to three miles on most days. Solomon and the rest of the class hiked out to an area sandwiched between a freeway and a neighborhood along the Los Angeles River.

Solomon was beaming as he hiked toward the water. 

"I like that I get to be with a lot of my friends," he said.

It's a bonus for the 6-year-old to see his friends in a space he can't get enough of, Solomon explained.

"It feels good to get outside."

The classes are open to kids 5 to 13 years of age. There is also a teen program available for those 14 years old and up. The program costs $50 per day. But the organization offers scholarships. Biocitizen L.A. said an important part of their mission is education equity, so they want to provide the program to those who may not be able to afford it.