Long ago, our ancestors slept beneath the stars and that desire to remain in nature still lives within us. We feed that need by doing things like camping, fishing, hiking, or skiing. During that time, we find an opportunity to breathe fresh air and to unplug from work and social media. Unfortunately, life can get hectic, and therefore, we don’t often get the opportunity to do these things. However, a teen from Minnesota has chosen to sleep in his backyard, under the stars for almost 3 years. And just for fun!
Thirst for Adventure
Isaac Ortman was 11 years old when he began sleeping outside as a self-challenge. He was with his family at their cabin about 30 miles away from home and decided to give it a try. He’s part of the Boy Scouts, which likely played some role in his motivation to stay outdoors through the night. The now 14-year-old Boy Scout found he liked it so much, 3 years later he’s still sleeping outside.
His dad, Andrew, explained that Isaac has done a lot of research to figure out the warmest and most waterproof equipment and that his son feels like every night is a new adventure. “He found a waterproof hammock to string up in the yard, and he has a couple of sleeping bags, under-quilts and over-quilts that he can add depending on how cold it is,” Andrew said. “He has a great system.”
Benefits of the Great Outdoors
Thousands of young men, including Isaac, have experienced the benefits of outdoor adventures through programs like the Boy Scouts. But have you ever wondered how time spent outdoors can bring about so many benefits? Have you ever been in a stressful situation and taken a quick walk outside, only to find that you have a clearer head and calmer demeanor when taking a second look at the situation? That is one example of the many benefits to spending time outdoors.
Moreover, when kids spend time playing outside, exploring in nature, or even sleeping beneath the stars, they create lifelong memories, and gain perspective, imagination, and overall better health. Outdoor learning is in many parts of the world, an integral part of one’s education. Time spent outdoors boosts the immune system, creating healthier children and adults. In fact, when Tuberculosis was on high rise in the early 1900s, a pair of Doctors from Rhode Island came up with the idea of a fresh-air classroom.
Their first attempt opened in 1908 and not a single child had gotten sick by the end of the year. Outdoor education can come in a variety of settings and methods. Some include forests, greenspaces, and gardens. Children learn in a play-based manner, study science, and spend time in a space big enough to nurture their big movement needs such as running or jumping. Spending time learning in these settings has shown an increase in cognitive abilities, lowers blood pressure, and improves mental health.
Boy Scouts Leading Communities
The Boy Scouts is an organization that has been around for more than 100 years. In that time the organization has made a reputation for teaching boys, and young men, about “life preparedness.” The Scouts spend time outdoors learning wilderness survival. Examples include how to pitch a tent and find food and water where resources may be scarce.
These young men also earn badges for taking part in their communities and being outstanding citizens. The desire to be ‘one with nature’ is strongly encouraged and celebrated. At a certain age, Boy Scouts programs like ‘Sea-Scouts’ are open to both boys and girls. Furthermore, career exploration opportunities are made available to youth ages 10-20. Additionally, the Boy Scouts Mission is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetime.
An Eagle Scout is the highest-ranking Boy Scout position. It is a prestigious award taking years of hard work, determination and service to achieve. In 2019 the Eagle Scouts extended that opportunity to women. By the start of 2021, nearly 1,000 young women had made rank. The process is rigorous and time consuming. However, it is well worth the investment both for college opportunities and for personal growth.
Be it a spiritual awakening, the desire to breathe more cleanly, or a need to release physical bursts of energy, spending time outdoors and in outdoor learning spaces offers undeniable benefits. Moreover, scientists and healthcare professionals have spent hours studying the effects of outdoor learning and strongly encourage people to lean in that direction. Isaac Ortman is a prime example of someone who chose to step out of his comfort zone, slept outdoors, and found great joy in doing so. His survival skills and drive to learn more about the world around him is a special gift that will take him on grand adventures, bring happiness, and overall ensure a healthier life for himself.
- “Outdoor Education has psychological, cognitive and physical health benefits for children.” The Conversation. Jean-Philippe Ayotte-Beaudet and Felix Berrigan. July 18, 2022.
- “Minnesota teen has slept in his backyard for 3 years. iHeart. Taylor Linzinmeir. January 30, 2023.