Meet Ashley Brailsford, an Urbaanite dedicated to helping our youth connect to nature and find joy in Nashville. She is the founder of Our Joyful Learning, curating nature-based education experiences, coaching, and consulting for families, educators, and organizations that seek to embrace wonder, celebrate culture, and inspire joy.
How long have you been in Nashville?
I have lived in Nashville for a total of 12 years. I moved here after college in 2005 and was here until 2012. A couple of job opportunities took me to Omaha, NE and Charleston, SC in 2012. I returned in 2017.
Tell us what you are creating in Nashville?
All over the country, there are great nature programs but they are often not appealing to a diverse group of people so programs need to be transformed to be more inclusive. Using my background as an education professor and outdoor guide I curate nature learning experiences for families and professionals that are culturally relevant. These experiences center the narratives and roles of Indigenous, Black and People of Color in nature to shine a light on our past and present contributions in the outdoors.
Everyone deserves to experience the joy of nature in a way that is relevant to them and in a way in which we can see ourselves and honor our ancestors. My hope is that in conversations about nature, there is a shift in how we all think about what counts as nature to include activities we do in our own neighborhoods or backyards from the cookout, playing in the sprinkler, or sitting on the porch with family and expanding our interests to also include activities such as looking for edible and medicinal plants in the wild, kayaking, and feeling safe to explore a state park.
To support this shift I curate workshops and consult with professionals in nature-connected organizations such as parks, state agencies, environmental organizations, and schools, across the country, to provide strategies and tools to transform their programming to be more relevant and inclusive of our stories and contributions in nature. Culturally and historically, we are Earth people but racist policies, practices, and trauma overtime have pushed many of our communities into spaces where we are no longer as deeply connected to nature nor see ourselves in nature nor our accomplishments in these spaces.
My work with families focuses on very intentionally centering Indigenous, Black, and People of Color here in Nashville doing amazing work in the outdoors. Because I am currently homeschooling my 7-year-old son, these family experiences typically happen during weekday mornings and attract other homeschooling families.
We have had some really dope Black and Brown people lead our family experiences all over Nashville: Ms. Cynthia who has a poultry farm; Angela Foster who is a world-traveling fly fisherwoman; Olasubomi Aka-Bashorun a mural artist; and Ms. Pearl founder of Brooklyn Heights Community Garden, where we are wrapping up a Gardening for Food Justice Series.
What inspires you?
Honestly, learning about all of the Black and Brown people who are doing revolutionary work in the outdoors inspires me. I am in love with all of the stories of goodness from reclaiming our connections to farming to scuba diving with the purpose of preserving our heritage from slave shipwrecks to creating documentaries about our experiences in nature. I have been inspired by so many of us who are doing work locally and nationally who are also saying we are here in this space and our stories and our roles in nature, conservation, food justice, and environmental justice matter and have always mattered.
My hope is that I am creating a community of people who honor culture, explore well-being, and inspire joy.
What is your favorite Nashville spot you are digging right now during COVID?
I have recently moved to North Nashville. I have been spending a lot of time at Beaman Park hiking through the seasons during Covid, watching the leaves change and now the flowers bloom. It’s a beautiful park I do not think a lot of people know about. They have these rocking chairs on the deck of the nature center where you can just sit and rock and relax among the trees. It’s peaceful and healing.
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