I have always been an advocate for alternative education and am currently working towards the dream of opening a Forest School in Cambridge Ontario. Kids and parents need the support and safe space that a forest school can provide, to let go and truly immerse themselves in a natural environment. Day after day where learning can deepen as connections are made and strengthened, as the wild becomes familiar and lastly as it feels like home.
Internationally recognized leader in the Forest Kindergarten movement, Erin Kenny, says it best:
“Children can not bounce off the walls if we take away the walls” – E.K.
I know I have a long road ahead of me, but with the support of parents and local educators who believe in the immeasurable value that time in nature affords, I know this dream of mine will become a reality.
For those that might not be familiar with Forest Schools or Nature Schools and how they differ from other outdoor educational programs here’s a list of principles:
Forest and Nature School Principles:
- Forest School is not just in the forest! It can take place in a variety of natural spaces from meadows, prairie grasses, mountains, near bodies of water/beaches etc.
- Children have regular and repeated access to the same natural spaces over a long period of time.
- Opportunities to experience risk are seen as an integral part of children’s learning and healthy development. Children and youth are supported by a qualified and knowledgeable educator in identifying, managing and navigating risk.
- Educators view children and youth as innately competent, curious and capable learners.
- Honours Aboriginal and Indigenous culture and history, as well as traditional ways of learning and living off the land.
- Supports children to develop an ethic of care towards nature and an understanding of themselves as a part of the natural world.
- Is grounded in and supports building engaged, healthy, vibrant and diverse communities.
- Aims to promote the holistic development of children and youth.
- Allows for educators to navigate and balance their role as facilitator, guide, supporter and co-learner rather than an expert.
- Relies on loose, natural materials to support an open-ended, creative process.
- Recognizes that the process is as valued as the outcome.
- Led by a qualified Forest and Nature School Practioner who is rooted in and committed to FNS pedagogical theory and practical skills.
- Calls for educators to utilize place-based, play-based, emergent, inquiry-based and experiential learning approaches towards connecting children to nature.
The above is from Forest School Canada.