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Forest schools are early childhood programs that take place completely outdoors during all seasons - allowing learning and development to occur in a natural environment (usually woodland). They focus on an emergent curriculum where hands-on, experiential, and play-based learning is emphasized. This means that no two classes are exactly the same - the children lead with their interests and passions!

In forest school, children have the opportunity to learn and develop a relationship with the natural world while acquiring important skills for later academic success. ​These kids grow in confidence, self-esteem and intrinsic motivation all while having fun and engaging with the world around them. See more benefits..



The forest school early childhood movement originated in Germany in the 1960s with the Waldkindergarten. As the methods were seen to be successful and community interest grew, more of these schools began to pop up. By the 1990s they were seen as legitimate early childhood programs and became subsidized by the German government in order to be more affordable for families.

The movement has continued to grow worldwide, with most taking place in Europe, but the United States is not far behind. Erin Kenny, who is often cited as being a pioneer in bringing forest school to the US, started her Cedarsong program in 2007 and the momentum has only continued to grow!

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