A DAY IN THE LIFE
(an example, as every day will look very different!)
Parents drop their children off with weather appropriate gear and backpacks holding snacks and water. Once everyone has arrived, we walk as a group to our first spot along the trail. We sit in circle and check in with the children to see how they are feeling that day. We then read a seasonal story with a corresponding lesson to inspire the children's play that day and stretch their imaginations. A few examples of seasonal topics we like to cover are: leaf anatomy, how snow is formed, and decomposition in nature. Then, it's off to explore and play in the woods!
While we explore our trail, teachers act as guides by following the children's interests. For example, if False Solomon's Seal is just popping up out of the ground and the children are fascinated, the teachers might ask them questions such as, "Why are these little plants sprouting now?" or "What would you name this plant?" or "What could we do with this plant?" This inquiry-based method opens the door to the inquisitive mind and allows them to explore ideas and concepts instead of simply given the facts.
We might measure the plants and notice their growth in the coming weeks. We may learn the names of each part of the plant. We might even make a song about our new plant friend... the possibilities are endless! And then it's on to the next adventure! A class might spend a whole afternoon examining one thing, or move quickly through many - it all depends on the children's engagement and curiosity.
Halfway through the class, we join together for a healthy snack and mindfulness time. We take a moment to check in with our bodies and breathe in the forest air deeply. We sing a nature blessing song for our food. We notice our surroundings and share stories. The children love taking turns sharing during this time.
At the end of the class, our students are sent home to their families with stories of teamwork, fresh earth on their skin, and a fulfilled heart, mind, and spirit.
WHAT IS FOREST SCHOOL?
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!