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The Forest School Revolution

Posted on April 30, 2019

How early childhood education is on the front lines of climate change.


Children running carefree through the forest. Having conversations on tree stumps. Balancing atop fallen logs. The imagery around Forest School – a worldwide movement focused on bringing pre-school-aged children back outside – paints a picture of a magical childhood in the woods.  

In fact, magical is exactly how outside observers often describe what they see at Forest School in session.

Most often, Forest School is a pre-school alternative favored by parents that are passionate about spending time outdoors, and about protecting the environment. They want to nurture that love in their own children from a young age, and lay the foundation for a life of environmental stewardship.  

But the end of the day – is Forest School really making a difference? If so, how?

Forest School 101

Originating in Scandinavia, Forest School is an educational approach that has been around for more than 50 years. Today, there are thousands of schools around the world, and the Forest School approach is taking root across Canada.  

Forest School is centered on giving children regular and repeated access to the same natural space while expanding their knowledge through experiential, inquiry-based, and play-based learning.

 

Forest School in our Community

In our community, we’ve witnessed a strong, and growing, interest in the Forest School approach. The FortWhyte Forest School launched its first session in the fall of 2016, and we’ve seen many families grow and flourish with the program since then.

The Benefits

Studies suggest that the Forest School approach to learning yields innumerable benefits to children and their families.  Time spent in nature – particularly, regular and repeated access to the same natural space – has incredible benefits on preschool-aged children, including:

  • Improved physical and mental health
  • Increased confidence, cognitive development and self-esteem
  • Strengthened social skills, critical thinking, resilience and self-reliance

Great! But that’s not all. Research also shows that children that participate in Forest School programs come away with an increased knowledge of the natural world around them, meaning the Forest School approach is also of service to the planet.  


The Real Impact of the Forest School Model

The place-based connection developed at Forest School is foundational to children’s relationship with the land.

And you know that, more than ever, we need to be equipped for the environmental changes and challenges that are affecting us today.

But first, we need to heal our disconnect with nature. That’s why regular and repeated access to the same natural space has such a powerful impact.

We believe that education – in this case, early childhood education – is on the front lines of making meaningful progress on climate change. And we believe that we’re doing our part by encouraging those early connections to the land.

 

Why Focus on Children and Youth?

Often, as adults, we can’t see the connections between environmental issues and daily actions. But kids do. Children are instinctively great at making these connections.  

We believe that we need to focus on educating young people, not simply because they’ll age into being the climate leaders of tomorrow, but because we all know that kids are our greatest teachers today.  


Interested in learning more about Forest School? Join us for our Forest School Open House, happening Saturday, May 11. This family-friendly event is free, but registration is required. Contact Renee at forestschool@fortwhyte.org to reserve your spot.