PHILOSOPHY AND GUIDING PRINCIPLES
Forest school originated in Scandinavia in the 1960’s and its popularity has continued to increase all over the world ever since. Forest School is a place-based, child directed, outdoor educational philosophy. Children learn through direct, hands on experience, experimentation, and observation. The child leads their own learning journey. When they are interested in something, Forest school guides are prepared to help them learn as much as they possibly can about the subject. This is the optimal brain state for retaining information!
Academic subjects do come up, but they are not the primary focus. Younger children may want to measure, count, compare or categorize sticks, rocks, leaves, bones or bugs. They develop vocabulary by learning the names of species found in their forest school classroom. Older children may want to create maps of their surroundings, or write poetry about the things they observe. It is just as possible that a child will explore scientific concepts like displacement, physics, and geometry through play. There is no wrong way to learn in Forest school!
Social skills are valued and enhanced in our program. Children in forest schools learn to collaborate to accomplish hard things (like rolling a huge stump to a new location or making a seesaw out of natural materials, or building a dam to contain a flooded stream). Guides also, model and encourage politeness, peacemaking, problem solving and kindness in all their communications.
When children spend long stretches of time in the same place, they develop a relationship with it. This is true outdoors as well. A child who has the opportunity to play under, around and on the same trees in every season, develops an intimate connection with those trees. Children in forest schools develop resilience, as they manage and learn to deal with a variety of external forces. They learn rainy days are the best time to locate earthworms, splash in puddles, and make mud soup. They discover hot days are a great time to relax in the shade or walk barefoot in the cool creek. Cold days become a great time to sing around a warm fire, cook campfire pancakes, and play games of chase to warm up. The resilient child knows it isn’t what is outside them that dictates their circumstances, it is what is within. Children find endless joy just being together, discovering a new creature or plant, and realizing they can climb a little bit higher today than yesterday.
Children in forest schools also learn how to assess and manage risks. This is rare in our current culture as many risks are eliminated with technology or endless rules for behavior. Forest school guides offer thoughtful observations, such as, “the rocks look shiny this morning, that tells me they are slippery” or “I see that this log is starting to decay, that means it isn’t as sturdy as it used to be.” The guide will then allow the child to experiment and watch to see what the child does with that information. If the experiment goes awry, the child is comforted, first aid administered and another thoughtful conversation is initiated to help the child better manage future situations.
Phrases like, “Be careful” and “Watch out” mean very little to children, and do not facilitate growth or learning. Instead we observe and trust children to make a choice they feel comfortable with. Children, for the most part, are far more cautious than we give them credit for. This doesn’t mean there are no guidelines, but rather that children are encouraged to ask questions. Boundaries can and do expand as trust and skills develop. Forest school guides give children the space and time to investigate their choices and the consequences of those choices. This leads to greater self-awareness, confidence and knowledge.
Children enrolled in Forest school develop the soft skills needed to be successful in life: perseverance, ingenuity, curiosity, collaboration, risk assessment and resilience.
In the forest of beautiful Bloomsbury Farm. A few amenities on this campus: a cozy dry shelter, a year-round creek, seasonal water fall, lake, pond, fresh well water, organic produce for snack, ducks, chickens, goats, geese, horses, and a children’s garden to cultivate! The majority of our time will be spent in the forest, but as children show interest, we will explore the farm as well.