Kids learn in the woods at Forest School
The woods is where children learn and play at North Grenville Cooperative Preschool and Learning Centre through Forest School programs.
This summer, the school had to search for an alternate location to host the Forest School program because their usual spot at the Kemptville Public School started construction for a child-care addition to the school.
The Agroforestry Building near the Kemptville Campus trails was chosen for the forest school, which offers children aged 4-12 an opportunity for in child-led learning, environmental sustainability, including learning about ecological footprints, and engaging in risky play.
“Because we’re using the Agroforestry Building, we have access to the forest right out the backdoor,” said Mary Jane Kohler, executive director. “The access to the trails is something we haven’t had typically at our other programs at KPS.”
The Forest School Program, nicknamed “Bear School” by the children, has been running as a component of the licensed childcare curriculum for more than five years. All the programs for ages 2 to 12 have a forest school element, offering children a chance to learn about nature, in nature.
“It’s basically experience in the woods, learning how to appreciate nature, a bit of risky play. It’s child-led and they explore their own interests,” said Kohler.
The school has been training more staff as certified Forest School practitioners via the Nature Alliance of Canada to continue to offer programing that is forest- school-inspired and moving toward additional Forest School programs separate from its licensed childcare programs.
The Forest School allows the children to choose what they are learning and teacher will add to their learning by expanding lessons based on those interests.
“The idea is to get the children to use the outdoor classroom, so they can freely explore and play in nature,” said Kohler. Risky play is used for children to safely learn and explore their own limits through risk management, which might include climbing trees and rocks, running on uneven ground, building forts and exploring new terrain.
The school believes that when children engage in self-directed play in a natural environment, they build social skills, resilience and confidence. The program also encourages children to be respectful of the land and be aware of how their use affects it, said Kohler.
The Bear School takes place at the Leahurst Site, at the Kemptville Campus and Campus Forest, the Centre Edivatif Riviere Rideau Site at the Kemptville Campus and at the Campus Forest. Typically, the Kemptville Public School Site uses the Ferguson Forest across the road from the school.
The Forest School at the Agroforestry building runs throughout the summer until Friday, Sept. 3.
Jessica Munro, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times