Can being outdoors engaging in inquiry and exploration develop a deeper sense of belonging, sense of self and self confidence in decision making?
Can forest school foster both physical and mental well being?
Can we promote a daily mindfulness practice in young students with natural environments?
I have spent the past academic year researching and participating in Forest School with a group of grade one students. Throughout this experience I can say I learned a lot managing challenging behaviors by promoting my students' freedom and autonomy. Children collaborate more effectively, develop courage and thrive, even in -40 degree winter weather when they are allowed to explore, play and just be kids.
Forest school has been on the rise as a ''learning through play phenomenon'' for individuals of all ages. It helps foster a familiarity with woodlands while learning skills such as taking initiative, self-regulation, investigation and responsibility. Forest school can be done with or without materials, as you can explore nature itself and learn a variety of things about ecosystems, classification and shapes, or how to build structures using various materials such as bungee cords, tarps and buckets.
The ultimate goal of Forest School is to provide an opportunity to explore at your own pace. Asking open ended questions help to spark discussion and facilitate learning. Have no fear… you do not need to be a teacher to practice forest school, all you need is a few prompting questions and an open mind.
Allowing children to extend they learning beyond the classroom into their natural community helps develop mindfulness in nature, appreciating the moment, while developing social awareness and a sense of responsibility toward nature. These valuable life lessons, helps them become conscious and respectful guardians of our planet. Learning in this way helps children build confidence in decision making. and in themselves. Over the next week, try taking a stroll in your local park or go for a hike in the Gatineau park and see what you observe. Ask your kids what they can tell you about what they see and watch the discussions flourish. You'll be surprised how much can be connected to mathematics, science and social studies if you engage in the present moment, allowing yourself to be mindful in nature.
If this is something that interests you here is a list of open-ended questions and links to curriculum for your own creative forest school experience! Feel free to do this in a group and we would love your feedback on your post forest school learning.
Examples of Open ended (inquiry-based) questions:
How does a plant come to life?
How does the environment affect growth of living things?
How do we grow?
How does our environment affect us?
How do living and non-living things affect us and our environment?
Who do we share our environment with?
How do you make sure you are respecting the animals home?What types of shapes do you see and what are the dimensions? (i.e 2D/3D) and how do you know?
What is the favorite thing you see/feel/smell? (mindfulness practices)
Forest School touches on the curriculum expectations and strands such as:
Science and Technology (Understanding Structures, Understanding Matter and Energy, Understanding Earth and Space Systems)
Mathematics (Measurement, Geometry and Spatial Senses)
Social Studies (People and Environments, Our Changing Roles and Responsibilities)