Forest Kindergartens are based on the German model of Walderkindergartens, which are distinguished by their commitment to total nature immersion, interest-led flow learning, emergent curriculum, place-based focus, inquiry based teaching style, and authentic play. Nature immersion is defined as "unstructured free time in nature resulting in an intimate, deep and personal connection to the natural world"
What and how you can expect your child to learn:
- unstructured, authentic play
- kids have time to explore, imagine, and be without an agenda imposed from adults
- there are no toys, only what the forest provides and some tools to explore it (shovels, buckets, magnifying glasses . . .)
- imagination reigns!
- focused on cooperation not competition
- we take care of each other and look out for each other. The group moves at the pace of our slowest member. This ethic is central to what we teach and how we act in the forest.
- kids are encouraged to work together to solve problems
- they are taught language to help them communicate their needs with peers
- competition with yourself is encouraged, not between kids.
- empathy and compassion are cultivated
- we don't harm life in the forest, kids are taught to value and respect living things.
- kids are asked to notice others around them and take responsibility for everyone's well being.
- when conflicts arise between children caregivers guide children to notice each other's feelings and help each other feel better.
- place-based education: learning about our climate, eco-system, ethnobotany
- experiencing first-hand local weather and seasons
- local plant identification, foraging, and native uses are incorporated into our curriculum
- local bird, insect, and mammal identification
- emergent curriculum
- the curriculum is not predetermined but evolves as the kids show interest and readiness
- because we are outdoors there is a natural rhythm to our learning that cycles with and follows the seasons
- inquiry-based teaching style
- many, many questions will be asked of your child: what do you think that is? what is different since the last time you were here? what is this doing? why do you think it does that? what could that be? why is it there? etc.
- wonder will be cultivated.
Forest Song Key Principals:
- Total Nature Immersion regardless of weather or season
- Interest-led Flow Learning
- Emergent Curriculum
- Place-Based Education
- Inquiry-Based Teaching Style
- Positive Reinforcement approach
- Respect for others, self, and the earth
- Emphasis on Individual Empowerment and Group Belonging
- Small class sizes
- Low teacher:student ratio
Want to explore and learn more about Forest Kindergartens? Here are some places to start:
Forest Song Nature School is modeled after Cedarsong Nature School in Vashon Island, WA. Here's a great article by the founder, Erin Kinney, about what flow learning looks like at their school.
A Toddler in the Trees is a blog about a diplomat's family whose daughter attended a Danish Forest School. This entry is a wonderful read about how they infuse democracy into their Forest Schools and into the very fabric of their community there.