Kindergarten in a forest! A lesson for all
"Look deep into nature and you will understand everything better.” - Albert Einstein
No tests, no grades, no “classroom,” that's right at Forest schools, kindergarten takes places in the great outdoors.
This sounds amazing. Fields trips are often the most remembered and best part of education. Getting outside the classroom can be incredibly important for kids to develop all types of skills.
Yet, children at younger and younger ages are clamoring for iPhones, iPads, and video games – gluing their eyes to screens, and ignoring the real -and beautiful- world all around them. And it’s not just kids who are guilty of this – some studies report the average American spends 11 hours of their day looking at a screen.
So what happens when kids are never actually inside a traditional classroom with no screens to begin with?
The idea and philosophy behind Forest schools is for education to be “a child led process” so the teachers let the children in the school develop their own interests and then report back on what they want to learn.
The idea of Forest schools started back in Denmark in the 1950s, and now schools in the US (mostly in the state of Ohio) and the UK have begun to adopt the outdoor education philosophy.
“The richness that’s available outside is so much greater than that which is available indoors. [The kids] can make big noises and big gestures, which they need to do in order to develop physically...in order to develop their social skills, their communication skills,” says Sara Knight, Deputy Chairman of the Forest School Association UK in the video above.
Advocates of Forest schools say that any type of outdoor environment works for teaching the Forest school philosophy. You don’t need to be near a lush nature reserve to be a Forest school, any outdoor area will do.
But you do need to go through some training to call yourself a Forest school. 3 levels at a minimum, according to the Forest school myth busting section of their website.
While it can be a challenge to train, and educate children in a safe outdoor environment for many communities, there are both short-term and long-term benefits. A greater awareness and early connection to the outdoors and allowing children creative freedom in school could be beneficial to understanding the importance of alternative types of education.
More forest schools could help combat childhood obesity, increasing rates of ADHD, and foster a youth generation with a deep connection to nature and care for climate change.
Kids and adults learn through experiences of touching, seeing, and making mistakes. Nature has the power to teach us all so much.
“Look deep into nature and you will understand everything better.” - Albert Einstein
Even if a school can’t be a Forest school, it’s worth the effort to incorporate nature into early education and make a little more outdoor time possible for all students.
Learn more about what a Forest school is here.