Part 1 of a series of posts that share how one ECE and her colleagues bring some of the children in their care to Assiniboine Forest once a week for 6 weeks to offer them an experience with Forest School principles in play.
As a recent graduate of the Early Child Education program my sense of enthusiasm for my work is at an all-time high. In college we were given some class content in the ethos of Forest School. “Forest School programs adhere to: regular and repeated access to a natural space, as well as child-directed, emergent and inquiry-based learning.” I was then blessed to be able to complete some of my practicum with my instructor Mavis who was working on her Forest School Practitioner portfolio, which was a real motivation to attain my practitioner certificate soon!
I am completely inspired by the outdoor play movement, forest schooling and the anti-helicopter parent movement. The way curriculum is planned by the spontaneity of the children and the open-ended questioning of the educator is respectful, fun and effective in learning.
As a parent, and as an ECE, I do my very best to capitalize on any outdoor opportunity I can give to children. I want out of the play yard, I want into the fields and into the trees. I want to be in nature and the children do too!
Our centre happens to be populated largely by boys who are high energy. Their need for physically involved active learning is apparent in all of their indoor movements and relationships with each other.
As a personal hobby and a critical part of my education, I’ve read a multitude of theories, research articles and personal testimonies on the benefits of free play in the outdoors. As a philosophically nature-based person, this aspect of my profession is one that I want to test and research personally.
As a new employee, I asked my director if I could have one day a week so I can go to the forest with a group of kids. My director and my coworkers were supportive of me taking on this project and so they offered me half of our regular Wednesday field trips so I could bring the same group of kids to Assiniboine Forest with our co-op bus.
Right away I started typing up a letter to the parents explaining my intentions for this 6 week recurring field trip and what some of the benefits the kids could receive from returning to the forest. There were some questions asked about the point of it all, why are we going to the forest, what are they going to learn , and concerns that they’re going to get hurt or lost. My director and I, along with other staff members, helped reassure those few that were concerned. We assured them that not only would it be completely safe, it would be an amazing learning experience!
When I shared my exciting news with the Manitoba Nature Summit media committee, to which I belong, there was a suggestion that I blog about it! So here I am!
The first day I only took a few photos and wrote down a few things. I then started jotting down some remembered anecdotals.
The second time we went, I took a ton of photos and wrote down as many quotes as I could. Their excitement, focus and attention span was so strong!
We haven’t spent much time there yet but it’s already obvious that the teachings I received on these outdoor play benefits are super accurate. These boys who are typically busy, loud and full of energy had an outlet to be leaders, collaborative team members, making group decisions and construct together. They were careful and respectful of nature and showed such innocent curiosity as we attempted to locate ‘Fairy homes.’
The ease of this kind of field trip and the accessibility to nature Winnipeg has to offer, give me hope that kind of unstructured experiences might happen for more children.
Stay tuned for photos and quotes and events from our forest field trips!