Learning in natural settings


Submitted by Faron Potts, supervisor at Imperial Ehrlo Early Learning Centre

On January 20th, Ehrlo Early Learning Centres had a professional development day. Denise Skuce of Forest School Saskatoon joined the staff to talk about her experiences and teach the staff about what Forest School offers.

Forest School is an educational approach that fosters a connection to, and knowledge of, the natural world through repeated, regular access to local woodland areas, parks, and outdoor classrooms through the lens of play-based and child-directed learning. Forest Schools can occur in any natural setting and can be identified by many terms (forest and farm program, Nature Kindergarten, etc.) The fundamental idea is to create opportunities for children to spend more time playing and learning in natural settings.

Forest Schools are based upon promoting regular, repeated access to a natural space, which could be a farm, a forest, a municipal park, a conservation site, a beach, or any other natural space that children have a long period of time to build a relationship with and be in. The outdoor environment becomes a teacher and the adults encourage and help to facilitate the child’s learning from nature.

Over the course of the day, staff saw many examples of exploration and the use of play and discovery and came away with a better understanding of the benefits received from spending time outdoors. They were very excited to put Denise’s suggestions into action.

Putting it into practice

Bear hunt

Imperial EELC going on a “bear hunt”

The preschoolers of EELC Imperial heading outside for a good old “Bear Hunt.” After reading the story “Going on a Bear Hunt”, we took our curiosities outside into the tree line by the school. The children had a wonderful time exploring their “forest” for bears!

We have been in and around this area many times but only to get to point A to point B when walking to a local care home. This time we decided we would really explore. We found tree stumps that we wanted to climb and branches that we loved collecting. The children really enjoyed spending time in a place that was always so close to us, we had just never really saw it as a place to learn from!

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