Tales from the Forest

Each week, Chelsea Forest School draws students from places like Ottawa, Gatineau, Aylmer, Hull and further afield. Each program and class are different because students lead the learning – supported by qualified teachers.

Last week saw students from three to ten years old learn math, physics, language and social skills in outdoor “forest” settings. Below are three tales from the forest:

Experiential learning

Exploring the warmth of snow shelters.

1. One day in our three year-old junior class we explored weather by walking through the forest and meadow experiencing the effect of the wind. Students chose to build a pit and fort in the woods and discovered that it was much warmer within the shelter. Discussions steered towards “where animals live in then winter…” which led a discussion about shelters animals prepare for themselves. One girl discovered the comfort and warmth of a snow blanket…

Self reliance

Ditch Sliding – “Risky” Play

2. In one of our older programs’ students decided they wanted to go “ditch sliding” which involves investigating and choosing an appropriate sliding line down a steep embankment. It’s steep enough that a rope is helpful to climb up. Students are a big part of the process of finding the appropriate place to slide. They help identify the risks and rewards… “What could go wrong? Is it safe? How do we tell? Is it a fun route?
Not only are they learning to evaluate risky play, they are developing communication skills as they collectively choose their learning and play boundaries. While building stamina and coordination they are also replacing “I can’t…” with “I can’t… yet” which leads to problem solving skills to overcome their challenges.

3. At Forest School, students direct their learning. On Friday afternoon, ideas were proposed and students chose an adventure that involved exploring with/without snowshoes, digging a shelter out of a snow mountain and building a Kelly Kettle fire to make hot chocolate. One student chose snowshoes for the adventure. Much discussion ensued about how the one boy floated and others sunk in the deep snow: “… but the snowshoes make me heavier so shouldn’t I sink more?”

By the end of the day of engaged learning the students were tired but full of experiences and learning… a perfect Forest School Day.


Learner Led Learning

Child Led Learning



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