We Are a Forest School
“…Nobody in the 1950s talked about acid rain or holes in the ozone layer or global warming. But I knew my woods and my fields; I knew every bend in the creek and dip in the beaten dirt paths. I wandered those woods even in my dreams. A kid today can likely tell you about the Amazon rain forest—but not about the last time he or she explored the woods in solitude, or lay in a field listening to the wind and watching the clouds move.”
Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods
Chelsea Forest School believes the appreciation of our natural world is something we want to our children to embrace and understand. There is no greater wonder than the world that is around us. Our forays into nature for the fall colour hike and the spring flower walk were always a big hit with the kids and the parents alike, so it seemed to be a natural extension for the school to incorporate this outdoor element to be the primary focus for our weekly curriculum. This is something that makes our school as unique as our community.
We are fortunate that our teaching director Michelle H. has a Biology degree, specializing in Ecology and background working as a nature interpreter. And so, the Forest school program at CCNS has really grown quite organically.
Our Forest School Program
In July 2013, Michelle took the first ever Forest School Practitioner’s course to be offered in Canada. She spent the week outside at the Ottawa Municipal campgrounds learning everything from how to do risk assessments, to understanding emotional intelligence and how that applies in a forest school setting. They learned practical skills such as knots, fire lighting, tool use and how to make it a safe but child led activity. Taking this course allowed her to tailor the Chelsea Forest School programming to suit the environment and area surrounding our school.
The Junior class forest school program starts off more gradually for the children. Time spent venturing further afield increases as the year progresses. During the fall, the class is focused on being introduced to the concept of school and learning the rules they must follow in order to be safe. This might take longer than the senior and mixed classes. The children spend the part of their days exploring the environment surrounding their school. As the year progresses and if the maturity allows, the class will travel further afield, following the curriculum of the Senior and Mixed Afternoon class, which is listed below.
In September, the children in the Senior morning and mixed afternoon class spend their time outdoors in the school yard. Although the focus in the fall is introducing the children to our school’s routines and rules they must follow, we explore and walk to the surrounding fields, old railway tracks and the forest as part of our famous CCNS “adventure walks”.
Winter brings new and exciting challenges as the children learn about our winter environment, including how to snowshoe allowing them to explore despite the deep snow. They will build winter shelters, do snow art and painting and if the teachers believe they are ready, they will start to talk about how to build a fire. In winter, snack and story will often be inside as the weather may be too cold for little hands to eat outside.
Finally, Spring brings with it greater maturity and greater endurance and stamina. Parents will be amazed at how much their kids can do when they are accustomed to being outside playing for long periods at a time. Once the weather warms, we will be back to snacks in the woods so the entire class time will be spend on adventure. Puddles are great fun – so expect to have a towel in your car to dry off paints before you head home!
For more information about class ages and times, please see the class descriptions on the Programs page.
What about the weather?
Our Forest school program is not weather dependent. Exploring our natural environment will occur regardless of the forecast, as long as the conditions are not dangerous. When it rains, the children are even more excited, as jumping in puddles is a requisite to the outdoor adventure! Snow permits them to build, slide, giggle and make snow angels, so the first snowfall of the year is always a hit with the kids.
It is important to note that at anytime the head teacher feels the weather is not cooperating, the program can easily be moved to the inside of the building, while maintaining the structure and flow the children are accustomed to. The safety of the children the number one concern for the teachers, and it is respected to the utmost degree.
For other information about the school, please check out our FAQ page.
How can parents help make the most of the forest school experience?
Dress your kids appropriately.