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 what is now the site of the Ottawa Forest and Nature School , 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 Tadpole program starts off  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.    The children spend the better part of their days exploring the environment closest to Forest School Home Base.   As their comfort level and stamina increases, the children will start choosing to explore further afield. .

Frogs, Salamanders and Dragonflies:
In September, the children in these classes spend their time exploring their immediate environment.  It doesn’t take long before they are ready to explore all of our different forest sites. Although the focus in the Fall is introducing the children to our school’s routines and safety rules , we do  lots of exploring and gradually become a team that knows each other well, and looks after one another.

Winter brings new and exciting challenges as the children learn about our winter environment. Sledding is a favourite activity but  they will also build winter shelters, do snow art, 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.

Our School Age programs are a great complement to either a regular school program or to a home school program. Spending the day outside in a child led environment. allows the children to develop independence, problem solving skills, and great communication skills. Maneuvering amongst the uneven ground of the forest,  climbing trees, scrambling over rocks and walking along logs, develops balance, stability, endurance, dexterity and works our big muscles.

After a full day of outside learning and physical activity, most children are now ready to return to their traditional classroom and focus, more engaged in their learning than ever.

All Programs:

Each class begins with meeting where the children develop listening skills, confidence, negotiation skills and the ability to compromise while we come up with a plan for the day.
As we play in the mud, water, snow and sand,  we develop language skills while describing how it feels. Story telling is another big part of our program as the children all contribute to a ‘made-up’ story or listen to a story read by a teacher.

Science is everywhere as we explore the life in our pond, the forest and meadow. Physics is learned as we explore creeks and dams on wet days, build shelters and learn about load capacity, and problem solve moving large rocks or snowballs!

The children learn how to assess risk and decide whether it is a safe activity or not, or if they can make it safe.

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 children appropriately. 

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