I've been fascinated with the concept of an "Outdoor Classroom" as I find I learn many lessons from nature.
"There is a teaching in every part of creation. It is our task to find it, learn it, and apply it." - late elder Ken Goodwill (First Nations University of Canada, n.d.)
I love to gather the stories of our land and to find them I go to the people of our land - the First Nations People.
Aboriginal people have been offering sophisticated, land-based education to their children on this land for millennia.
Nature and Forest Schools are being started here in Canada
The definition of such schools is:
The children spend their time in the outdoors in local woodlands and green spaces, in various urban and near-urban parks, natural spaces adjacent to or on school grounds, or natural playgrounds and outdoor classrooms where they have the opportunity to learn in a natural environment on a regular basis. Here they have "regular and repeated access to the same natural space, as well as emergent, experiential, inquiry-based, play-based, and place-based learning" (MacEachren, 2013). The defining feature of this type of nature-based education program is that children are provided with opportunities to build an on-going relationship with the land, to a dedicated educator, to one another, and to themselves through this educational approach.
These Forest and Nature Schools are often described as a “magical” thing to witness, as it’s often a microcosm of collaboration, communication, trust building, and a working model of consensus building.
The learning outcomes of these schools are based on real-time explorations and experiences, rather than pre-determined concepts in books or on screens, done within the four walls of a classroom.
I'm fortunate that I live right in the forest and the school I work at is a block away (an easy walk) from the forest with private land owners willing to share their land with the school kids - our forest classroom! Here we can allow the children to connect with their environment. All areas of the curriculum can be covered -
• Recognizing patterns in the environment (leaves, spider webs…)
• Measuring natural materials using other natural materials
• Multiplication with the insects laying eggs to increase their numbers or the seeds of a plant that multiplies the number of new plants.
• Creating musical instruments with natural materials
• Setting up items that will move in the breeze
• Listening to the sounds in your environment
• Singing and dancing together
• Making land art with leaves, rocks, sticks
• Weaving with sticks
• Creating cordage
• Painting with natural materials
• Pounding flowers and leaves onto fabric
• Experimenting with natural dyes
• Creating “costumes” with natural materials
• Creating a story about your place
• Writing messages with natural materials.
• Local / First Nations stories about plants and animals
• Songs, rhymes and picture books about local plants and animals
• Circle stories with the group
• Using loose parts from the forest to tell an oral story
• Learning animal languages
• Sharing your personal stories about natural experiences
• Narration in play
• Creating homes for real and imaginary animals
• Learning about the life cycles of animals, plants and insects
• Finding animal homes (looking under logs)
• Engineering bridges, teeter totters, and equipment
• Understanding seasonal patterns
A wonderful resource is the PDF "Forest and Nature Schools in Canada" found at: https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/92aa03_28b9fc7cb07e49a689f8e5cefbb71679.pdf
Can you see how you could incorporate this into your learning experience or your child's learning experience?
I'd love to hear of your lessons from nature or if you have had any experience with Forest and Nature Schools in the comments section.