When I was growing up many years ago, we couldn’t wait to get out of school and play outside until dinner or dark. Floating sticks down streams; splashing in puddles; playing tag; picking wild flowers and making daisy chain necklaces or hair pieces; sliding down snowy hills and climbing back up to do it again or seeing who could make the best snow angel. Making our own forts out of whatever we could find, branches worked well. Making mud pies and so much more. Being outdoors sparked our imaginations and gave us a release for our pent-up energy. Who knew that we were also learning at the same time!
Today, we now have actual Forest Schools available either as full time or part time educational outdoor education facilities. This educational approach began in Europe in the late 1950’s and has more recently spread to North America. Forest Schools take the learning outside where children can do many of the same activities they would do inside but do them outdoors! Children are encouraged through their interaction with nature, to learn and develop socially; be physically active; develop self-confidence; to learn respect for their neighbourhoods and environments; and to enjoy nature in safe and age-appropriate ways.
What could be more exciting for a child than learning in natural surroundings instead of in a classroom looking out the windows on a sunny warm day in the spring or even on a cold blustery winter day. Being outside in a natural environment has been shown to relieve stress by reducing the stress hormone, cortisol, in the brain. Children are increasingly surrounded by stressful situations and environments such as media, busy urban environments, academic testing, screen time, etc – being able to learn outside gives them the time needed to relax, be stress free and enjoy being themselves. Learning outside also helps children to build personal connections with nature which will allow them to understand and value the world around them.
Research shows that participation in Forest Schools can lead to improvement in:
- Gross and fine motor skills
- Physical fitness and stamina, becoming more coordinated and agile
- Increase their mental stamina, concentration, confidence and self esteem
- Thinking creatively and critically
- Ability to Work with Others
- Language Development, literacy and math skills
- Understanding and respect for natural environment
All while they interact with each other and within nature in a focused, fun and imaginative outdoor environment!
WANT TO KNOW MORE?
There is so much more that children learn while in an outdoor education environment whether in a full time or part time curriculum, to read more check out these websites from some of Canada’s Forest Schools: