What will your child learn at Fresh Air Learning?
Forest school is about experiencing places and learning through observation, play, and exploration. There are very few products, except for a muddy child. There’s no assessment, except for your child’s gleeful discussion of the day. It’s sometimes hard to see what learning is taking place. From our experience and observations, here’s what your child will learn at forest school.
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"You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”
Wellbeing and Belonging
Open-ended play environments with no toys and lots of space are conducive to social play. Children are in a constant negotiation about the way things will happen in their game or imagined world. They learn how to support each other as they play and work together to explore and move from place to place.
Children learn to ask for support when they need it, and they learn to help each other. They learn that they will be supported just enough and that we trust them to be innovative and resilient and find their own solutions as well.
Children discover that they can be wet and muddy and enjoy themselves, and that they can fall down and get back up again. They learn that they can figure out problems and get through challenges.
Body awareness and monitoring
Children learn how to plan ahead and manage their behaviour and clothing so that they will feel comfortable for the entire session.
At forest school, children have the opportunity to move deeply into exploration and play without having to move onto the next activity.
Children learn how to connect with other trusted adults and ask them for support and resources. They learn that these adults will support their physical, emotional, and learning needs.
Exploration and Creativity
Children work together or by themselves to figure out how to do what they want to do. For example, they might want to build a shelter, and they want to make sure it doesn’t fall down. We give them space to figure this out, help them feel comfortable with failure, and bring resources when they need them.
Forests have no toys, but they have lots of sticks, cones, rocks, and water to play with. Children are wonderfully creative and will invent new games and extend existing ones over many weeks.
Children are welcome to interact with their environment and create their own toys. For example, one class enjoyed creating wood sculptures, while another crafted bows and arrows. This encourages children to develop their invention and engineering skills.
Nature is full of change and unplanned interaction. Children learn to expect the unexpected and use it as an opportunity for new exploration.
Children’s encounters outdoors can inspire awe and wonder. They stand in the middle of a fallen tree and see how powerful it was.
Language and Literacy
Children learn to communicate their thoughts and feelings about their landscape, their classmates, and themselves.
Children learn the joy of a muddy puddle, a slug, or a salmonberry. They enjoy being in the moment and connecting with their environment with their whole mind and body.
Children who are in natural places over an entire year get to know the patterns and cycles of that place. They develop an intimacy with it that they would not have if they explored it once. They know when it is muddy or what will happen to the river when it rains.
Children experience a wide range of sensory connections that they do not experience indoors. From the smell of the forest after rain to the feel of water falling on your head, your child’s senses are connected in a way that makes your child feel comfortable, since the children choose the ways that they connect with their environment.
Children are exposed to many different levels of physical challenge, and they can enjoy these challenges at their own level and at their own pace. They develop an understanding of their body’s capabilities that they might not develop otherwise.
Building projects such as shelter-building are excellent for children’s understanding of shapes and patterns in three dimensions. These are an exercise in practical math.
We enjoy sharing books and oral stories and invite children to participate as storytellers as well. Understanding the shape of a story and yourself as a storyteller are important literacy skills.
Children who are outdoors encounter a lot that is new. We encourage them to ask questions and consider what the answers could be. Children develop a spirit of inquiry and know that it’s more important to ask interesting questions than to find a single right answer. Encouraging questions helps develop a new generation of scientists, inventors, and problem-solvers.
Responsibility and Diversity
Children see themselves as active creators of learning opportunities, rules, and rituals.
Children learn to appreciate the differences between themselves and others and between themselves and other species.
Children learn to love and care for the places where they play. They want to show them to you, they enjoy tending them, and they’re sad if those places are hurt.
Consent and Boundaries
Children learn to play in ways that respect their friends’ unique physical and emotional boundaries and find words to ask about others’ boundaries and talk about their own. They learn how to feel safe and respected and how to respect others.