Little hands, big spaces
Supporting educators in the development of quality practice in play-based learning in nature
Forest School Canada
Forest School Canada, our flagship educational program, provides early childhood educators as well as primary educators with professional learning opportunities that are evidence-based, practical, and inspiring. We strive to support communities of practice through the delivery of our ‘Forest and Nature School Practitioner’s Course’ and other workshops. This means we invest in deep-rooted change in education to support a pedagogy that incorporates play and child-directed learning in nature.
What are Forest & Nature Schools?
Although they may have different names (Nature Kindergarten, Outdoor School, Waldkindergarten, Rain or Shine School, Bush School, etc.) the primary goal of the Forest School movement is to provide children with regular and repeated access to a natural space for child-directed, emergent and inquiry-based learning.
As an educational approach, Forest School (FS) has existed worldwide since the late 1950s. In FS, children spend anywhere from a half day to a full day outdoors in various urban and near-urban parks, natural spaces adjacent to or on school grounds, or natural playgrounds and outdoor classrooms.
FS is both a pedagogical approach and a program of delivery. It can be part-time or full-time. It can take place in a range of outdoor settings, with various age groups, and at all times throughout the year.
FS activities are as varied as the children who attend them and the environments in which they are rooted. They are also guided by the season, climate, landscape, animals that have visited the night before, trees that have blown down in the wind, the kinds of provocations elicited by the educator, various tools and loose parts for building and creating, the children who are in attendance, how long the group has been formed, and most importantly, what interests the child.
Sometimes children will work independently, finding solace in their own world and creations and ponderings. Other times children will work collaboratively to create something, problem solve, support one another, dream of a bigger and better world.
Find a Forest & Nature School
Explore the growing network of Forest & Nature Schools across Canada.
If you would like to be added to our list of Forest Schools, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For Forest & Nature School Practitioners
Forest School Canada provides early childhood and primary educators with professional learning opportunities that are evidence-based, practical and inspiring. The goals of our professional learning workshops and courses are to:
- Engage and support educators who are already working in, or interested in working in, forest and nature-based programs
- Collaboratively establish standards of best practice for this emerging field, reflected in workshop and course delivery
- Build strong, coherent, and reputable forest school communities of practice, both regionally and nationally
- Co-develop a national curriculum framework that will assist educators in practicing quality, safe, effective, and inclusive nature-based education that is rooted in strong pedagogical principles being translated into practice
- Deliver quality professional learning that prioritizes what is in the best interest of the child, educators, as well the Forest Nature School movement at large in order to connect children to nature.
Time commitment: 8-12 months (including a 5-day OR 3-weekend “modular” in-person portion)
Next course dates: TBD
Registration: When registration is open, the link will be posted here.
This course is an intensive, self-directed professional learning opportunity for teachers and early childhood educators who want to start Forest and Nature School programs. The course takes most educators 8-12 months to complete, and educators must commit to completing all course content in order to become a certified Forest and Nature School Practitioner.
This course will give educators the theoretical and practical tools they need to safely and effectively establish and run Forest and Nature School programs. Themes to be covered include the theoretical underpinnings of FNS, practical skills, and establishment and delivery. There is a strong emphasis in this course on self-directed, experiential, and inquiry-based outdoor learning.
The course includes an intensive, in-person portion (either 5 consecutive days or 3 weekends) where all educators come together to facilitate the formation of a community of practice. The in-person part of the course is physically and mentally engaging, and is meant to be a transformative and immersive nature-based experience. Following the in-person part of the course, educators return home to launch into course work, which includes self-directed reading, completing assignments, and delivering six practice Forest and Nature School sessions to a student group. During this time, educators will be assessed to ensure they are meeting all course assessment criteria and following best practices in the Forest and Nature School field.
All course work after (or in between, in the “modular” format) the in-person portion of the course is done on an online educational platform, so a proficiency in using the internet and basic computer skills are needed. To complete the course, educators should plan to commit 3-5 hours per week to read, write, engage online with other educators, and to complete course work.
Applicants for the Practitioners Course must:
- Be 21 years of age or older
- Be a qualified teacher, early childhood educator, or have equivalent background/experience. (Equivalency will be determined by Forest School Canada (FSC) on a case-by-case basis. Please email email@example.com if you would like to discuss whether you would be a good candidate for this course.)
- Have a current vulnerable sector police check to provide prior to the course start date
- Have access to a group of children with whom they can run a six-week Forest and Nature School program. (Participants in the Practitioners Course must lead a 6-week FNS program in order to complete the course. Ideally, the group of children would be at the practitioner’s place of work, and they would deliver the FNS program to the children with approval from their administration. However, if that is not possible, an alternative group of children on an alternative site is acceptable, provided that all healthy and safety considerations, including consent, have been accounted for. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or concerns about this.)
- Be willing and able to video record themselves (or have someone else video record) delivering the FNS sessions referred to above. (These videos will then be edited into short clips and submitted for assessment.)
- Commit to completing the course in its entirety within the set timeframe of one year (i.e., if the course begins in May 2017, all coursework must be submitted by the end of May, 2018).
- Be comfortable using and sharing documents via Google Drive and our online educational platform (Moodle)
- Be committed and able to work both independently and in groups for learning purposes for the duration of the course. This is very much a self-directed course, supported by facilitators, assessors and your newly established community of practice.
- Have read the Forest and Nature School Guide.
Upon registering for the course, practitioners agree that:
- They have the necessary prerequisites for the course (or prior approval from FSC).
- Barring unexpected circumstances, they will attend and complete all course elements and requirements within the one-year timeframe (i.e., if the course begins in May 2017, all coursework must be submitted by the end of May, 2018).
- They understand that assessment of their coursework will take place during the one-year period of the course. If the student is unable to run their Forest School Program within the one-year period, arrangements will need to be made with course facilitators ahead of time.
- If they do not complete the course they will not be entitled to reimbursement of any costs.
- They will ensure that the necessary insurance coverage, vulnerable sector police check, and First Aid training are in place before running a Forest and Nature School program. Please note: First Aid training is not included in the Practitioners Course, and must be acquired in order to complete the Practitioners Course and receive certification.
- They know of no medical reasons why they should not participate in any of the activities listed below:
- Use of tools, shelter building and physically demanding team building activities (walking on uneven ground)
- Outdoor, active play in nature with young children
- Fire lighting and camp fire cooking
Forest School Canada (FSC) has the right to cancel the training course due to insufficient registration. Cancellation will be no later than four weeks prior to the start of the course. In this case, the deposit will be refunded or put towards another course, at the discretion of the registrant.
Cancellation and Refund Policy
Before you register for this course, please weigh very carefully whether you are truly able to make the time commitment it requires.
In the event that you need to withdraw from the course due to unforeseen circumstances, Forest School Canada/The Child and Nature Alliance of Canada will assess your request up to two weeks before the start date of your course. We will assess requests on a case-by-case basis, and, if possible, we will issue you a refund for all payment received, less a $125 administrative fee.
In addition to our Practitioners Course, Forest School Canada also offers a range of immersive workshops throughout the year.
Introduction to Forest and Nature School
Cost: $250 + HST
Upcoming Dates: [insert upcoming dates]
This is a two-day workshop for anyone interested in learning more about the foundational pedagogical theory and practice of Forest and Nature School (FNS). This workshop is especially recommended for those who want to learn more about FNS prior to committing to our year-long Practitioners Course. Participants will learn about play-based learning, how to support risky play, specifically, emergent curriculum, and inquiry-based learning, as well as planning and delivery of FNS programs. Participants will leave the workshop with a broad understanding of FNS theory and practice, and, if they are educators, a sense of how they could interweave FNS into their current teaching practice.
Risky Play Workshop
Cost: $250 + HST
Upcoming Dates: [insert upcoming dates]
This is a two-day workshop around the importance of risky play in childhood development, learning, and health. Participants will examine play types in both educational and recreational settings, and will explore how to support children engaging in risky play while still fulfilling the duty of care as an educator and/or care provider. Participants will also learn how to develop and conduct risk/benefit assessments, including the dynamic risk assessment wherein children are included in the assessment and management of risk, and will examine how all of these risk assessments can be done within their own specific educational or recreational settings.
Resources for Forest School Educators
An intro to the list of links with 1-2 descriptions each.