What is Forest School?  Forest school is an educational program for young children that takes place outside, in all weather.  It allows children to learn about their world through play and exploration.  Teachers support learning with stories, songs, and activities that help develop a child’s social, physical and emotional skills as well as their academic skills.  We offer a half-day Forest Kindergarten program for our Transitional Kindergarten and Kindergarten.  We meet at school at 8:30 and travel to our outdoor area by city bus, school van, or parent driver.   We’re in nature from nine to noon and then we return to school for lunch in our mixed age groups in order to connect our youngest students with our school community.  Our program ends at 1:00. Our Aftercare Program is available until 5:30.

 

What are the benefits of Forest School?  Children enrolled in Forest School gain self-confidence and self-reliance.  They are allowed to learn through direct experience.   Teachers support and extend their learning through close observation and by following the child’s interests.   An inquiry-based style of teaching is employed in which students are encouraged to develop their own questions and follow the scientific method to understand the world around them. Both small and large motor skills are improved.  Language skills are developed by working with their peers and solving problems together. 

What safety procedures do you have in place? Our teachers are certified in first aid and trained in Forest Kindergarten Practices.  Staff undergoes extensive risk assessment of each site visited and continuous risk management takes place as the students explore the site and materials. Students are taught the safe use of tools, fire safety and awareness of boundaries during nature exploration.  We always have a teacher, an aide, and often a parent volunteer with a group size of no more than fifteen students.  We are within cell phone range at all times. First aid supplies are always carried.  

 

What about the transition into first grade?   How will my child go from hanging out in the forest to being accepted to a four-year college?   We believe in both age-appropriate curriculum and rigorous academics. While we continue to incorporate outdoor and project-based learning throughout elementary school, we add academic classes in the mornings and move outdoor and hands-on learning to a two-hour block in the afternoons. Afternoon projects include Science Adventures, Community Classes, Edible Education, Theater, and Art.   Our high school students are on track for college.  Our high school classes are A-G approved (meet the requirements of the University of California), we are certified by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and we offer concurrent enrollment at College of the Redwoods for our juniors and seniors.

 

How are academics addressed?  We use the Common Core standards for kindergarten as a baseline to plan activities and to support learning as we see it developing through play.   Here are some examples:

  • For the Common Core Standard "With prompting and support, retell familiar stories, including key details", we might read the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff and reenact it using the bridge across the stream at Redwood Park.

  • For the Common Core Standard "Print many upper and lowercase letters", we might write in our journals, do sand writing, or make letters with objects found in the forest.  

  • For the Common Core Standard "Know number names and the count sequence", we might collect a certain number of objects, count the number of times we jump like a frog, or how many people are in our circle.

  • For the Common Core Standard "Describe and compare measurable attributes", we might ask kids which bucket holds more sand, or which rock is heavier, or which flower has more petals.

Teachers see what the children’s interests are and then bring in texts and activities that further those interests and lead to rich, play-based discussions.

 

Is Forest School right for your family?  Think about your comfort level with the following things:

  • Children in Forest School get dirty.  Your child will need an extra set of clothes in their backpack.

  • Children in Forest School learn primarily through play and interaction with the natural world.  Formal academics are not the focus, but Common Core standards will be taught through hands-on exploration.  Informal evaluation of progress will occur daily through teacher evaluation.   

  • Children in Forest School are out in all kinds of weather.  We provide good rain gear and we use it.

  • Teachers encourage self-reliance by supporting students as they learn from their mistakes and independently find solutions to problems.  

  • Children should be comfortable using the bathroom independently.

Forest Kindergarten

For more information on Forest Kindergarten:

Acorn Forest Schools https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okZpg3hEy30

Stroud School – Forest School https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHQKX3gl6bU

Eastwood Urban Forest School https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUVBw6_Mtcg

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