Place-Based Learning is one of the key learning approaches the educators use when implementing a Forest and Nature School (FNS) program. This means that once we decide on a location for FNS we repeatedly visit this area with the children. “The ability to know a place intimately and to return to a natural space again and again, provides children with familiarity while honing their ability to recognize and understand processes of change” (Andrachuk et al., 2014, p. 31). One way to help children build connections to the land and a sense of stewardship for our FNS place is teaching them about sit spots and the importance of a time that brings them quietness and self-reflection. When participating in sit spots the children are encouraged to find a quiet, cozy spot near a tree where they can sit quietly and root themselves to the ground. We begin by listening to all the sounds around us during this period of time and hopefully in turn the children learn to be calm and listen to their bodies and mind as they are still.
For toddler-aged children sitting for long periods of time quietly can be challenging for some. However, the more the educators integrate this important practice into our FNS program the easier it gets for the children to sit quietly and calmly while listening to the world around them. Furthermore, they also seek out other opportunities to find a quiet spot to sit and be calm. For example, on one occasion two children approached the fire and sat down quietly talking and pointing to the fire. On another day M, L, and M all enjoyed lying and being rocked in the hammock and there seemed to be little conversation; just a quiet restful time. When children develop an emotional connection to the land they are more likely to not only care for it but use the natural world as a means to find calmness and to self-regulate.
How Does Learning Happen? (2014), discusses the need for children to develop a sense of self, health and well-being. Some of the ways this is done is by allowing children the time to engage in play in natural outdoor environments. When children are given the opportunity to engage in active play they “gain increasing levels of independence, learn to persevere and practise self-control, and develop a sense of physical, emotional, and intellectual mastery and competence” (HDLH, 2014, p.29-30). Educators can also support a child’s well-being and mental health by teaching them coping skills, self-regulation skills, as well as the ability to focus their attention and solve problems. These are all skills that are supported during the children’s time in FNS by the educators, especially during our quiet reflective times the educators share with the children.