Sit Spots and Other Quiet Areas for Self-Reflection


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.


The Adventure Hunt


On this particular day in Forest school N was curious about the leaves he was finding on the ground, he was wondering their name and which trees they had come from. I suggested to N we go over and look at our leaf chart, “perfect! We can match the leaves now!” N then suggested we go on a “hunt” for more leaves and pine cones and we bring the sheets with us and use it as a “map”. M and another child overheard and were also interested in coming on a hunt for pine cones and leaves as well. The children were very engaged in matching the pine cones and leaves they found to their “map”. It was lovely to see the sense of belonging the children had in the forest and with each other and nature. They were hunting for themselves and each other “M are you still collecting pine cones? Because I found one you can have for your bucket.” It was clear to see the children felt safe, confident and skilled through their exploration and conversations with each other. They were supporting each other through words, actions their and shared exploration. I had asked the children what they were going to do with all leaves and pines they had collected. M responded “Well we could put them in the classroom and see what the other kids think.” “Yeah, I’m thinking we could look at the leaves closer” N added, “I’m not sure yet maybe the kids will think of something” N replied.  The children expressed a sense of purpose as they participated and made contributions to KOLTS and specifically the JK/SK room. Children demonstrate a sense of belonging when they feel safe and included in their relationships with adults and the children around them. (HDLH, 26, 2014) Continue reading “The Adventure Hunt”

The (sometime) winter challenge

The winter months bring mixed reviews to our Forest and Nature school. The layers of clothes  required to prepare for the winter weather can be a challenge for both the children and educators.  However, the beauty of freshly fallen snow, the sun kissed snowflakes and the fresh winter air invite inquisitive minds to explore and engage in challenges that a traditional classroom cannot offer.


Place based learning invites children to make real connections with different areas of the forest.  Children are very familiar and experienced with the “hill” and typically climb up to the top with confidence. The snow did not discourage the children from attempting the uphill challenge that encouraged whole body movements. Some crawled, others walked while intentionally distributing their weight in order to prevent a fall.  These optimal conditions provided opportunities to strengthen muscle and core strength, increase flexibility and promote coordination. The physical benefits are obvious yet the underlying learning demonstrates enhanced determination and perseverance, the ability to challenge personal limitations, overcoming frustration and seeking out peer support to reach the ultimate goal of reaching the top of the hill!


Each successful climb to the top of the hill was celebrated by all with smiles and cheer.  However the greater good is the internal feeling of accomplishment and success that is displayed by each child which clearly demonstrates natures invitation to develop a strong self efficacy for future endeavours.

Thank you mother nature, we are truly grateful for your beauty and affordances that support our daily growth!

An Introduction to Tool Use in Forest and Nature School with the Toddler Group

IMG_5663Today was our first day out in the forest this month. The children were eager to walk down to our Forest and Nature School (FNS) spot. We gathered by the fire and opened our meeting with a song. Once we were done the children spread out and started exploring the forest. A few children headed over to our tarp where we set up an area for tool use. This was something new that our toddler group had not previously explored. Today there were two hand drills available with some tree cookies. M and L were the first to arrive. They watched as the hand drills were set up and wanted to immediately give them a try – without any help from the educators of course! In the end, it proved to be a bit difficult to turn the hand drills with puffy winter mitts on so Alyssa and I were able to step in and hold the drill so L and M could turn the handle more effectively. The children worked for a while to make holes in the tree cookies and spent a long time both focused and determined to turn the drill bit down into the wood. This learning opportunity is so significant to the children’s development because it highlights one of the key pillars of learning known as engagement in the document How Does Learning Happen? (2014). When children are given the opportunity to explore through play and become engaged in their play they “fuse intellect and feeling” which in turn “helps children make connections and develop the capacity for higher-order thinking” (HDLH, 2014, p. 35). As educators we know children are engaged in their learning when they are provided with opportunities to be “active, creative, engage in meaningful exploration, play and inquiry” (HDLH, 2014, p. 35).


When planning curriculum for Forest and Nature School there are some important elements the educators try and include to deepen the children’s experiences. Tool use, while an important piece of FNS, is something relatively new that we have finally been fortunate enough to start providing for the children. As discussed by Knight (2013), sharp tools require “tuition and trust” but as we establish safety practices and join in with the children to demonstrate skills and support their exploration there becomes “no reason not to use them” (p.103). Furthermore, “freedom to take risks that are managed, gives independence and a desire to explore further” (Knight, 2013, p.124). By viewing children as “competent, capable of complex thinking, curious, and rich in potential” we allow them the freedom to explore their skills and abilities (HDLH, 2013, p. 6). In turn, children develop confidence as they are given the important opportunity to experience success at an individualized level.

“[…] the one thing which truly makes children safe is their own competence, their own capability, their authentic skills in meeting the asymmetry, irregularity and unpredictability of life” (Griffiths, 2014, p.66).


The Provocation

The snow covered forest ground invited the investigation of “prints”  so we suggested to the children we go on an adventure walk to discover different areas of the forest and look for interesting prints. Continue reading

Attention Educators:

Intro to Forest and Nature Play Workshop

Forest-School-and-Nature-Play-Workshops-IG-1080x1080-copy-2[8]Start 2018 with a transformative interactive workshop that invites you to immerse yourself in nature & discover authentic, emergent, inquiry, play based learning with experienced Forest School Practioner Fran DeFilippis, Seneca Faculty Louise Jupp & the Idea Architects Thinkined.


Limited spots available for special Seneca Alumni rates!

Seneca Alumni Registration

Regular Registration

Need more details… contact Fran DeFilippis

I’m inspired – the research, the stories, shared opportunity to get outside and all the benefits is offered. The energy of today has been amazing. – past participant 





How Does Learning Happen at Forest and Nature School?


After visiting the forest on a regular schedule, the children in the toddler room appear to have become more comfortable exploring different areas of the forest. Today a child from the preschool room asked to go down to the muddy puddle, so I extended the invitation to three of the toddlers who were standing with us. The child in blue asked for a shovel before we headed down and I asked if anyone else needed anything before we went to see if the muddy puddle was still there. With everyone ready to go, we started to walk towards the area where the they usually found their mud. The preschool aged child spotted it as we got a bit closer announcing, “It’s still wet!”

When we arrived at the muddy puddle this child walked right in. The child in the red and white coat watched and said, “no”. The child in the green coat smiled and followed the preschool aged child into the puddle, while the child in blue crouched down to begin digging in the mud with his shovel. The preschool aged child, who really wanted to play with one of the toddlers, encouraged her to come in. “It’s muddy. It’s squishy.” Then the preschool aged child sat right down in the mud and moved her feet in the water. The child in the green coat laughed as she watched as the preschool aged child and then headed back through the mud and water.

“Children communicate through play, build relationships through play, articulate needs through play, and most importantly have fun through play. Learning that emerges through play is meaningful because of the authenticity of those playing – the play occurs on their terms, guided but not dictated by an educator” (Forest and Nature School in Canada, 2014, p. 26).

Continue reading “How Does Learning Happen at Forest and Nature School?”

Development or magic?

I often refer to the forest environment as “magical” almost removed from the ordinary everyday expectations found in the traditional classroom setting. Interactions are intentional and relationships are developed based on an interest or goal that requires a multi-layered process to complete. Recently one child was trying to get up on a rather tall stump. She looked to me for help. My response was to invite her to find away she could become taller without me. She scanned the forest floor and found an enormous log, I wondered if she could move it. Within a few seconds she  gathered two other children to help her roll the log to the stump she was climbing. They pushed and pulled to change direction engaging in some heavy work that is great for muscle development and core strength. Continue reading “Development or magic?”

Belonging: Sharing Knowledge and Skills with Peers

Children on HillDuring our last visit to the forest the toddler and kindergarten groups joined together for the morning. For some of the toddlers this was their first time in the forest and for others it was a familiar occurrence. Maija, who has been attending KOLTS Forest and Nature School (FNS) for two years, has become quite familiar with our FNS space and has grown confident in her abilities and understanding of the land. She was quick to support the younger children as she provided them with strategies to climb and descend the hill not only safely and successfully but also independently.
During the time at the hill it was clear that both M and A wanted to find a way to get up the hill and down the hill and Maija was quick to point out that the right side of the hill is easy to climb up because there are “stairs”, as she pointed to the roots coming out of the ground. Then when it was time to come down the hill Maija pointed out that the other side of the hill was good to go down on their bottoms because it was “smooth” and there were not any “bumps”. She taught M how to slide down on her bottom instead of trying to walk down the hill. Soon A noticed their strategies and adopted them as well. As documented in the photograph above Maija verbally coached the children how to get down the hill on their own.
One of the values of having children engage in place-based learning is that with regular and repeated visits to our FNS site that the children come to learn about the land and build a vast knowledge about their bodies and what they can do. In addition to building a relationship with the land the children also form strong relationship with their peers. As discussed in the document How Does Learning Happen? (2014), “as children engage in various forms of social play and are supported to recognize the varied capabilities and characteristics of other children, they learn to get along with others; to negotiate, collaborate, and communicate; and to care for others” (p. 24).

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