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).

Mud, Slugs, and Flashlights

Today in forest school the children were exploring a lot of different things; mud, bugs, structures made from branches as well as trying out new pathways through the shrubs. While the rest of the group ventured off ahead for a walk through the forest, one child I was walking with decided to turn around and head back towards our main Forest and Nature School (FNS) site. On our way back through the muddy path, which is one of this child’s favourite places to stop and squish her boots in, this child noticed a slug. Continue reading “Mud, Slugs, and Flashlights”

Martina Takes a Closer Look at the Forest

“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” (Forest and Nature School in Canada, 2014, p.30-31).

Child picking bark off of a fallen log

Today I observed as Martina explored the logs closely; taking the time to stop and kneel to look inside the hole in the log and touch the pieces of bark clinging ever so slightly to the fallen log. As she felt around the surface of the log with her fingers a piece of bark came loose. Surprised at what happened Martina felt around the log some more and pulled off another loose piece of bark. Under this piece of bark was a tiny bug. She got very close and using her tiny fingers she picked up the bug and looked at it closely, sharing her discovery with me. Continue reading “Martina Takes a Closer Look at the Forest”

Honouring our land

Today representatives from First peoples@Seneca brought an energy to the forest that was full of emotional understanding. Blu (First peoples@Seneca’s resident Elder) described the value of the Tree Nation to people, animals, creatures and the land itself. The connectedness of the earth’s role in our lives is due to the historic care the land has received by the indigenous people, and we are privileged to use this land.

FullSizeRender“This land is the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the New Credit [and the Williams Treaty] First Nations. We are guests on this space, and it is our shared obligation to respect, honour, and sustain this land” – First Peoples@Seneca

The children listened intently, responding to posed questions about what they knew about land they have come to know so intimately during our Forest and Nature School program. Parents, educators, and the greater Seneca Community united to connect with the world that surrounds us that we so often neglect by not acknowledging its contribution to our lives. Caught up in the everyday mandate we forget to give thanks to the landscape that surrounds us and fills us with the energy we need to move freely in the world.

Thank you Blu for taking the time to teach us gratitude to the Tree Nation and identifying a grandmother and grandfather tree so that we can invite the youngest of our population to grow while honouring and respecting the world that nourishes their bodies and minds. We brought offerings to the trees from the garden we have been caring for with the support of TD Friends of the Environment and Black Forest Garden Centre. Our Partner Lab School at Seneca Newnham also provided an offering harvested from their garden and recently planted medicine garden.

Gabe began drumming and Pilar danced along side her. As she played her instrument you could hear the echo of the drum bounce off the trees illuminating the area with such power yet gently embracing the forest landscape.  The children delighted in the sounds and were invited to participate in a dance of celebration. The sense of belonging to a greater community filled my heart and I closed my eyes in appreciation of the diversity of energy this magical moment had to offer.

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I am grateful to have been part of this partnership towards Reconciliation. Today was a small step towards understanding, compassion and the willingness of a community to gather and honour the land that we are simply visiting.

Garden to Table


The JK/SK children have been attending to, nurturing and documenting the growing of these tiny seeds for about four weeks. Today we transplanted our plants to the outdoor garden bed. Together the children and educators determined the location of the plants as well as the space required between them. Continue reading “Garden to Table”

The Mystery of the Hole in the Ground Continued

Tool Use to Further Support the Children’s Inquiry

Upon returning to our Forest and Nature School (FNS) site I offered to the children the option of using flashlights and magnifying glasses to further their exploration of the hole in the ground that they were all so curious about during our last visit to the forest. Today two children who just moved into the toddler room joined us and they were just as eager as their peers to start exploring the forest. Continue reading “The Mystery of the Hole in the Ground Continued”

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