What are Forest/Nature Schools?

We define Forest/Nature School as an educational ethos and practice that centres the Land and the child-at-play. Children and educators build a relationship with the Land through regular and repeated access to the same outdoor space over an extended period of time. Educators support learning through a pedagogical framework that is rooted in place and play, directed and inspired by the child (emergent curriculum), and driven by a process of inquiry.

Forest/Nature School is founded on three pillars: Trust, Reciprocal Relationships, and Freedom.

Principles of Forest/Nature School

1) Forest/Nature School

Takes place in any outdoor space, including urban greenspace, playgrounds, forests, creeks, prairies, mountains, shoreline, and tundra.

2) Forest/Nature School

Is a sustained process of regular and repeated sessions in the same outdoor space, supporting children to develop a reciprocal relationship with the Land, and an understanding of themselves as a part of the natural world.

3) Forest/Nature School

Views children and youth as innately competent, curious, and capable learners.

4) Forest/Nature School

Is led by educators who share power with learners through play-based, emergent, and inquiry-driven teaching and learning methods.

5) Forest/Nature School

Values children’s play — self-directed, freely chosen, intrinsically motivated — in and of itself. FNS programs provide adequate time and space for children and youth to dive deeply into their play.

6) Forest/Nature School

Views risky play as an integral part of children’s learning and healthy development, and is facilitated by knowledgeable, qualified educators who support children and youth to co-manage risk.

7) Forest/Nature School

Relies on loose, natural materials to support open-ended, creative play and learning.

8) Forest/Nature School

Values the process as much as the outcome.

9) Forest/Nature School

Prioritizes building reciprocal relationships with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit, who have been learning from this Land since time immemorial.

10) Forest/Nature School

Practices, policies, and programming reflect and prioritize the building of engaged, healthy, vibrant, and diverse communities through consideration of access and equity in our decisions and actions.