Solidifying the Pan-Canadian Infrastructure for Forest and Nature School Training to Support High-Quality Practice as a Lever for Systems Change

The Lawson Foundation is generously supporting the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada, through Forest School Canada, to engage with the community of Forest/Nature School practitioners in a project entitled “Solidifying the Pan-Canadian Infrastructure for Forest and Nature School Training to Support High-Quality Practice as a Lever for Systems Change.”

We refer to it simply as the “Community Consultation Project” because our community is at the heart of everything we do. The project began in 2020 and will conclude in 2024.

Our Community is

at the Heart of

Everything We Do.

We invite you to watch this short video introduction to the project

Why We Need to Consult the Community of Forest/Nature School Practitioners

Forest School Canada has offered the Forest/Nature School Practitioners Course since 2012, adapting and improving it each year based on participant feedback and the ever-evolving Forest/Nature School landscape in Canada. We have built a national network of highly skilled facilitators who are rooted in practice and in their communities.

In our eight years of responsive program delivery and community building, we have earned the trust and respect of the sector, which itself has grown and reached a critical moment: with unprecedented interest in and attention on the Forest/Nature School approach in Canada, we need a set of indicators of quality in Forest/Nature School practice and a Quality Assurance Model for Forest School Canada training programs.

Practitioners are looking to us for a higher level of leadership. Practitioners are looking for a national voice to represent the sector in discussions around policy and systems change. The Community Consultation Project will position us to do just that.

Two boys lean over a frozen pond in a forest during spring

Project Goals

To meet with Forest/Nature School practitioners across the country so that we can:

Articulate as a community what a quality Forest/Nature School in Canada looks like, sounds like, and feels like
Improve our professional training courses to meet the increasing demand from a wider audience and support quality practice in the field
Set the stage for representing the Forest/Nature School sector in discussions around policy and systems change

Our community of practice will walk with us every step of the way, so that all outcomes from this project are truly representative of their needs and aspirations.

Project Activities

Strengthen and Grow the Forest School Canada National Facilitation Team

The Forest School Canada facilitation team is responsible for professional learning and program delivery. We want to ensure that they are fully supported in their work. We will create a feedback strategy for the facilitation team as well as a recruitment, onboarding, and retention strategy.

The outcomes of this activity will be greater regional representation and diversity among the team, greater capacity to respond to demand, delivery of highest quality training, as well as a team who has a deep sense of connection and commitment to their work.

Conduct a Forest and Nature School Practitioners’ Needs Assessment

Over the last few years of course delivery, we have learned that practitioners’ needs are always evolving and that CNAC/Forest School Canada is widely regarded as a national leader in the Forest/Nature School movement.

We will meet directly with our community of practice through focus groups, surveys, and direct one-on-one conversations to gain a better understanding of the local, regional, and national priorities of the sector. We will also zero in on specific training needs, and barriers to participation, practice, and mainstreaming. This will help us ensure our work continues to benefit and represent the Forest/Nature School sector in Canada.

Publish Quality Indicators for Practice in Forest and Nature Schools in Canada

We currently work from and with a set of “Principles of Practice” but it was created internally and adapted from a European model. The sector has grown significantly and much has changed since Forest School Canada began delivering the Practitioners Course. There is a need to revisit these principles and co-define a new set of quality indicators with practitioners who are working on the Land directly with children and families.

We will also engage in meaningful collaboration with our Indigenous partners to ensure anything we publish does not cause harm and may actually be of benefit to Indigenous communities.

By working with the community, we can ensure that this new document fully represents the reality of Forest/Nature School in Canada, and is inclusive of Indigenous worldviews. By offering a public-facing document, we can support current and future practitioners who want to improve or start their own programs. It will also better position CNAC/Forest School Canada to contribute to discussion on policy and systems change.

Formalized Quality Assurance Model for Forest School Canada

Using everything we’ve learned from our community of practice over the course of the next three years, we will create a formal model and toolkit that will help us ensure the Practitioners Course is of the highest quality and fully represents and meets the needs of the sector.

Get Involved

Fireside Chats

Fireside Chats are open to all Forest/Nature School practitioners in Canada. A Fireside Chat is a virtual space for Forest/Nature School practitioners to meet, share experiences and answer questions related to a different theme each month. The purpose of these sessions is to engage with the Forest/Nature School community of practice to co-develop a set of Quality Indicators for Forest/Nature School.

Fireside Chats Schedule and Registration:

January 2021: Relationship with Land
Date: January 29, 2021 at 7pm EST
More information | Watch the recording
If you are unable to attend but still wish to participate, we invite you to respond to the discussion questions here.

February 2021: Relationship with Play
Date: February 25, 2021 at 3pm EST
More information | Watch the recording
If you are unable to attend but still wish to participate, we invite you to respond to the discussion questions here.

April 2021: Relationship with Risky Play
Date: April 29, 2021 at 7pm EST
Register here

June 2021: Relationship with Power (Role of the Educator and View of the Child)
Date: June 30, 2021 at 3pm EST
Register here

August 2021: Relationship with Trust (Forest/Nature School Pedagogy and Inquiry)
Date: August 31, 2021 at 7pm EST
Register here

October 2021: Relationship with Story
Date: October 28, 2021 at 3pm EST
Register here

More opportunities for you to get involved will be added soon. We invite you to check back regularly!

Have questions, concerns, ideas? Let us know at community@childnature.ca!