This post comes to us from renowned Canadian artist and naturalist, Robert Bateman. Bateman was always interested in art and the natural world in his childhood. Here, he reflects on the importance of Forest and Nature School to children’s lives in Canada.
For more information on our NEW Forest and Nature School Guide see:
Virtually all of my life I have been a teacher … at least since the age of 16 when I regrettably (because of age) left the Toronto Junior Field Naturalists and asked if I could return as an instructor. I taught high school for 20 years and still teach workshops in art and nature. This is the reason I am so excited by this Forest School Canada Guide.
There has never been more need. The world, and particularly the world of children, has been changing rapidly. And mostly not in a good way. Electronic temptations are swamping minds, even very young minds. Physical, mental and (I say) spiritual issues are plaguing our kids. Common sense is being augmented by countless studies in neuroscience and other fields showing strong benefits from spending time in nature, benefits for the body, mind and spirit. Samuel Johnson said “Much can be made of a Scotsman if he be caught young.” We need to capture minds and have them fall in love with a place in nature when they are very young. And of course it needs to be reinforced though the teen years and through life.
Forest schools do not just involve forests. Nature is the school and that includes forests, grasslands wetlands and even rocky hilltops. Nature is not only more complicated than we know, it is more complicated than we can know. Therefore any age from toddlers to seniors can interact in complex and and surprising ways, improving motor skills and social skills and resilience. As the world changes in rapid and unpredictable ways we will need resilience in areas we haven’t even thought of.
Recently I visited a forest school in Japan. One of their former students was a young victim of the Fukushima tsunami. When cold and wet, he said, “I knew how to make a fire, even with wet wood.” With a fragment of concrete he scrubbed off the wet outside of the a piece of lumber. He always carried a lighter in a plastic bag. So he warmed up and dried off. Then he said, “I can build a raft.” … which he did and rescued and warmed many hypothermic people. His knowledge saved lives.
This movement and this book can and will save lives in more ways than one.