Forest and Nature School Practitioners Course

Forest School Canada aims to support high-quality Forest/Nature School practice and programming in Canada through evidence-based, practical, and inspiring professional learning opportunities, community building, and advocacy.

Our goal is for all children in Canada to have the opportunity to lead their play and learning on the Land as an integral part of their education and healthy development.

Course Offerings

Become A Certified

Forest and Nature School

Practitioner

About the Forest and Nature School Practitioners Course

The Forest and Nature School Practitioners Course is a year-long certificate course that consists of both in-person outdoor, experiential learning, as well as online self-directed learning. We have been offering this course since 2012, adapting and improving it each year based on participant feedback and the ever-evolving Forest/Nature School landscape in Canada. While some things have changed, what remains consistent is our intention to offer an immersive and transformative professional learning experience with like-minded educators and the Land.

We currently offer the course in two formats:

Original

Five consecutive days of in-person learning outside, followed by 11 months of online independent study and assignment completion. Both the in-person and online parts of the course are required for certification. (See “Options for Certification” below, for more information.)

Modular

Five days of in-person learning outside (spread over two weekends, usually six to eight weeks apart), followed by nine months of online independent study and assignment completion. Both the in-person and online parts of the course are required for certification. (See “Options for Certification” below, for more information.)
*Please note: We are not currently offering the online start format of the course. All courses will begin in person.

Our Commitment to Truth Telling and Reconciliation

Relationship with the Land is at the heart of what we do, and this Land is Indigenous Land. 

Although many people in Canada trace the roots of “Forest/Nature School” back to the United Kingdom, and look to CNAC as a national leader in land-based learning, we acknowledge that Indigenous peoples have been learning with the Land since time immemorial. 

As a white settler-founded organization that works on and benefits from stolen Land, we have appropriated and caused harm to Indigenous Peoples’ knowledges and sovereignty on this Land. We have come to understand that we cannot ethically speak of learning and connecting with the Land without telling the truth about its colonization, and honouring and centring Indigenous sovereignty as we support the development of relationships to the earth in a holistic way. We are grateful to the many Indigenous Elders, Knowledge Keepers, communities, and team members who have worked with us over the last 10 years and have supported us in deepening our understanding and responsibilities to our core values of Justice, Truth, Community, and Accountability.

The CNAC team is learning to care deeply about past, present, and future generations, and living in right-relations with ourselves, each other, and the Land. We are committed to co-creating current and future programming with Indigenous partners, so that our programming  is safe, meaningful, and culturally relevant for all participants. 

To that end, we endeavour to center Indigenous voices in the Practitioners Course by:

  • Listening to and collaborating with Indigeneous peoples across Canada to identify best practices of how to work, live and reciprocal relationship with Land 
  • Centering the regional, traditional knowledges gifted from Elders, Knowledge Sharers and other Indigenous community members everytime we gather on the Land
  • Empowering our partners across Canada to build long-term, reciprocal relationships with Indigenous peoples and First Nations. 
  • Working to break down financial and other barriers for Indigenous participants
  • Inviting and hiring more Indigenous peoples across Canada  to engage in this work with us
  • Discussing with participants our collective and individual responsibilities to truth telling and reconciliation as educators seeking to foster connections among children and the Land
  • Highlighting and centering Indigenous voices and  knowledge in our recommended resources
  • Continually analyzing and re-working our programs with Indigenous team members, hosts, Elders, and Knowledge Keepers across Canada, so that they might better serve both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada, in alignment with our values of Justice, Truth, Community, and Accountability.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Practitioners Course

What will be covered?

Our conversation and discussions will be guided by the Elder or Knowledge Sharer present, acknowledging that their knowledge and teachings are incredibly valuable to this work. In keeping with the Forest School approach, this course is learner-led, emergent, inquiry-driven, and playful! We explore those pedagogies, tell stories, and dive deeply into supporting risky play. We may practice “hard” skills such as firebuilding, knots and tool work depending on the needs and interests of the group. And we share practical tips, recommendations, policies, and protocols for the day to day operations of a Forest/Nature School program. Please note: We do not extensively discuss “how to start a forest school” in terms of legislation or licensing requirements, which vary from province to province, and territory to territory. We recommend that you seek your own legal counsel and guidance from an insurance professional, and many of the course assignments are designed to help you put together the documentation legal and insurance professionals (and parents!) will ask of you. As each day unfolds, we will deepen our relationships with the Land, each other and ourselves.

Quick List of Themes we Explore:

Relationship with Land and Working with the Land in your unique context

Relationship with Play

Relationship with Story

Relationship with Learning

Relationship with Power

Relationship with Trust

Relationship with Risk

Throughout the course we will hold space for conversations and experiences that bring these essential relationships to life within the context of Forest and Nature School. Some of the questions we may dive into include:

  • Who or what has rights to the Land? Who or what has rights to take from the Land? In what way?
  • How is our relationship with the Land? How can we deepen it and foster meaningful connection with it among children?
  • What is emergent, child-led, play-based, and inquiry-driven learning? What does it look like, sound like, feel like, and what is our role as educators?
  • What is risky play, why is it important, and how can we support it?
  • How might we use fire, tools, and ropes, knots, and tarps to enrich our programs?
  • What does a “typical day” at Forest/NatureSchool look like? How can this work in a “regular” school?

 

What about the online, self-directed learning? Are there assigned readings and coursework?

After you complete five days in person, you will spend the 10-11 months that follow engaged in self-directed learning, with support from your facilitators throughout the year. There are many resources we recommend in our online learning platform, Storypark, and you will use them to complete the assignments required for certification. Please note: The number of assignments you are required to complete depends on the certification pathway you choose. See above for more information. 

The assignments will prompt you to go deeper with themes introduced during your in-person, and to develop the documentation you will need to safely start and run a high-quality Forest/Nature School program. You will be encouraged to complete your assignments in whatever way feels most meaningful to you. That may mean that some assignments are written, while others are more audio/visual. It will be up to you! Whatever form the assignments take, you will share them with your mentors and peers on our online pedagogical documentation platform, Storypark.

How long does it take to complete the course?

Practitioners are expected to complete all course elements within a 12 month timeframe, and we encourage participants to prepare to invest 2-5 hours/week reading, reflecting, connecting with the Land, and completing coursework. If a participant is unable to complete the coursework within the 12 months, they will be offered an additional three-month grace period after the one-year timeframe, for a total of 15 months to complete the course. After this 15 month period, practitioners can expect to incur an additional fee of $150 for an extra three months to complete their coursework. The course must be completed within 18 months to receive certification.

Please remember, this is a learner-led, highly self-directed program, and your mentors will not be checking up on you and enforcing readings or assignment completion.

Who is this course for? Are there prerequisites?

At this time, there are no official prerequisites for this course. This course is designed for child-focused professionals, parents and caregivers who have influence on the learning experiences of children. Whether you are starting a program at your school or childcare facility, or exploring opening your own Nature Based program, this course can help you! 

A background understanding of the emergent learning process can be helpful to course participants, but is not required. This course has a flexible structure that takes learning out of the classroom and onto the Land. It’s unlike any course you’ve taken. Be prepared to learn from and be guided by the First Peoples of the Land when learning how to live in good relationship with Land.

This course is most often taken by educators and early learning professionals, but we’ve also noticed an increased attendance of homeschooling parents, outdoor enthusiasts or professional guides, recreation workers, social workers, occupational therapists and health care professionals.

Please connect with us if you’re considering attending and still have questions.

How much does the course cost?

Starts at $1750 CAD

per participant

Course fees start from $1750 per participant, including a $650 non-refundable, non-transferable deposit.

Includes:

  • Over 40 hours of in-person Facilitator instruction on and with the Land
  • Guided study and assignment feedback from a CNAC facilitator
  • Immersive course with a team of experienced facilitators and one year of online mentorship support
  • Introduction to both regional and national communities of practice
  • Access to Storypark for resource sharing and supporting the community of practice with your cohort
  • Forest and Nature School Practitioner certification upon completion

How do I register?

Registration for courses happens on a rolling basis. Registration is a three-step process:

Step 1: Find the course of your choice, either directly on our site here or via social media. You can either directly select “register” and go straight to the form or go to “more information” and then find the form there.

Step 2: Once on the registration page you will find a form asking for some basic information, a few questions to answer, and informed consent. The registration form takes about 10-20 minutes to complete, and the registration page will time out at 45 minutes. We encourage you to set aside 20 minutes to fully complete the form in one sitting, so that you do not get timed out and are able to secure your space in the course. 

Step 3: After completing the registration form, you will then be directed to complete your payment for your non-refundable deposit and review all your information. You will be sent an email confirming your enrollment and giving you all the important information you will need for the course!

Please note: The tuition is due 12 weeks before the start of the course and must be paid in full prior to first day of your course. If the payment schedule presents an issue for you, please get in touch with us.

When the course is full, you have the option to add yourself to the waitlist, and we will reach out to you if a space becomes available. Please note that waitlists do not carry forward to the following year.

How can this certification meet my needs as a professional?

All participants who take this course will experience working and playing on the Land. After the in-person days are complete, participants have the option to complete a package of assignments that suits their professional needs. Each participant must complete one assignment package to become certified. 

 

Forest & Nature School Practitioner – Lead Designation in a Regulated Setting: 

 

Professionals that currently work in a regulated setting like a licensed childcare program, a school, an extra-curricular program or other program where children attend regularly will complete an assignment package that is suited to your needs.

 

This assignment package empowers participants 

  • to develop and reflect on their own personal relationship with Land 
  • to engage with local Indigneous peoples so that your programs can work in reciprocity with local First Nations 
  • to assess and manage risky play in a way that helps children, team members and administrators feel confident to assess, management and accept risk as an important part of play
  • to add or revise institutional policies to include regular, equitable access to nature 
  • to develop, and lead Forest & Nature school sessions with room for reflection with your course facilitator afterwards 
  • Forest & Nature School Practitioner – Lead Designation in an Independent Setting: Professionals who are interested in opening their own Forest and Nature Program without the support of an existing institution will complete an assignment package that is suited to your needs.  This assignment package empowers participants 
    • to develop and reflect on their own personal relationship with Land 
    • to engage with local Indigneous peoples so that your programs can work in reciprocity with local First Nations 
    • to assess and manage risky play in a way that helps children, team members and other partners to feel confident in assessing managing and accept risk as an important part of play 
    • to develop functional, foundational program policies that define the new programs values, safety procedures and commitment to serving the health and wellbeing of future generations 
    • to develop, and lead Forest & Nature school sessions with room for reflection with your course facilitator afterwards 

    Forest & Nature School Practitioner – Support Designation in an Existing Setting:  

    Professionals who are currently working in operating Forest and Nature School programs can complete an assignment package that is tailored to support your current work in an existing Forest and Nature School Program. Please note, this designation does not offer skills and documentation to open, coordinate or oversee a Forest & Nature Program, but it does certify the participant to work within the existing program. 

    This assignment package empowers participants 

    • to reflect and deepen on their own personal relationship with Land 
    • to reflect on the current relationships your program has with local First Nations and Indigenous peoples 
    • to observe and reflect on your programs current Forest and Nature School sessions
    • to assess and manage risky play in a way that helps children and team members to feel confident in assessing managing and accept risk as an important part of play   

Course Offerings

CNAC works with host organizations across the country, and depending on their policies and evolving public health requirements, proof of vaccination may be required to access the site and facilities.

Parry Sound, ON - Course One

Host: Parry Sound Forest School
Dates: March 6 – 10, 2023
Price: $1850

Parry Sound, ON - Course Two

Host: Parry Sound Forest School 
Dates: April 14-16 & April 29-30, 2023
Price: $1850

Ottawa, ON - Course One

Host: Out to Play Farm and Forest School
Dates: May 6-8 & May 27 – 28, 2023
Price: $1850 

Ottawa, ON - Course Two

Host: Out to Play Farm and Forest School
Dates: June 26 – 30, 2023
Price: $1850 

Essex County, ON

Host: Natural Pathways
Dates: June 6 – 10, 2023
Price $1850

Cambridge, ON

Host: Cambridge Farm and Forest School
Dates: April 21 – 23 & April 29 – 30, 2023
Price: $1850

Fernie, BC

Host: Outdoor Connections
Dates: June 1 – 5, 2023
Price: $1850

Winnipeg, MB

Host: Momenta
Dates: October 19 – 23, 2023
Price $1750

Interested in hosting the Forest and Nature School Practitioners course in your community? Apply now.

Testimonials

“I'm not the same person I was before taking the in-person portion of the course. What I learned and experienced was transformative, inspirational, and I will be carrying what I learned forward with me every day, in every interaction. I really enjoyed being around other intentional, sensitive and fun adults who have a joy of learning and who enjoy sharing their joy of learning. It felt like I was home.

“This is the best course I've taken in my life! Most meaningful were the connections and inspiration from people working in the same field. Also concrete boundaries of what makes forest school forest school, and best practice for doing this safely. I can not say enough about what an amazing opportunity this was. I was doubted when I shared with others that I had signed up for this course. I am so happy that I took it! Thank you for this wonderful opportunity.

“I feel this course is so inspiring to me and it will influence my teaching practice. From now on, I will try to have more trust in both the children and my colleagues. I am becoming more and more aware that children are capable and competent on their own. It has transformed the way I view nature and outdoor learning. My experiences will definitely influence my approaches and facilitating practices with children.

“Thank you so much for this opportunity. It’s set me up for a lifetime of curiosity and learning to come! ”