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.

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 days of in-person learning outside, followed by 11 months of online independent study

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

Our Commitment to Truth Telling and Reconciliation

Many people in Canada trace the roots of “Forest School” back to Denmark, by way of the United Kingdom. Indeed, our course curriculum evolved from the “Level 3 Forest School Practitioner” certification in the UK. However, Indigenous people have been learning from this Land—currently called Canada—since time immemorial. Thanks to the many Indigenous Elders, Knowledge Keepers, community members, and Forest School Canada team members who have worked with us in the 8 years that Forest School Canada has existed, we have come to understand that we cannot ethically speak of learning and connecting with this Land without telling the truth about its colonization, and without there being a safe space in the course for Indigenous and Western worldviews to meet respectfully.

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

  • Investing in relationships with local Elders and Knowledge Keepers and inviting them to participate in the course facilitation however they see fit
  • Working to break down financial and other barriers for Indigenous participants
  • Discussing with participants our responsibilities to truth telling and reconciliation as educators seeking to foster connections among children and this Land
  • Highlighting and referring to Indigenous expertise in our recommended resources

In the longer term, we are currently embarking on a project to recreate our programs with Indigenous partners across Canada so that they might better serve both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Practitioners Course

What will be covered?

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 practice “hard” skills such as firebuilding, knots, and tool work, and deepen our relationships with the Land, each other, and ourselves. 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.

Quick List of Themes we Explore:

  • 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?

If you start your course in person, you will spend the 10-11 months that follow engaged in self-directed learning. There are many resources we recommend in the course binder, and you will use them to complete the 6 course assignments required for certification. 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.

If you start your course online, you will engage in online video conference sessions facilitated by two mentors. Before each session, they will invite you to deepen your connection with the Land through various prompts and practices, and they will send you several resources to read or watch before the video discussion. After each video session, facilitators will invite you to participate in various practices that we hope will deepen your relationship with the Land, and prompt questions and reflection that can then be shared with fellow practitioners in reflection pieces that will be created and uploaded toStorypark.

Following the in-person dates, practitioners will have the opportunity to complete the remainder of the assignments.

How long does it take to complete the course?

The course takes most people 1 year to finish, and we encourage participants to prepare to invest 2-5 hours/week reading, reflecting, connecting with the Land, and completing coursework. 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?

This course is primarily intended for early childhood and elementary school educators interested in starting their own Forest/Nature School program, working in an established Forest/Nature School program, or in integrating elements of the Forest/Nature School approach into their traditional setting.

We have had homeschooling parents, camp and recreation workers, social workers, occupational therapists, and other healthcare professionals successfully complete the course. If you don’t have a background in education you may find the learning curve steep in terms of discussing and deeply understanding the pedagogy of Forest/Nature School, but that doesn’t mean the course isn’t for you! Please reach out if you have any questions or concerns.

How much does the course cost?

$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
  • Course binder
  • 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 get 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 and a few questions to answer.
Step 3: Complete the Registration Form and 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 enrolment and giving you all the important information you will need for the course!

Please note: The tuition must be paid in full prior to the start date of your course. If the payment schedule presents an issue for you, please get in touch with us.

When the course is full, you will be added to a waitlist if you choose to do so.

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.

Corner Brook, NL

Registration is now open!

Location: Corner Brook, NL
Dates: September 12 – 16
Price: $1650

Essex County, ON

This course is now full!

Location: Essex County, ON
Format: Modular Weekends
Dates: July 23 – 24 and August 19 – 21
Price: $1750

Calgary, AB

This course is open now!

Location: Calgary, AB
Dates: August 24 – 28, 2022
Price: $1750

Au Grand Air - Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Ce cours est maintenant ouvert!

Hôte : Au Grand Air
Lieu: Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, QC
Dates : 15 – 19 août 2022
Prix: $1750

MacSkimming Outdoor Education Centre - Cumberland, ON

This course is now full!

Dates: Aug 20th – 24th, 2022
Location: This course is taking place at and in partnership with MacSkimming Outdoor Education Centre,  in Cumberland, ON.

Cambridge Farm and Forest School - Cambridge, ON

This course is now full!

  • Dates: September 23 – 25 and October 1-2, 2022 (in-person start)
  • Location: This course is taking place at and in partnership with Cambridge Farm and Forest School in Cambridge, ON.

COVID-19 PROTOCOLS
This course is being held at a site that requires proof of Covid-19 vaccination to access the site and facilities. As per the Region of Waterloo Public Health guidelines, adults who are unvaccinated can enter the site if they complete a rapid test upon arrival and receive a negative result. Please note that this may be subject to change depending on evolving local public health requirements.

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

Testimonials

“I can't explain the wonderful experience that this team provided and inspired. They were amazing. I feel that you as a whole team have developed a fantastic atmosphere and learning environment for both children and adults. I am going to do my best to share your inspiration and belief of the importance of nature and the impact that it has in all of our lives.”

“Most of all, the course so far has made me question my certainties and think differently about how we invite children to engage with the natural world. Every day, I feel like I am deconstructing my thinking based on the information offered. I am so excited for this next adventure and am hopeful that I will be able to make some changes in my daily practice.”

“I think one of the most important skills I learned and sharpened during the course was the ability to empower young people.”

“I learned a tremendous amount ranging from pure skills to collaborative approaches, to materials and ideas that can be used in the class. All of which I have applied in my own Forest School classroom with tremendous results. ”