Become a certified Forest & Nature School Practitioner

The Child and Nature Alliance of Canada aims to support high-quality Forest/Nature School practice and programming 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.

See 2024 Courses

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 an optional, online self-directed certification. 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:


Five consecutive days of in-person learning outside, followed by an optional 12 months of online coursework to receive certification. Please note that both the in-person and online parts of the course are required for certification. (See “Invest in Your Career” below, for more information.)


Five days of in-person learning outside (spread over two weekends, usually six to eight weeks apart), followed by an optional 12 months of online coursework to receive certification.Please note that both the in-person and online parts of the course are required for certification. (See “Invest in Your Career” below, for more information.)

We currently offer three pathways to certification:

Lead Designation in a Regulated Setting

This designation is for 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.

Lead Designation in an Independent Setting

This designation is for those interested in running independent programming, such as new private Forest/Nature School Programs.

Support Designation in an Existing Setting

This designation is for those working in an existing Forest/Nature based program as support to other trained professionals.

Invest in Your Career

5-Day In Person Training

$ 1950

per personIncludes 40 hours of in-person training on the Land with experienced Facilitators.

*Please note that the in-person training is a prerequisite for completing the online coursework and receiving certification.*

Online Coursework & Certification (Optional)

$ 149.99

per personIncludes 12 months of online coursework and mentorship from a CNAC Facilitator, introduction to regional and national communities of practice, and Forest & Nature School Practitioner Certification upon completion.

If you choose not to pursue certification at the time of registration but decide you’d like to after completing the in-person training, don’t worry! You’ll have the opportunity to opt in to the online coursework and certification anytime within 12 months of completing the in-person training – at a time that best suits you.

Kindly note, accommodations, travel expenses, and meals are not included in the course fees. Participants are responsible for booking their own travel and accommodation, as well as bringing their own meals to the in-person training days. We include some lodging options in the Welcome Package that participants receive upon registration. If you would like a list of suggested accommodations please let us know and we can provide options for you to review!

The Child and Nature Alliance of Canada is a charitable non-profit, and because of costs involved in coordinating each course, the $650 course deposit is non-refundable and non-transferrable. In addition, the remainder of the course fees are non-refundable 12 weeks before the in-person start date. Cancellations within 12 weeks of the course start date are subject to a fee. Please take the time to consider whether this course is something you can commit to at this time.

If the cost of the course presents a barrier for you, please reach out to us at to inquire about our flexible payment options and available training grants.

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?


Are there required documents for the course?

Participants who choose to pursue the online coursework and certification must ensure that the necessary insurance coverage, current vulnerable sector check (valid within the last 2 years), and Standard First Aid with CPR Level C training are in place before delivering the practicum sessions. Please note that First Aid training is not included in the Practitioners Course, and must be acquired in order to receive certification.

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

If you choose to complete the online coursework to receive certification, you will spend the 12 months following your in-person training engaging in self-directed learning, with support from your facilitators throughout the year. There are many resources we recommend 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.

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.

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 gain knowledge and skills in leading play and learning on the Land with children. After the in-person training, participants have the option of pursuing certification by choosing a designation path. They will complete an assignment package based on their designation and professional needs over 12 months. Throughout the course, participants will have opportunities to:

  • Develop and reflect on their own personal relationship with Land, and how to develop and nurture relationship with Land with the children that they work with.
  • Assess and manage risky play in a way that helps children, team members and administrators feel confident to manage and accept risk as an important part of play.
  • Engage with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action, and to reflect on the current relationships their program has with local First Nations and Indigenous peoples. 
  • Add to or revise institutional policies to include regular, equitable access to nature in their program settings.
  • Develop and lead forest/nature school sessions with room for reflection with their course mentors.

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.

Course Offerings

Please note that it takes about 10-20 minutes to complete the registration process. The registration page will time out after 45 minutes, so we encourage you to set aside 20 minutes to fully complete the form in one sitting to avoid getting timed out.

British Columbia

Courtenay, BC

Host: Hand-In-Hand Nature Education
Dates: November 6 – 10, 2024

Maple Ridge, BC

Host: Wild & Immersive UBC
Dates: October 7 – 11, 2024


Edmonton, AB

Host: Edmonton Forest School
Dates: August 26 – 30, 2024



Winnipeg, MB

Host: Momenta
Dates: October 23 – 27, 2024


Beamsville, ON

Host: Nature School & Education Centre
Dates: November 22 – 24 & 30 and December 1, 2024

Brampton, ON

Host: Claireville Conservation Area
Dates: September 20 – 22 & November 9 – 10, 2024

Cambridge, ON

Host: Cambridge Farm & Forest School
Dates: October 5 – 6 & 18 – 20, 2024

Etobicoke, ON

Host: Humber Arboretum
Dates: September 6 – 8  & 14 – 15, 2024

Kitchener, ON

Host: Nature Connect + Crow Shield Lodge
Dates: August 19 – 23, 2024

Ottawa, ON

Host: Out To Play
Dates: September 13 – 15 & October 5 – 6, 2024

Parry Sound, ON

Host: Parry Sound Forest School
Dates: October 5 – 7 & 19 – 20, 2024

Thunder Bay, ON

Host: Tapiola Nature
Dates: November 13 – 17, 2024


Hudson, QC (English Course)

Host: Hudson Forest Play
Dates: November 2 – 3, 2024 and January 17 – 19, 2025

New Brunswick

Nova Scotia

Mineville, NS

Host: Wild Child Forest School
Dates: September 20 – 24, 2024

Prince Edward Island

Newfoundland and Labrador

Yukon / Northwest Territories / Nunavut

Whitehorse, YT

Host: Downtown Days Early Learning Centre
Dates: September 11 – 15, 2024

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


“This course surprised and exceeded my expectations. The ideas I had about the course were not the full picture of everything that was packed into this experience. It was so much more!”

“I really enjoyed the opportunity to network with the other participants. The sense of community was very valuable. I also liked the opportunities to have conversation amongst smaller groups with a given subject, prompt, or idea to discuss. It provided different perspectives & knowledge that I would not have gotten from simply reading a book.”

“Honestly, this course challenged me in a lot of ways and has me rethinking my work in my classroom. I felt the most meaningful part was the work on Indigenous perspectives. ”

“The stories that were told and the connections we made with the land were both powerful and humbling. I felt honoured to be a part of the training and to gather with local people.”

“I have a much deeper understanding of the work I need to do now. I honestly had no idea what reconciliation really is.”

“The entire session was incredible. I wish it was longer. The facilitators were so warm, professional and knowledgeable.”

“I would recommend your program to anyone with interest in bringing children closer to nature. I was more than pleased with the course and what I learned. I can see what I still need to learn/experience/practice. It has given me the confidence to move forward in creating a forest school program.”