Forest and Nature School Principles
• Takes place in a variety of spaces, including local forests, creeks,
meadows, prairie grasses, mountains, shorelines, tundra, natural
playgrounds, and outdoor classrooms.
How do Children Learn in Forest and Nature School?
• Is a long-term process of regular and repeated sessions in the same
• Is rooted in building an on-going relationship to place and on
principles of place-based education.
• Is rooted in and supports building engaged, healthy, vibrant, and
• Aims to promote the holistic development of children and youth.
• Views children and youth as competent and capable learners.
• Supports children and youth, with a supportive and
knowledgeable educator, to identify, co-manage and navigate
risk. Opportunities to experience risk is seen as an integral part
of learning and healthy development.
• Requires qualified Forest and Nature School practitioners who are
rooted in and committed to FNS pedagogical theory and practical skills.
• Requires that educators play the role of facilitator rather than expert.
• Uses loose, natural materials to support open-ended experiences.
• Values the process is as valued as the outcome.
• Requires that educators utilize emergent, experiential, inquiry-based,
play-based, and place-based learning approaches.
Inquiry-Based, Emergent and Experiential Learning
• Based on the individual interests of the children involved in the program;
• Allows for personal research by the children in areas of interest;
• Lets students work on their own interests at their own pace, addressing problems with multiple learning needs in the classroom environment;
•Incorporates the whole child, in the context of their family, community, and cultural background, as they carry these with them throughout their experiences;
• Explores problems that offer a variety of responses (it’s process based);
• Supports children to expand on their experiences, knowledge and wisdom in a non-threatening and empowering manner; and
• Uses self-directed learning
The Role(s) of the EducatorPlay-Based Learning
•Sparking Engagement: By modeling enthusiasm for nature play, the educator encourages children who might be nervous or new to outdoor play. Forest and Nature School educators act as a creative spark for the group, encouraging the growth of new ideas by making available to the children materials, resources, and experiences that expand their creative, imaginative, and exploratory play. An educator might bring a personal story that sends the children off into stories of their own or ask a question that encourages the children to look more deeply into something that they have found.
• Observing: Once the children are engaged in exploration, the educator steps back to give the children space to play and explore. This is an opportunity to become an observer, watching the children’s interactions with each other and the site, collecting and documenting these experiences, and using this knowledge to enhance future outdoor learning.
• Learning Alongside Children: The educator gets dirty, explores, creates, builds, learns, gains knowledge, celebrates alongside the children they work with.
• Staying Safe: During Forest and Nature School, the educator’s role is to make sure the group is physically safe and comfortable. The children need to dress well for the weather and stay warm and dry throughout the day. The educator also assesses the overall safety of the site and the risk management required for specific activities, which can change from day to day, in collaboration with the children they work with.
• Creating Connections: The educator works to create community with the children, the parents, the place, and the community at large and works with the children to help them through conflicts and discussions that arise.