About Natural Pathways Forest and Nature School
Because Forest and Nature School is a learner-directed process and each group of children, each site, location, time, and season are different, every program will vary in order to meet its parameters. That being said, we aim to reflect the pedagogical practice and follow the guiding principles as set forth in the Children and Nature Alliance of Canada's definition of Canadian Forest and Nature Schools, while working within the Ontario Curriculum Framework for Early Years Settings.
How we define 'Forest and Nature School'
We define 'Forest and Nature School' as an ethos and practice that includes regular and repeated access to the same natural space, which supports a pedagogical framework of place-based, play-based, emergent, inquiry-based, and experiential learning. Children in a forest and Nature School start with place, with the natural space they are immerse in, the ecology of the land, the history that came before them, the cultural and geographical context, the shapes and colours and richness of each changing season. In this space, children are not just invited to play, nor are they lead to play through the adults direction, instead, they are called to play by the vastness of space and time in front of them, and it is in this vastness that ideas and curiosity emerge. Children will follow this play and their own sense of curiosity, being guided by the educator and through a process of inquiry. It is through this play, through scaffolding of learning and inquiry, that students and educators eventually make their way to the curriculum. Arriving to learning outcomes is not a recipe or equation with predetermined outcomes. Instead, it is a process that takes time, and is like a hypothesis being tested by educators through experiences and the testing of limits. There is a lot of depth to be explored in this pedagogical framework.
The Child and Nature Alliance of Canada
Guiding Principles for Forest and Nature Schools
- Takes place in a variety of settings including local forests, creeks, meadows, prairie grasses, mountains, shorelines, tundra, natural playgrounds, and outdoor classrooms.
- Is a long-term process of regular and repeated sessions in the same natural space.
- Supports children with qualified and knowledgable educators to identify, co-manage, and navigate risk. Opportunities to experience risk are seen as an integral part of children's learning and healthy development.
- Views children as innately competent, curious and capable learners.
- Honours Aboriginal and Indigenous culture and history as well as traditional ways of learning and living off the land.
- Supports children to develop an ethic of care towards nature and an understanding of themselves as part of the natural world.
- Is grounded in and supports building engaged, healthy, vibrant, and diverse communities.
- Aims to promote the holistic development of children and youth.
- Allows for educators to navigate and balance their role as facilitator, guide, supporter, and co-learner rather than an expert.
- Relies on loses, natural materials to support an open-ended, creative process.
- Recognizes that the process is as valued as the outcome.
- Led by a qualified Forest and Nature School Practitioner who is rooted in and committed to FNS pedagogical theory and practical skills.
- Calls for educators to utilize place-based, emergent, inquiry-based, and experiential learning approaches toward connecting children to nature.