A Little Bit About Forest School
After living and working with Forest School in 3 different countries now (England, USA, and Canada) I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t tell you what Forest School is! Because it all comes down to place – where in the world you are, the culture you live in, the stories of the land you live on. All of that, and more, determines “what is Forest School?”
If you’d like to learn more about how Forest School is defined in different places, these are a few organizations I know of that have been working to do this collaboratively with their local communities. Some have outlined a set of “principles” relevant to their specific country and context:
Forest School Association (United Kingdom)
Eastern Region Association of Forest and Nature Schools (Eastern United States)
Child & Nature Alliance of Canada (Canada)
Irish Forest School Association (Ireland)
As such, there is no universal definition of Forest School that I know of, and I question if there should be? Instead I view it as an ongoing and evolving conversation with many individuals from many different places as a way of forming a mutual understanding of our work. With that comes an acknowledgement that there are some areas that overlap and some that just don’t!
So what I can offer you, below, is my own take on what Forest School means to me, and the commonalities I have experienced within the variety of places I’ve lived. To do this, I’ve made a drawing that symbolizes my understanding of Forest School. It’s a spiral rather than a list because it requires non-linear thinking! I also wanted to demonstrate that there’s no ending point either. Definitions and understandings of Forest School will change and adapt over time. After all, the only constant in life is change (or something like that right?).
I’m also sharing a webinar recording a colleague and I delivered for the Cornell University Civic Ecology Lab in April 2019, where we share what it means to us to learn through a Forest School approach.
Check out this recording of a webinar we delivered for the Nature Education Course through Cornell University Civic Ecology Lab in April 2019 about Learning through a Forest School Approach
Here's a link to a PDF version of the presentation to access hyperlinks embedded within the powerpoint slideshow