Starting a Forest School program from scratch: Part 1
Preface: I've called the first post in this series "Part 1", but a friend reminded me that there is so much more that comes before this part of starting a Forest School program. The Forest School training I completed a couple of years ago and the ongoing research, discussion, and reflection around the Forest School ethos I've done since then has really been my "Part 1." This was and continues to be the crucial part that helps me appreciate the deep meaning and purpose within Forest School pedagogy (please read Forest School as a mindset... as well as a set of activities for more about this). This series, Starting a Forest School Program from Scratch, is not intended to be a guide or short cut for others to follow, because there is no such thing. My intention is rather to continue sharing my own journey in the hopes that it might resonate with and support others on their Forest School journeys too.
Since my introduction to Forest School several years ago, I've heard people describe it as a journey, saying things like, "Good luck with your Forest School journey!" I thought I always understood what that meant, but I feel like I'm starting to understand it even more now. There's no Forest School endpoint in which you can state, "Now I'm here!" There's always evolution, change, adaptation - that's what makes it a journey. I'm excited to update you on the next phase of my journey... starting a Forest School program from scratch! (For clarification, when I say 'scratch' I mean starting a program with people and in a location where there hasn't been a Forest School program before.)
Back in September I revealed my secret (not so secret) hope to start a Forest School here in the US. I expressed how that felt like a challenge because the concept of Forest School as it's known in the UK is not as widely understood or supported in the US. Don't get me wrong, there's definitely great things happening in the US around outdoor education and nature connection, including Nature Schools and Forest Kindergartens. However, from what I've researched, Forest School-type programs have been mostly aimed at early childhood and restricted to the private sector (private preschools/child-care). But things are changing! And I'm on a mission to help that change along by promoting Forest School-based provision for children/people of all ages, including those attending public schools.
It feels like I'm finally making some headway on getting a Forest School-type program up and running soon (fingers crossed!), but it means starting almost entirely from scratch. To put it bluntly, I need a location, I need a group, I need resources, I need to do all the associated paperwork including risk assessments, policies/procedures, and lots, lots more....
I know there might be many of you who are in the same position, so I thought it would be useful to document this phase in my journey to offer both resources and moral support as we work through the challenges and obstacles that come with the territory. Therefore, I'm pleased to present to you the first blog post in what might be a long-running special series called, Starting a Forest School Program from Scratch: Part 1 (of however many parts it takes). In this series, I'll share my progress and the resources I develop along the way in the hopes that it might help others too!
So without further ado, I'm pleased to share the first document I've created: a Proposal for a Forest School Program
Outlines some of the research that backs up the Forest School approach
Gives a brief description of what a Forest School program entails
Lists some of the details that need to be negotiated in the planning stages (like age groups, numbers/ratios, policies, insurance, resources, etc.).
Is only 3 pages long (including references) and is designed to provide succinct information in order to gather initial support for a Forest School program from members of a school board, teachers, parents or whoever else you think would benefit!
I'm more than happy for anyone to use this document as a template, which is why I've created it as an editable Word document that you can adjust in order to customize it to your own unique circumstances (if you need it in another format other than Word, let me know and I'll do what I can). Please note the document is subject to copyright law, though I give permission to reproduce/use as a template for personal and educational use only. Commercial copying and distribution is prohibited. If copying and pasting any portion of the document, please be sure to reference Forest Schooled as the author. Thanks everyone and really hope this comes in handy for some of you!
Happy Forest Schooling! 🌳