Each week, pictures and stories trickle in from our groups spread across a number of states. What joy to see children, no matter where they're from, out and about in the woods, playfully and thoughtfully exploring the forest together. And explore they do, fully and freely - in the mud, in the water, in the trees, on their own and with each other. (Dream come true!) This is exactly why we developed our first type of group, Forest Explorers. We wanted to give space for children to lead the way in how they explore nature with their friends and their families.
Even as we expanded to offer Forest Creator Groups, where children were invited to use natural and human-made materials to create and tinker outdoors, explorative play was still at the core of how children spent time in the woods. Like a moth to a flame, children ask questions and seek opportunities for play, almost instinctively. Nothing seemed more natural.
And so our newest group, Forest Discoverers, was inspired by watching children continually ask those questions as they discover all the many layers the forest and nature itself has to offer. We wanted to give them - and you the parent - the space and resources to dive deeper into each season.
Forest Discoverer Groups
To bring our Forest Discoverer Groups to life, we partnered with Leah McDermott, educator and founder of Your Natural Learner. Leah's background in education and curriculum development was a perfect fit for taking our groups to the next level. With the Forest Discoverer season-long curriculum, each week dives into a new theme for discovery, while still leaving room for play and self-direction.
Here's how it works:
Our Forest Discoverer Groups are 10 weeks long, specifically lined up with a season in nature. So, let's take summer for example. Each week over the summer, children gather in the woods with their group to discover more about the summer season. At the start of each session, parent-leaders introduce the theme of the week. Some sample themes include sun, bugs, color, patterns, small parts, trees, etc. As the session unfolds, children discover the theme in different ways, using multiple subjects and learning approaches. You'll find two to three activities corresponding with each theme, along with a list of books to engage with either in the forest or over the course of the week. Each gathering is designed to help children take the theme of the sun, for instance, and understand it in different ways - across science, health and art. The same applies to each theme of the season.
While the depth of this curriculum is exciting, remember a huge part of Forest School For All's philosophy, is also that children can exercise self-direction to go even deeper. Much of the discovery process happens when we can take our surroundings and makes sense of it in ways we understand, in ways that say, match your specific child's line of thinking. And so, each session flows freely between leader-directed discovery and self-directed discovery. Leaders provide the theme, the supplies and the activities, while children choose how they engage with what they are given. We want children to be able to absorb the valuable information and experiences the curriculum has to offer in ways that match their own curiosity, and then use that as a spring board to make it part of their play and learning - either in the forest or in their life outside the woods. Together, this is forest discovery in action.
Summer Forest Discoverer Overview
- 10 weeks, season-specific curriculum
- Summer 2016 themes include: nature team building, sun, land art, bugs, small parts, nature games, reading in nature, color in nature, patterns, trees, nature art, and sustainability
- Each week offers two - three activities, along with resources for continuing the exploration at home
- Leaders are parent volunteers, groups include like-minded families with a mixed age group
- All ages and abilities welcome
- All weather exploration
A Call for New Groups
Interested in having a Forest Discoverer Group near you? Let's talk more about starting one near you.
And when we say our group leaders are parent volunteers - no experience necessary, just a love for watching child-led discovery unfold - we truly mean it. Parents, you are incredible guides and observers of your children. Not sure if you'd be completely comfortable taking the lead or dealing with mess or facing potential things that make you go boo in the woods? Check out our posts here, here and here to baby step your way there.
From one of our parent leaders in New Jersey,
I wasn't much of an outdoor person to begin with, so becoming a forest school leader was going way beyond my comfort zone. I am afraid of bears and bugs, and I don't like cold air or rain. But becoming a forest leader has been the best thing I've done all year. I have been on more hikes, breathed more fresh air, and found more like-minded friends than since I was a little kid! And watching my children explore and play outdoors is a gift I am giving them that I hope they will take into their adult lives.
And from a parent participant,
Forest school is our favorite part of the week. We so appreciate having a group of families to share a love of the outdoors with. My daughter is never more adventurous and peaceful than when she's out exploring the forest with her friends. We love the open-ended projects and most of all the unstructured time to just be outside in rain, snow, or shine.
If you'd like to have an experience for your child to be outdoors, taking the lead in exploring or creating or discovering alongside other children, we are excited to help you make that possible.
See you in the forest!
Update: Over the summer of 2016, the Forest Discoverers group ran for 12 weeks. Starting autumn 2016 the Forest Discoverers group program will run for 10 weeks. A 12 week downloadable curriculum will still be available for purchase.