Friedrich Fröbel, a German educator, opened the world’s first outdoor “kindergartens” (German for “children’s gardens”) more than 150 years ago. He believed young children should spend their time playing in nature and away from so much emphasis on learning letters and numbers. Today, across Europe, thousands of these “forest kindergartens” have been established where children spend their entire class time outdoors year-round.
Forest Classrooms are play-based and allows children to develop their skills and habits over time and at their own pace. Children learn naturally to be self-motivated, cooperative, respectful, grateful, and aware of their impact on the earth. Children experience outdoor adventures in all weather conditions. The Forest Classroom is made as safe as is reasonably possible, in order to facilitate children’s risk-taking. It provides a complete immersion in nature helping to build a child’s sense of place in the world.
Research strongly supports the idea that young children, particularly ages 2-8, learn best through direct experiences with the world around them. Being outdoors provides them with not only fresh air, but it also encourages imaginative play, creativity, hand-eye coordination and balance, physical strength and mental clarity. By tapping into their God-given sense of wonder about nature, we can help children learn basic environmental and natural science principles, as well as respect for all living beings. Lessons flow organically from the natural rhythms of the seasons and from the children’s daily discoveries. Each day is shaped by the animals, insects, birds, amphibians, weather and foraging that is encountered, providing spontaneous teachable moments.
Children must be able to follow directions carefully, show respect towards other children and their teachers, and be able to communicate effectively. Children must be toilet-proficient in order to attend. They must be able to know when they have to go to the bathroom and be able to communicate that.
Appropriate clothing for the Forest Classroom is CRITICAL to the success of the program. “There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing choices.”