In Canada, the forest is school

Did you know there’s a school for children between three and five where they spend most of the time in the natural surroundings and not in the classroom?

It’s called ‘Hand in Hand’ and it’s in British Columbia, Canada. It’s part of the Forest School Canada project, which aims to group schools in this country in which children have regular access to a natural setting, either in parks, gardens or nearby forests. Some schools do it once a week, while others, like this one, make a habit of it.

This is a living class where there are no chairs, only logs, and no pencils, but sticks. The children spend three hours a day with their teachers in nature. Through art, music, games and other physical activities, they relate to the environment around them.

The school has two central cores:
Ecology: children interpret the landscape by exploring routes in nature. They experience the sights, sounds and smells and express it in drawing, songs or dance.
Adventure education: through practical activities like teamwork or cooperative playing, children develop skills in communication, cooperation, trust and problem solving. The children can make connections between these activities and the ones they do at home.

The activities vary according to the time of year and the weather. The children only attend an indoor school if there’s a wind alert, as for them there’s no bad weather, just bad clothes! Activities also vary according to what happened the night before (fallen trees, visits by animals) and, especially, the children’s interests!

And what resources or tools do they use to learn with? The list is very varied. The children use binoculars to watch birds, magnifying glasses for the plants and nets for some animals. They also draw and walk. All without forgetting the songs, rhythms, games, stories or puppets.

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