WHY we love forest school and WHY it is so important for our children
Forest School and its place in a Montessori Nursery
A few days ago, we returned to our beautiful Montessori classrooms welcoming our little gems. Our returning children are happy to be back and our newcomers are slowly getting into a routine. There is a lovely buzz of chitter chatter around daily routines etc, where our returning children excitedly inform our newcomers, and remind us oldies of our favourite Friday activity soon to begin, our beloved forest school.
Forest school has been part of Little Gems Montessori’s curriculum since 2016. It is a multisensory activity, that help the children develop their concentration, refine their senses, develop large and fine motor skills and encourage their motivation to learn. Every Friday we witness the children’s growth in confidence and important life skills as well as the development of an awareness of WHY it is so important to respect and protect our environment.
Personally, I will never forget those treasured “awareness moments” that children have shown me on our days in the forest. For example, a child may have found rubbish on the ground next to some trees and nests and, spontaneously without a prompt, taking the responsibility to pick it up, carry it along until they find a bin to place it in, simultaneously talking about the pollution of the environment, all from their own experience. Hooray!
At Little Gems Montessori, being outside plays a key role in the children’s learning process. Nature is an integral part of a Montessori approach, and connecting with nature provides a child with many developmental opportunities that the indoors simply cannot. Dr Montessori believed that each child has an innate love for nature. “The child's innate drive for exploration and independence is the key motivator to learning through. If we want children to know and understand our planet we must begin by giving them opportunities to learn through their senses” (Montessori, 2007b) “…. and to engage with their environment through open ended play” (Community Products (UK) Ltd, 2009).
First- hand experience
Both Montessori (2007a, 2007b) and Piaget (in MCI, undated) advocated that young children learn best through interactions with the environment using their senses. Opportunities to observe, explore and investigate their environment provide them with sensory experiences which form a firm foundation for all future learning. Forest school gives a great opportunity to remind us that we come from nature – the feeling that we belong to nature is something amazing.
There is no such thing as bad weather on our forest school outings, only bad clothing! Being exposed to all the weather conditions gives the children the opportunity to problem solve, build confidence and further their love for the outdoors by being able to explore and act in nature in any weather condition.
But now, let’s see how our Forest School day goes by…
The bus is here!
Every Friday the school bus is waiting for the children. Booster seats are placed in the bus while the children are getting ready in their classrooms. They do a headcount (including themselves :) with their teacher, check their bags for snacks and water. When everybody has arrived, it is time to get on the bus, strap in and off we go!
If you go into the woods today, you’ll be in for a big surprise!
As soon as we reach the forest you can hear all these lovely little voices telling each other ‘’I can see the trees’’, ‘’I hope we will see the birds’’, “do you remember the goose?” “I wonder if…” We all get off the bus with twinkling eyes full of curiosity, enthusiasm and excitement!
Explore, explore, explore
Forest school is all about exploring! Exploration time is something that we all look forward to as it provides opportunities for the gathering of sensory impressions of the object that is of interest, which will lead to investigation.
Exploration never comes to an end when at forest school and in nature in general, but we do need some fuel in order to continue! After washing hands, we sit down in our special shady spot to rest and eat our snack. At this time one can also see the children talking, discussing their discoveries and enjoying the company of their friends under the big trees. The social development is very present!
After we finish our snack we set off on the next leg of our hike which includes climbing. Our young learners love this adventure! Over the past year I have noticed that climbing the big hill is one of the children’s favourite parts of the hike. So much effort and teamwork go into climbing the “big hill”. Reaching the top of the hill gives them such a great feeling of pride and achievement.
Goodbye forest (see you next Friday!)
After a wonderful day filled with adventures, it is time to go back at school. Happy but tired our little gems now wave goodbye to the forest and our animal friends. With pockets and bags filled with little treasures we hop on the bus that is waiting for us and look forward to be back next Friday :)
In conclusion ...
... all these experiences will enrich our children ‘s life, sparking an interest and enthusiasm for the outdoors. Seeds of interest are sown with a learning that may germinate and blossom in their later life. This exposure will provide the children with necessary tangible sensory experiences from the world they live in - an essential foundation for all their future learning.
Katerina is based at Little Gems Montessori in Nicosia. She works as an Assistant Teacher with our little gems in our Topaz classroom. Last school year, Katerina was exposed to forest school for the first time in her working career and she embraced the concept fully witnessing the benefits outdoor learning brings to children.
If you would like to learn more about Forest School and Outdoor Learning, contact us on tele: +357 99950070 or send us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org