Guest post by: Maryfaith Decker Miller, Director
Lime Hollow Forest Preschool/Forest School, NY
We are a new forest school, only in our third year of operation, but Lime Hollow Forest Preschool has been growing quickly. We sent two gifted teachers, and myself, the director to the 2017 Natural Wonder Summit at New Canaan Nature Center. This was the first conference we had ever been to for nature-based early childhood education. We were excited to share ideas with other forest school educators and the summit surpassed our expectations!
There were lots of practical ideas. We like to have tea everyday in the forest, but it can easily take an hour to start a fire with flint and steel and get water boiling. And what if we want warm tea AND a hike? New Canaan Nature Center Preschool's Kelly Kettle solution was really quite brilliant. We learned new songs to sing, new games to play, and how to use mindfulness. We shared strategies on how to minimize wear and tear on our natural areas where children like to play. It was great to share ideas with other educators about problems common to us all: children's winter clothing challenges, parent's fears about nature, compliance with licensing regulations.
A more subtle and powerful result of the conference, though, was the reinforcement of our truths. Emergent curriculum (flow learning, child-led learning, place based learning) is highly effective. Unstructured time in nature is critically important to a child's development of a sense of their place in our natural world. What we are doing is counter-culture, but we are not alone in our mission. There is data to help us justify the risk/reward decisions we make everyday. I can tell you that our Lime Hollow Forest Preschool team returned to the forest centered, fortified in our mission, recharged and ready to joyfully receive our young students after the Natural Wonder Summit.