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Beginnings: Forest Days pilot program in Philadelphia

Thursday, October 18, 2018 11:29 AM | Monica Wiedel-Lubinski (Administrator)

Written by: Rachel Schwartzman, Director/Lead Teacher of Forest Days

“Are you trickin’ me?” A child asked, after I informed the kindergarten class that we would be having school in the forest together on Wednesdays.  I promised him that this wasn’t a trick, and that in fact, the next week we would meet at the entrance to the trail to the forest.  We would travel to a big gate which I would open with a key, and that we would enter the forest and find our “forest classroom.”  I showed the children photographs of the logs, trees, stumps and sticks, and asked them: “What do you think you will play here?”

I will climb!  I will hide!  I will make that my house!  Their ideas came easily, although many of these children voiced that they had never been to a forest before.  Their natural curiosity and excitement, and desire to learn and play was apparent even before we stepped foot into the forest together.

Sure enough, the children needed no directions or prompts to know how to play and engage in the forest.  Day one was rich with all of the ideas they had imagined, plus numerous more which emerged.  The climbing, hiding, and dramatic play was accompanied by collecting and building.  There was joy in holding a giant stick twice their own size.  There was the challenge of climbing huge logs and finding a way down.  And, there was so much interest and delight in finding and holding worms, leading to many “homes” built for the worms.

A teacher commented that she was concerned the children might be bored by so much unstructured time.  And yet, I have found that unstructured time in the highly rich forest environment is the exact condition for children to be highly engaged and focused.

We are just at the beginning of something new, together. The teachers, children and I are learning about what the forest can teach us and what stories and relationships we will grow in this new landscape.




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