Forest Kindergarten: An Outdoor Learning Experience to Build a Strong Foundation
O.J. Neighbours' Forest Kindergarten is an all-day, blended learning experience that includes both classroom learning as well as outdoor learning. It is based upon the philosophies of Reggio Emilia and Forest Schools.
- The Reggio Emilia philosophy believes children form an understanding of themselves and their place in the world through interaction with others. Students use many ways to show their understanding and express their thoughts and creativity (the "hundred languages of children"). It is through hands-on interaction that children explore, learn, and grow.
- The Forest School philosophy believes that children who are allowed to be outside exploring their surroundings without commercial toys that have a predefined meaning or purpose supports the development of language skills, as children verbally create a common understanding of the objects from nature they use in their play. These outdoor structured and unstructured times have a positive impact on children's development, particularly in areas of balance and agility, but also manual dexterity, physical coordination, tactile sensitivity, and depth perception. They also experience a positive sense of self and increased problem-solving skills.
- The Forest Kindergarten at O.J. Neighbours combines the benefits of both philosophies into one holistic program for students.
Benefits of Outdoor Learning
The benefits of outdoor learning have been well documented. Some of the major benefits are as follows:
- Playing outside enhances children's mental health by helping to better connect them to self, to others, and to the natural world.
- Allowing students to free-play teaches them to share, cooperate, and resolve issues. Children who play together and organize games experience a constructive way to avoid social isolation, learn teamwork, and solve problems.
- Connecting students with nature can help them excel academically.
- Increased outdoor time has been shown to decrease symptoms of ADHD.
- School programming that provides more time for play and exploratory learning has been shown to increase motivation for school, as well as result in better reading and math scores.
Students Who Can Benefit from Forest Kindergarten
- Students who are five years old by August 1st but need an extra year of development prior to regular kindergarten.
- Students who are five years old by December 31st who need an educational experience beyond a traditional preschool program.
A Day in Forest Kindergarten
Morning activities will be spent indoors in various types of groupings (large, small, individual). Some of the indoor activities will be as follows:
- Greeting Time: Teacher meets with the class to greet them, share a book and go over the daily schedule.
- Planning Time: Students will work in small groups to plan what they will do during work time in an effort to build organizational skills and goal setting.
- Work Time: Students carry out the plan they created for themselves. Adults interact with students to check in on how their plan is going and if they need to change it.
- Review Time: Students are in small groups again to reflect on their planning and work time and to discussed what they learned that day.
- Lessons will occur in both whole and small groups.
Afternoon activities will be spent exploring the outdoors in all types of weather. Some of the outdoor activities will be as follows:
- Sit Spots and Nature Journals: Students will find their own special "sit spot" where they must use their senses and capture what is happening in the world around them in their nature journal.
- Tools: Students will develop gross and fine-motor skills using various hand tools and science tools.
- Nature Art: Students will create their own art out of things found in nature.
- Universal Childhood Activities: Students will be able to climb, jump, roll, throw, yell, build, collect, run, balance, dig, and play.
Dressing for Forest Kindergarten: Proper Clothing is Essential
Forest Kindergarten students are outside in all kinds of weather. For the safety of the students, we will strictly enforce our dress code. When children are properly dressed, they enjoy being outside even in the coldest or wettest weather. We will constantly monitor weather alerts, making sure all children are prepared for the weather that day, and follow the National Weather Service wind chill and heat index charts. Please note that parents are responsible for providing the items students are required to have for Forest Kindergarten.
Students will need the following:
- Rain gear (rain boots, rain coat)
- Snow gear (coat, snow pants, snow boots, gloves, hat, scarf)
- If/when other items are required, families will be informed of those items.