I'm the Founder and Lead Educator of The Wild Wonders Forest School!
I'd love to tell you a bit more about myself and why I've started The Wild Wonders Forest School!
I am a mother, and educator and an artist. I have worked with children in various capacities all my life. I started with babysitting and camp counselling, in my youth and over the years, I have been a Camp Counsellor, Fine Arts Co-ordinator and even the Camp Director, in summer camps, in both Alberta and Nova Scotia. I later pursued my Bachelor in Fine Arts with a specialization in Arts Education from the University Of Calgary, and subsequently, my Bachelor of Education from Acadia University. I’ve spent last ten years substitute teaching with children of all ages, in the public school system. Since Covid turned our lives upside down, I have found myself with a renewed passion for getting children outside. In 2019, I enrolled in Child and Nature Alliance of Canada’s Forest School Practitioners Certification. I completed the program in April 2022. For the past 2 years, I have been working towards opening a Forest School. It is the kind of program I would like to be able send my own son to, and there was nothing similar running in our area .
Forest Schools, for those who don’t know, provide year round, outdoor programs connecting kids and families to nature and the outdoors. Forest Schools originated in Denmark in the 1950’s. They are now gaining momentum internationally, across Canada and in Nova Scotia especially. These land based schools are connecting children to nature through free play, exploring, wondering and wandering. Here children learn at their own pace in a natural setting. It could be be in a forest or an overgrown vacant lot, which they visit repeatedly over a period of time, preferably in all weather and seasons. Forest Schools also aim to develop connections to the Indigenous peoples who have historically been the keepers of the land they use. Forest Schools strive to incorporate learning from an Indigenous lens, with the more euro-centric scientific model, in the Mi’kmaw spirit of Etuaptmumk; (Two Eyed Seeing).
Wild Wonders Forest School aims to get children outside, year round, in all weather, rain or shine! This is all about creating relationships with children to nature, others, and themselves. It’s a place where children are a the helm of their own learning, as we focus on a play based, emergent curriculum and inquiry based learning models. Children are free to explore through play as they create and learn at their own pace. This is not a traditional daycare or full time school setting, but provides part time program options for very young children, home school and public school families. Our program site is located in Midville Branch, N.S. We are just 10 minutes from Bridgewater.
The more time I spend in public schools, the more I am concerned that there is an over emphasis on pushing academics in the early years and not enough time for free play and exploration at children’s own pace. There is often too big of a push for reading and math skills, before all children are ready for it. I worry we are doing a disservice to our children by cooping them up inside all day long, with increasing screen time, even in schools. The statistics towards childhood obesity rates, myopia, other increases in childhood diseases and mental disorders, etc… all point to this.
I've been inside many classrooms and observed hundreds of children, during my time in schools. I am increasingly convinced that the freedom to play in outside, in a natural setting, is one thing our children are lacking overall. I am interested in the importance of young children spending time outside and the impact this has on mental and physical health, school readiness, as well as reading and writing skills later in life. There is so much well documented research that points towards children needing free play, especially in their early years, to be best prepared for academics later in life. Our children need a chance to explore the world for themselves before they are very interested in being taught anything. I believe time spent playing outside should be a prerequisite to every education. I believe that children need to run, climb, and play, before they are strong enough to sit still and hold pencils. I believe that when children look at things up close and observe vistas from very far away, their eyes develop more strength for reading. I believe children need the freedom to grow at their own pace!
So, I want my son to dig in the dirt and squish as much mud as he can between his fingers, before he sits at a desk, I want him to turn over rocks and search for bugs before he is told how to hold a pencil the "right way". I want him to develop a relationship to nature and himself before he is put in a classroom, doing worksheets about phenomena he could easily interact with outdoors. I want to offer other families the choice to let their kids do the same. I want to teach the next generation of children that the rain and snow are not good enough reasons to stay inside, watching TV and playing video games. I want to help kids connect to nature, and therefore themselves.
As a mother, an educator and as a human being, living in the crazy world we do right now, I feel that our children need more time outside and that families need support making that happen, I want to provide that space and support network for my family and my community. I'd love it if you wanted your kids to come and play with us.
My son, Liam, and myself on an outdoor adventure!