On mornings in Brooklyn, people on their morning commutes stop to watch and greet 27 kindergartners, waddling along with the swishswish swish of their blue body suits. “Where are you going?” passersby often ask, to which the children reply:
“We’re going to the forest!”
For these kindergartners, among others at neighboring schools in Brooklyn and Manhattan, school takes place in the forest (AKA a city park) on one morning each week — a concept known as Forest School.
The roots of Forest School can be traced back to the 1950’s in Scandinavia. Now, Forest School Associations exist around the world, as a movement for children to spend more unstructured time outdoors has spread. Many pre-kindergartners or kindergartners in a Forest School model are outdoors full-time.
Key principles of Forest School outlined by the Forest School Association of the UK include:
- It is a long term process with regular contact with a local wooded environment (preferably over the seasons).
- It follows a child-centred pedagogy where children learn about and manage risk.
- It has a high adult:child ratio.
- Observations of the learners are key to enabling scaffolding of the learning.
- Care for the natural world is integrated.