FOSTERING A LOVE OF LEARNING
The nature-immersion (or "forest kindergarten") philosophy has been around for over 50 years, having started in the Scandinavian countries of Europe and expanded to the U.S. The model has been shown to help create independent, compassionate, adaptive, social, confident children who develop an early love for learning which sets them up for success in primary school and well into adulthood.
There are over 300 nature preschools and kindergartens in the U.S., serving over 15,000 children each year. Forest schools are the antidote to over-scheduled, technology-saturated, test-focused programs that have pushed into preschool. Below are links to a few stories and studies from well-respected publications which discuss the philosophies and practices of forest schools:
WHY ARE KIDS HAPPIER AT FOREST SCHOOL?
THEY ARE MORE PHYSICALLY ACTIVE
During forest school sessions, both boys and girls are significantly more physically active than they are at a regular school, and their activity is both more intense and more prolonged. Physical activity from outdoor play can in turn contribute to slimmer waist lines and better motor skills.
THEY PLAY MORE IMAGINATIVELY
Nature is the perfect setting for dramatic play and abounds with open-ended play materials like pine cones, rocks, sticks, logs, sand and leaves that encourage children’s imaginations to run wild. These creative skills are essential for problem-solving and succeeding at school and life later. Also, natural spaces are not gender-coded, which encourages boys and girls to play together and helps promote gender equity.
THEY DON’T FIDGET
At forest school, active children are easily able to burn off excess energy, which can be particularly beneficial to children with ADHD. Researchers have also found that nature has a soothing, restorative effect that makes it easier for children to focus in a natural area or after spending time in one. And the more natural the area, the stronger the effect.
THEY BECOME BETTER AT JUDGING RISK
Children who are allowed to take risks in nature, for example by climbing trees, using tools and being near fire, naturally learn how to manage those risks. Risky play is also believed to nurture adventurousness and cultivate resilience and self-reliance, both traits that can help children overcome challenges.
THEY DEVELOP A DESIRE TO PROTECT NATURE
Children who spend time in nature have a better understanding of how it works and become emotionally attached to it. Several researchers have showed that this makes them more likely to want to protect nature later in life.
(source: Market Watch)
WHAT ARE PARENTS SAYING ABOUT THRIVE?
KAY ESKRIDGE, MOTHER OF JULIA, 3 YEARS OLD
What has been the impact of this preschool program on your child so far? I have seen growth in her confidence to try new things. Julia is naturally very cautious, and was not a climber before Forest School. Now she is eager to climb! I've also noticed growth in the way she understands animals, weather and Seasons. On the way to school yesterday, we had a long conversation about eagles and what kinds of things they catch to eat. She was able to tell me what things would be too heavy for an eagle, and what things they might like better. And she was correct! She is also very tuned into the weather conditions, and every day she is able to discuss the daily weather. I also see huge growth in her resilience. She is not scared of any weather condition, and wants to play outside regardless of ice or rain!
What has surprised you most about Thrive Forest School and the learning that the kids do? I was surprised at how much science they are grasping, and I Iove it! My husband is a Biology teacher and is also very impressed with this aspect. They learn a great deal through story time also.
VICTORIA MICHELS, MOTHER OF CALVIN, 4 YEARS OLD
What does your child think about Thrive Forest School? He thinks it is so special. He gets to go to school in a forest! He tells everyone he meets that he doesn't go to a regular preschool, but he goes to school in a forest.
What has been the impact of this preschool program on your child so far? Calvin now knows that every day, no matter the weather, is a great time to explore. He also is less reliant on toys and objects to entertain him. He will happily engage in imaginative play using sticks and leaves. He is much more confident of his own abilities and much more willing to persevere when he is having trouble doing something.