Forest Schools and The Dangerous Child

The following article is cross-posted in adapted form. It was originally published on The Dangerous Child blog.

Liberating children from the tyranny of classroom indoctrination and institutional groupthink should begin early. The “forest school movement” and the “forest kindergarten movement” are experiencing growth in Europe, the Anglosphere, and in free East Asia.

In a “forest kindergarten,” like the one in the short video above, children spend most of the day in the wilderness, regardless of weather. Toys are replaced by the imaginative use of sticks, rocks and leaves. There are more than 1,500 of these in Germany. __ NYT

Kindergartens, literally “child gardens,” began to sprout up in Germany and Scandinavia around the turn of the 20th century, near 1900. The two world wars of the first half of the 20th century stalled the European development of this healthy phenomenon.

The concept of “forest schools” was further developed in Wisconsin in the 1920s, in Scandinavia and Germany in the 1950s, in the UK in the 1990s, and in Canada, Japan, and Hong Kong in the early 2000s.

Wikipedia Forest Kindergarden

Young and very young children appreciate the wild elements of play that are incorporated into the forest school. Boys are more suited for the wild than for the classroom, at least in their first dozen or so years of life.

Advantages of Forest School:

Improved confidence, social skills, communication, motivation, an concentration[15]
Improved physical stamina, fine and gross motor skills [15]
Positive identity formation for individuals and communities [16]
Environmentally sustainable behaviours and ecological literacy [15]
Increased knowledge of environment, increased frequency of visiting nature within families [15]
Healthy and safe risk-taking [16]
Improved creativity and resilience;[16]
Improved academic achievement and self-regulation;[16]
Reduced stress and increased patience, self-discipline, capacity for attention, and recovery from mental fatigue [16]
Improved higher level cognitive skills [17]
__ Source

Out of doors, every day is a feast of discovery and revelation. Play is largely self-initiated and self-regulated. Most rules of play are negotiated on the fly between children and their playmates, and adult supervision is limited.

Forest Schools and the Dangerous Child

Anything that can be taught in a classroom can be better taught in a “forest”, given adequate preparation. The immediacy of the outdoors provides resilience-building learning experiences that stay with the child far longer than the didactic pedagogy of the classroom.

The Dangerous Child curricula are best taught in the out of doors, immersed in natural settings. This early training should take place in the countryside or wilderness — whether in a forest, on a mountain, in a desert, on a farm, or on the water — is a matter of choice, discretion, need, and opportunity.

As the child grows and develops a competence-based confidence and resilience in the outdoors, he will more easily develop expertise in more technological and urban settings. But no child ever outgrows the out of doors. By growing up in the wild, a more realistic concept of nature evolves within the child than what most children receive from a classroom indoctrination.

Forest School vs. Montessori and Waldorf

For parents who are unable to lead their own children through the lessons of the outdoors during the formative years, the expanded choices provided by forest schools, Montessori, and Waldorf etc., allow for a somewhat less guilty “farming out” of the young child to third parties than would otherwise be possible.

Each local kindertarten and school facility should be thoroughly vetted before trusting one’s child to their tender mercies.

More:

Description of the movement to incorporate forest school into public school education

“The opportunity for teamwork and the necessity of solving problems independently is not replicable in the close, controlled classroom setting. . . . Interpersonal relationships in the woods are more successful than in the classroom, despite (or because of) the increased freedom and decreased supervision. . . . The opportunity for some kids to be experts in a way they aren’t in the classroom is very supportive of academic goals, because their confidence outdoors translates into effort indoors.”

A blend of forest school and Montessori

A guide to forest school activities

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