The benefits of fresh air and outdoor learning are endless. Pembina Trails, thanks to the support of our Board, has recently launched a special pilot project. In April and May, students from École South Pointe School, Oakenwald School and École Charleswood School took part in FortWhyte Alive Forest School. The program is an educational approach characterized by experiential, inquiry, play and place-based learning in a natural outdoor environment.
Classes participating visited FortWhyte Alive once a week for six consecutive weeks. Forest School facilitator and Pembina Trails School division teacher, Eric Paas, led the program. Classroom teachers and parent volunteers also participated and offered support. “It was rewarding to witness students and teachers alike leaving Forest School each day feeling invigorated and excited to return,” shared Eric Pass. “A highlight of the Forest School project for me was witnessing how with various age groups, being exposed repeatedly to a rich, stimulating and spacious natural environment consistently enhanced student engagement and made learning experiences happen authentically and organically.”
A Typical Day at Forest School:
Forest School began with a hike to the outdoor “classroom” space at Loly Lookout. There was a morning meeting held in a tipi, a structured thematic lesson time. Each class completed a hands-on science unit during Forest School. There was also time for unstructured inquiry, play-based learning and mindful practice. The adventure wrapped up with a closing meeting, sharing circle and eventually a hike back to the bus.
What others had to say about Forest School:
“My friends and I enjoyed playing in the stick structures. I liked learning how trees grow. I wish we lived there and had a chance to go there again.” - Kindergarten Student, École South Pointe School
“The highlight for me was simply being outside, which sounds redundant. Initially, I was concerned that my students might not adapt easily to working outside (especially when it was cold and rainy!), but was very quickly proven wrong. They all couldn't wait to go. It was especially wonderful to watch certain students in my room blossom at Forest School. The passion that I saw in students who sometimes struggled in the classroom was pretty inspiring, and made for lasting memories (for the students and for me).” – Matt Reimer, Teacher, Oakenwald School
“I learned a lot about weather and science in fun activities. I liked being outside and I loved having free time to do all the activities, building forts and going exploring.” - Grade 5 Student, École Charleswood School
“I observed that the children enjoyed all aspects of the Forest School environment. There was time for free-play and creative expression, time for structured learning and mindfulness meditation, and opportunities for the children to ask an experienced adult/teacher questions regarding the various facets of outdoor life. Children were able to experience continuity of seasonal changes at Fort Whyte every time they returned to Forest School.” - Parent Volunteer, École South Pointe School
We would like to thank everyone involved in making this pilot program a success. Pembina Trails plans to provide this opportunity once again in the 2019-20 school year.
Learn more about FortWhyte Alive here.