The benefits of FSFNS are endless and help develop the whole-child – socio-emotional, physical, and cognitive skills. It allows education in a different context where children can carry out a range of practical, achievable activities. Going along with our values and principles, researchers have found that children continually engaged in outdoor settings typically experience an increase in their confidence, capacity to learn (motivation, understanding and concentration); communication, problem-solving and social skills; physical literacy and emotional well-being. There is also a ripple effect through the community with children bringing what they have learned and are passionate about home and to their social networks.
(Murray and O’brien, 2006)
Emergent, Inquiry-based and Student-led Learning
Whole-Child Development – Physical, Socio-Emotional, and Cognitive
Environmental Sustainability and Stewardship
Our mission is foster rich outdoor learning experiences for children ages 4-11 using a whole-child approach that will not only develop a deeper connection with nature, but also a sense of belonging in nature.
Our vision is for each child to connect to nature in meaningful way, where we understand that play and learning are synonymous. As a complement to our traditional school system, we would like to see all children in local forests, creeks, beaches, and mountains, with a skilled educator who understands the power of play and child-directed, emergent-learning. Moreover, how this connects to community-building and a more sustainable world.
We spend our days in the woods and creeks, where children learn through their own exploration – and it’s developmentally appropriate! Keeping it local gives students an appreciation of all the wonders of their own backyards. As we immerse our learning-community in the same outdoor setting on a regular basis, students develop a lasting connection with (and respect for) nature.
Our schools operate Monday-Friday, September-June and follow the SCDSB Board calendar. Children can come 1-2 days/week depending on the location and availability. Children attend 3 sessions (Fall, Winter and Spring) for the duration of the school year.
Our Programs are as follows:
Chickadees (Age 4-5)
Painted Turtles (Age 6-7)
Snowy Owls (Age 8-11)
Blue Herons (Age 12+) Leadership in Training Program
More program information can be found here.
Most school-aged children who attend FSFNS and another educational institute will attend their regular school 4 days/week and attend Forest School 1 day/week.
We strive to accomplish our core routines and reflections every day, but otherwise our days are anything but typical… One day we could be building shelters, another day could see us uncovering critters in a pond. We may be rock climbing, or paddling a river, or jumping into the role of a busy bee pollinating flowers. Maybe it’s maple syrup, orienteering, bird watching or trees – our day follows student-led interests.
It may look something like this:
8:45 AM: Arrive at Bygone Day’s School House – Exploratory Play
9:00 AM: Opening Smudge and Morning Circle
9:30 AM: Core Routines/Storytelling
10:30 AM: Snack
After Snack: Exploration/Experiential Learning/Loose Parts
12:30 PM: Lunch and Exploratory Play
1:15 PM: Exploration/Continued Lesson
3:00 PM: Wrap-up – Bead ceremony, Debrief of Day
3:30 PM: Home Time
Our passionate team of facilitators are either Forest School Practitioners, Ontario Certified Teachers, and/or Early Childhood Educators, all with specializations in Outdoor and Experiential Education. Get to know them better by checking out their bio’s here!
At FSFNS, children are viewed as competent and capable learners engaged in their own process. Thus, the traditional role of the teacher is re-written. This involves guidance and support and allows children the space, time and opportunity to explore their own interests. Teachers are not “experts” and learn alongside students with a strong emphasis on observation. In brief, the facilitator sparks engagement, keeps everyone safe, builds community, and draws out learning – but also knows when to just get out of the way and let it happen!
Mostly. Children spend most of their day, each and every day, outside regardless of the weather. We do have an indoor spaces (Schoolhouse at Bygones that is heated, Earthship greenhouse at Heathcote) just in case. In the colder months, we have a prospector tent with wood stove for warm-up breaks on especially cold days. Please see our Handbook for more details.
Forest and Nature School is an educational initiative of the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada and we follow the Forest School Canada guidelines. While most of our teachings can be linked to the Ontario Curriculum, we do not explicitly follow it.
As Certified Ontario Teachers we certainly make many connections to the Ontario Curriculum, we are however unhurried and have no curriculum guidelines. This allows us an emergent curriculum and truly child-inspired education!
Collingwood – Bygone Days Heritage Village
879 Sixth Street
This huge property on the outskirts of Collingwood offers forests, ponds, campsites, a sugar shack and a 19th century school house as our home base.
Thornbury – Free Spirit Tours Site
36720 Grey Road 13
Located on the beautiful Beaver River, this is an ideal forested area with a campsite, green spaces, gardens, a natural playground and much, much more!
Risky play is a huge part of our programming. All activities we do have been thoroughly developed with a risk-benefit analysis. The benefits of risk-taking is a fundamental part of Forest School and an important part of healthy child development.
External risk factors are managed by daily and seasonal site risk assessments, as well as dynamic risk assessments in the moment by both educators and students.
To view a copy of our Risk/Benefit analysis, click here.
And be sure to check out our blog on Risky Play!
Yes, at times. And at other times they run separately depending on activities and interests.
Yes, we are in our School areas. However sometimes we venture to public spaces and cannot guarantee they are nut-free.