Playing with sticks

Forest school helps me get out and enjoy nature. It also helps me make new friends.

This fall has been spectacular in New York City, and Fiona has a front-row seat for it at forest school.
This fall has been spectacular in New York City, and Fiona has a front-row seat for it at forest school.

Every week, Daddy and I go to forest school. We go to the bus stop and meet my friends there. Some of my friends are Alyosha Kai and Marcella. We get on the bus and ride until we get to the forest, and then we get off the bus and go into the forest to have a snack. I like having a snack and sharing snacks with the other kids, because then everyone tries different kinds of foods. I like to bring raisins or carrots, and sometimes I also have some crackers or cheese.

After we have our snack, we go to a different part of the forest. I like to find a stick to carry. Then we sing some songs. “Leaves are falling down, on my head and nose and toes. Nose, toes, head.” We go exploring and sometimes see animals. We found some worms one time, and someone touched them, but I didn’t touch them. One time we found a hole in a tree. There’s a spider web in the hole. Daddy and I found it. I look into it. I don’t touch the spider webs.

We also go to the pine tree forest, where there are lots of pine needles on the ground and lots of logs. One time we built a huge teepee out of sticks. It was even big enough that I could climb inside! I also like to play tag. To tag somebody like Alyosha Kai or Marcella. You run and then tag someone. Run and tag. At forest school, we don’t bring toys with us, we just find toys on the ground. I play with acorns and climb on big logs. We explore. I do lots of things. I play with sticks. Reach up high, up in the sky. I collect sticks. A ton of them! I collect a ton of acorns and sticks and I drive home on the bus with my collection. With my acorns and my sticks. Sometimes I find a really big stick that I can’t really pick up, and I try to drag it along the ground to the bus. But then Daddy says it’s too big for the bus, so we leave it in the forest.

I like going to forest school even when it’s rainy or snowy or windy. We go for walks sometimes instead of playing in one spot. Then we can see different parts of the forest. It’s better to walk when it’s cold or rainy because sitting still and playing in the same spot would make us get all wet and cold, but it’s fun to explore when the weather isn’t as good.

What is “forest school”?

Forest school is basically the way Fiona describes it: kids go to the woods and play with sticks. But it can give children a great opportunity not only to be in nature but also to learn and develop social, problem-solving, and other skills. Unstructured, informal playing and learning are central to the forest school concept, though the amount of structure and organized learning varies. Our forest school tends to be extremely informal, much like a large playgroup, though there is some structure, including a circle time where we sing songs.

According to Wikipedia, Laona, Wisconsin, claims the world’s first forest school, in 1927. The concept spread to northern Europe, where it became particularly popular in countries such as Sweden and Denmark. In recent years, the idea has made its way back to the United States, likely a response to the teach-to-the-test model so prominent in public education today. Susan first read about it online and became intrigued with the concept, so we were delighted when a group of parents in our neighborhood organized this free, cooperative forest school.

This article appeared on pages 6–7 of Issue 12 | October 2013.

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