Off a beaten path of Nanaimo’s Westwood Lake, behind a thick of bushes lies a secret place, only these children and their teachers know.
“This is our forest classroom,” says Vanessa Pearson, who is the driving force behind Nanaimo Forest School.
Like a treehouse and classroom in one that they’ve built with their own little hands, this unique school is teaching these tikes what can’t be learned inside.
“We collected the branches from other areas of the park and they dragged them up and down the hill so it’s for their construction, cognitive development,” says Pearson. “They had to use team building skills. They had to agree where they wanted to put things. ”
It’s called forest school. Just launched in Nanaimo this fall, it brings a teaching method widely recognized in Europe that is the basis of many a country kids raising to city dwelling families on the mid-Island. Allowing young children to learn the building blocks that will prep them for kindergarten by using tools of the wild.
“It’s the connection with nature. That they’re finding so great for children,” says Pearson. “This is their special camp space and then we go on wanders throughout the park to explore other areas and try different things. They have to take small risks and learn how to deal with getting the occasional dirt in their eye, learn to deal with getting the occasional splinter.”
“Touching it and feeling it rather than learning it in books or puzzles or learning about it in the things we bring into the classroom,” says Vicki Wallace one of the forest school instructors.
In the process, raising kids that are rounded, but resilient. At a time, when screen time and childhood obesity are replacing hours spent outside.
Letting nature be their classroom and developing a lifelong of learning its remarkable ways.