A Day in the Life of a Forest Schooler
Curious to know a day in the Life of a Forest Schooler looks like?
Nadine Hackney is an outdoor educator, and the founder of the Evergreen Club in Hubbards, NS and a friend of fairechild. We connected with Nadine when we sent her samples of our earliest Faire Child garments to try on her Forest School kids. We knew that these kids would be standing in creeks, jumping in puddles, and climbing trees; our ideal experimenters.
We've been curious about what a day in the life of a Forest Schooler is like, and below Nadine reveals exactly that.
Hi Nadine! Can you tell us a little bit about The Evergreen Club?
The Evergreen Club is an outdoor education program in Hubbards, NS. Our community has so many wonderful outdoor spaces including seaside beaches, forests, trails and parks, so I started the program with the goal of connecting children and families in the community to these spaces. We follow the “Head, Heart, Hands” approach to outdoor education outlined by Forest School Canada, where learning is child-directed, emergent and inquiry-based. The program runs year-round to provide continual immersion in nature and foster the development of lasting relationships with the environment, and a variety of opportunities for education and skill development evolve through experiential learning.
What is a “typical day” like?
Not typical! We really like to see where each day takes us, and often projects or adventures can last for days or weeks, even months if the children are particularly engaged and the storyline of a game they are playing evolves over time…We have open, casual conversations at the start of the week about what some current interests are and which locations we will focus on and why. I have a big calendar up beside their coat hooks that the children can stick post-it notes on with any special events or things they would like to do. At the beginning of each seasonal session I am a bit more involved in this stage, asking questions, talking about the weather, mentioning options, but within a short time they really take on the responsibility of planning and decision making as a group. Since we have a wide variety of spaces to use we make decisions about locations based on weather, interests and interactions (with friends, the environment and the community).
To be a bit more specific…we start each session at the daycare, where children are dropped off, so they can use the washroom and change into their outdoor clothes, plus pack their bags.
We have a room filled with extra clothes, tools, books (identification books and story books), ropes, art supplies, buckets, shovels, science equipment, tarps, loose parts, etc. so they pack whatever they would like for the day and then we head outside!
As we are getting ready, conversations and planning happen naturally, so we don’t have a formal sit-down chat about what we will do for the day…I also take this time as they are packing to check in with the kids, ask how their day has started, what they had for breakfast…for the kids this is just a nice chat, they can tell me about how many pancakes they ate or how their younger sibling kept them up all through the night…but for me, this information really helps shape my interactions with them for the day. If someone had a rough morning, didn’t sleep well or skipped a meal (just a few examples) this could impact their behaviour, emotions, physical abilities and even their safety so I keep that in mind as the day goes on.
It takes about 15 minutes to get ready, and then we head outside! Snack is available whenever the children are hungry, different kids can eat at different times if they would like, but often the group settles down to eat and chat together, or I read a story out loud for those who would like.
There are some things that have stayed consistent over the years – trees are climbed, sticks are turned into swords, mud is jumped into, tag is played, objects are floated down the stream, logs are balanced on, rocks are jumped off, and forts are made. On top of that, our adventures are endless.
In the Spring, we might visit the pond regularly and observe the frog and salamander spawn develop over time, or work in one of two edible community gardens that we care for.
In Summer, we love biking on the trails or homemade stunt courses, playing games on the open field, swimming at the beach and picking berries (we have blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries growing wild, and last year we made jam from them too!).
In the Fall we enjoy making fires and building shelters and forts, perhaps taking a field trip to a local wildlife sanctuary and making art with treasures from the forest floor.
In the Winter we might go on a snowshoe hike or check out all the amazing ice patterns that form along the stream, and we especially love coming across animal tracks and bunny poop!
At the end of the day the children are always excited to return the following day to continue exploring, playing and learning together.
--Thank you so much Nadine!