It’s not just a forest…
As we walk up the hill into the woods, the busy sounds of town get left behind,
replaced by birds chirping, a stream trickling under moss covered roots, leaves
rustling beneath our feet and a saucy squirrel (Mr. Nutters) scolding us from the
branches above. We take a minute to put our bags down and then, without any
planning, sometimes even without any speaking, the adventure begins.
I often observe a distinct shift in energy within the first few minutes, almost a
release or collective sigh, where children settle into the pace and activities they
really need. For adults, this can be more challenging, but I find children follow their
instincts more if you give them the opportunities. For some children, this means you can run as fast as you can, jump high, swing hard and roar as loud as you like – you can let it all out, go to extremes and test your limits. For others, the forest is a place to slow down, a magical place where you can sit quietly and observe a spider making a web for hours, read a book in a fort, or follow an ant highway through the underbrush. Either way, ultimately, you feel free…
And that is when you realize it’s not just a forest.
If you look deeper, you will see a bustling café, where treasures from the forest floor are transformed into foods you would find in a high-end restaurant, or see acrobats balancing on tightropes above the trees. You will see a group of warriors making tools and setting traps to defend their fort. There could be wild animals, explorers, magicians, or super heroes…with some imagination, the possibilities are endless.
And if you look deeper still, you will see children taking refuge after a hard day at
school, or challenging themselves to try something new, strengthening relationships with themselves and with their peers. In the forest we can learn all about different species of trees, plants and wildlife, but what we learn from the forest is more important than what we learn about it. The forest is the teacher, demonstrating resilience, co-existence, uniqueness and purpose.
So if the forest is the teacher, what is my role? Although some might call me an
educator, the forest is a place of learning for me too…I am learning to slow down,
and to be whatever they want or need me to be. I will be adaptive, inquisitive and
playful…I can be a bear or a fox or a bird…I can be a teacher, a leader or a follower…I can be a statue, a hider or a seeker…My goal is to have this experience complement the rest of their lives, help shape their future into one of environmental and social responsibility, but for now I am someone who listens, who cares, and who supports them…who says “yes, let’s try” instead of “be careful”.
-Nadine Hackney, Founder of The Evergreen Club Forest School Program in Hubbards, NS