Posts Tagged ‘education’

A Way Forward – The Manitoba Nature Summit

The Manitoba Nature Summit Inc., was founded in 2008 by a small group of Early Childhood Educators (ECE’s) who professed an eagerness for sharing their love of the outdoors with others.

The group was concerned with the lack of outdoor play that was happening in ECE programs and after many conversations determined that perhaps the people who were providing ECE might be lacking an understanding of what it means to be outside, or in short, what to do outside with children.

The idea for a Summit, a meeting of the minds, was developed and the first-ever Manitoba Nature Summit was held in September 2010.  Adults who work with children were invited to explore and experience an outdoor extravaganza of activities, all with the mindset that these were things that could be done with children.

Folks from Wilderness Awareness School ( from Duvall, Washington shared their awareness raising expertise with a small but committed group of educators.

Met with success, the second Manitoba Nature Summit was held in September 2012 with choices of activities to engage in and develop the sense of being outside with children is not only good for them but good for those who work in Early Learning and Child Care, the education system or outdoor learning programs.

The majority of the workshops were facilitated outdoors in a hands-on interactive manner to ensure educators filled their own personal toolkit with activities, fun and knowledge that they could in turn share with the children they interact with.

Here are some of the highlights of the 2012 Manitoba Nature Summit.

Dr. Heather Hinam shared her vast knowledge of Manitoba’s flora and fauna.

Severn Cullis-Suzuki delivered an empowering emotional address that exemplified the power of the grass roots movement.

Laura Reeves led the group in a dusk “Blind Drum Stalk” walk where we learned how to walk like foxes.

Marghanita Hughes shared the beauty of fairy houses and the joy of connecting children with nature.

Gardening can happen even in the smallest urban space and children still get their fingers muddy.

Camp Manitou,, provides a beautiful riverbank setting to re-connect with nature.

The Sunday morning closing ceremony was powerful for all participants.

In Manitoba the movement is growing to get children of all ages outdoors regardless of the weather.  A small but committed group of early childhood educators, teachers, college instructors, government officials is leading this group.  Watch for details of the Manitoba Nature Summit 2014 on our website at or on Facebook.

The Manitoba Nature Summit is a collaboration of some amazing professionals in Manitoba – early childhood educators, teacher, government official, college instructors.  Pictured below are the authors of this success story.

back row (l to r) – Corine Anderson, Sigrid Quinn, Kristi Fitzgerald, Maddi Kettner, Michele Henderson, Ruth Lindsey-Armstrong , front row (l to r) – Jamie Snydal, Cheryl Tremblay, Mavis Lewis-Webber

Occupy Outside

This year, a team of teachers, a physiotherapist and an occupational therapist worked together to add a new station at Powell River’s Ages and Stages. Ages and Stages is an annual event designed to educate and enlighten parents of preschoolers about ways to provide optimum all-round development for their preschool child. The team from my school decided we needed to get the word out to parents about the importance of getting their children outdoors and away from TV, Computers, video games etc. In other words: SCREEN to GREEN!

As an elementary school teacher and special education teacher for the past 30 years, I have seen a very worrisome trend in child development in the last ten or so years. Children, are finding it harder to attend in class, to socialize, to play creatively to print and to coordinate their large body movements. As time went on and I talked to more professionals in education, there seemed to be a consensus…children are not getting outside enough, and they are spending too much time watching TV, video games and playing on the computer. ( Just go for a walk on Saturday morning or afternoon in my neighbourhood and it is rare to see children playing outdoors.)

So, to make parents more aware of the importance of outdoor play, we set up a station where children and their parents could explore nature. We called our station “Occupy Outside” and we had fun showing children the large tadpoles in our little “pond”.

We had a planting table where children could plant colourful beans or sunflower seeds and we also gave out little strawberry and lettuce plants.

We even had Little Humbugs around so the children could make little homes for them with ferns and driftwood. All in all it was a very successful day. I know we adults had a good time as did our Grade 9 helpers and by the looks on the young children’s faces, I know that they especially enjoyed our Occupy Outdoors station.

Thanks to Marghanita Hughes for all the support.

Liz Brach
Special Education Teacher
Assumption School
Powell River B.C.

The UK “Go Outside” Revolution

In the UK the ‘Go Outside Revolution’ is happening all over, down in the woodlands and forests. Forest schools and Nature Kindergartens are emerging and thriving across the country. Both approaches have their roots in Scandinavian outdoor preschools but have taken on a uniquely British flavour.  Forest Schools are delivered by trained practitioners and take children of all ages from the regular school or nursery they attend into local woodlands. These projects take place over a number of weeks with children going regularly to the same part of the woods.  This helps children build up the awareness of the potential of being in the woods and allows time for the children to become completely at ease with their surroundings. Nature Kindergartens are based more closely on the Scandinavian model. Nurseries and preschools may have a building they use, but try and spend as much time as possible outside.

The Forest School approach took off in the UK when Early Years professionals visited outdoor preschools in Sweden and saw at first hand the impact on children’s levels of wellbeing and development. Since the mid nineties The Forest School approach has spread across Britain and across the age range, with somewhere in the region of 25000 people attending Forest School accredited training. Teachers and other members of the children’s workforce using their training to inspire the children and young people they work with and freelance Forest School practitioners are working alongside groups to get more children to Go Outside in almost any weather.

One of the strengths of Forest School is it happens over time. This is not a ‘one-off’ visit but instead children go to the woods at least once a week for half a term or longer. It is this element that allows for personal transformations, for relationships to develop, for ideas to emerge and grow, for children to understand what the woodland affords in the way of possibilities. It is this element that allows the children to take a lead, to make their own plans and take charge of their own learning.

Taking the step outside into the woods can be daunting for any school or setting and having the support of a trained Forest School practitioner or having undertaken the training themselves gives the confidence to make that step. The Forest school training also covers environmental impact so that each step is taken in as light a way as possible.

The teachers get to see their pupils in a different light. They can see children as motivated, enthusiastic problem solvers which has a real impact back in the classroom. Forest School practitioners also try and address the social and emotional needs of children. By helping children develop self awareness they are also able to develop the awareness of the natural environment and the other people around them. Some children find being in the woods unlocks their potential.

Three year old Dylan was electively mute in nursery but found it irresistible to shout “look at me!” as he swung on a rope tied to a tree. Ten year old Reece was at risk of exclusion from school. At Forest School found an environment in which he excelled at something, he carved his own wooden knife which he used to spread butter on the toast he cooked over the fire. Five year old Karam was scared when she went to the woods for the first time, but over the weeks developed confidence and resilience. She grew to love coming to the woods and on the weekend took her Mum and brothers and sisters back to the same spot to show them the tree she loved climbing the most.

So Forest Schools are changing the way children spend their time and giving them skills and connections with nature for life.

Thanks to Lily Horseman at Kindling Playwork for writing such an inspiring post. After reading, I am left full of hope and excited at the fact that there are so many forest schools popping up throughout Britain. Hopefully this will inspire a similar “revolution” across North America.…………………Marghanita Hughes

•       Kindling:

•        Forest School forum:

•       Training:

•        Twitterlist:!/kindlinglily/forest-school

Hashtags: #forestschool #forestschools

•        Forest Education Initiative:

•       Forest School Special Interest Group; Institute of Outdoor Learning:

  • Forest school Wales

Forest Explorers – Connecting Kids with Nature

This year my kindergarten students, my education assistant, and I have become “Forest Explorers” as we like to call ourselves. We spent many hours outside in the forest just behind our school in Port Moody, BC. I filled my rolling teacher cart with all sorts of goodies – shovels, buckets, string, dinosaurs, jingle bells (to scare off the bears!), pencils, clipboards, and magnifying glasses.

The students thrived in this amazing outdoor environment, and soon we were teaching the older students in our school how to “play” outside. Many teachers and parents didn’t even know this amazing space existed on our schoolyard. Students broke into groups using imaginative play to create mud pies and mud soup, racing through the forest playing tag games, scanning the stream for water bugs and creatures, throwing rocks in to see who could make the biggest splash, and digging giant holes!

The year was finished with a giant family picnic in the woods, with over 70 children and adults enjoying a BBQ in the great outdoors. I was never raised as an outdoorsy type person, in fact many people laugh at my Coach brand pink gum boots, however after seeing the positive reaction of my students learning in this outdoor environment, the elimination of any behavior issues while outside, the communication and collaboration that takes place, I am sold and hooked on learning outside!

Next year we have 88 new kindergarten students coming to our school and I can not wait to introduce them to the world that exists outside the classroom!

Lindsay Seto
Kindergarten Teacher
Aspenwood Elementary