Photograph provided by Susulyka
Frequently Asked Questions
Want to read a parent perspective on what it's like at Wee Folk Forest Kindergarten? Click here.
What do you do at Wee Folk Forest Kindergarten?
We are a "rain or shine", entirely outdoor preschool/kindergarten, which means that we spend our days outside exploring the natural world. We allow the children the freedom to play outside, because we strongly believe that this is what our young children need to be doing. Being outside in nature is developmentally appropriate, calming for our nervous systems, rich in learning opportunities, good for the health of our mind and bodies, and deeply enriching for our spirits.
Since we eat snack together, we ask that all children bring a healthy and satisfying snack and a water bottle. As we are cultivating awareness and compassion for the natural world, we ask that all food be packed in re-useable containers.
Do you have a curriculum?
During our day-by-day immersion in the natural world, we offer an interest-based learning environment, in which our inquiries as teachers are inspired by the explorations and discoveries of the children. When allowed to be free to explore the natural world, over the course of a long period of time, children naturally develop a relationship with the landscape and the living things which surround them, whether they be humans, animals or plants - and, as a result, they feel at home in "the woods". To give our children this gift of a deep connection with nature, is to give them a foundation of compassion, cooperation and curiosity. This foundation can only be formed through an unstructured immersion in nature.
What does a typical morning look like?
Our typical morning will include a flow:
- beginning with morning circle (greetings, song, movement, talk about the day)
- and then unstructured time in the forest with occasional "provocations" set up by teachers that will include different tools/materials to pique the children's interest, based on the overall focus of the group at any give time (ex: group is fascinated by mud, teachers set up buckets, shovels and bins of water near a dirt patch)
- hearty snacktime and story time, in keeping with emergent curriculum (ex: children notice hawk family living in a tree, so we read a book about the lives of hawks at snacktime)
- unstructured time in the forest or building a fire on chilly days, or storytelling or occasional craft inside the teepee for rainy days, taking a farm walk, doing an obstacle course, etc...
- closing circle reflecting on the day
Our teachers utilize inquiry based learning, which means that they more quickly ask questions of the children, rather than offering facts. We emphasize emergent curriculum, which is based on the interests of the children, naturally emerging from each day. We also prioritize unstructured time in nature, as this is what allows each child to form a relationship with the natural world that isn't mediated and formulaic.
Are you ever closed because of inclement weather?
Your child's safety is of the utmost importance to us. In general, we go outside no matter what the weather is doing, in keeping with the saying, "There is no bad weather, only bad clothing." We require that all parents dress their children in weather-appropriate clothing, which, on some days, might include long underwear, waterproof pants, snow gear, etc... (We provide detailed clothing instructions in our family packets.) We are also a hats-on program, which means that we wear sun hats when it's sunny and warm hats when it's chilly. Only in extreme weather, such as during a severe thunderstorm or when wind chill advisories or warnings are being issued, does the school close. We also close if BVSD or SVVSD closes. Click here for a helpful Child Care Weather Watch chart.
Who can join the program?
We welcome children ages 3 to 6 and homeschoolers ages 3 to 7. If your child has a special need that you feel requires additional teacher support, please contact us to discuss possibilities, and to see whether our program will be a good fit.
Who are the teachers?
We have been inspired by Erin Kenny, founder of the Cedarsong Forest Kindergarten in Washington, in our definition of the ideal Forest Kindergarten teacher. To this end, we are forming our list of candidates, based on the following qualities (many can be found in Forest Kindergartens: The Cedarsong Way by Erin Kenny)
- Cheerfulness, no matter the weather or circumstances
- A caring and respectful attitude towards the natural world
- Possessing a naturalist sensibility, with a commitment to an ongoing pursuit of knowledge of the natural world
- Familiar with an inquiry-based teaching style, which lends itself to eager student participation and rich conversations
- Kind! Modeling and emphasizing good manners and politeness, using positive reinforcement
- Not needing to be the center of attention, allowing for naturally arising social interactions between the children, while staying present
- Committed to self-care and ongoing inner work, with the understanding that children necessarily imitate the adults around them, so we must be worthy of imitating
- Committed to ongoing teacher training and education, interested in continued exploration of the Forest Kindergarten model, Naturalist studies and Early Childhood Education
All of our staff have received training or education as a Naturalist, or in Nature Connection or the Art of Mentoring through an organization such as the Wilderness Awareness School, and additionally are certified in the following:
Wilderness First Aid or CPR & First Aid, Standard Precautions
All staff have been background checked and fingerprinted.
When does the program operate?
Our 2018-2019 program will run from August 27, 2018-May 24, 2019, during the typical school year. We are closed for all major holidays, and for winter and spring break, and if BVSD or SVVSD closes for inclement weather, so do we. We offer programming Monday-Friday, 8:30-12:30pm or 8:30am-4:00pm, with optional before and aftercare. Please view our school calendar, complete with family events here.
Are there basic guiding principles for all Forest Kindergartens/Schools?
Forest Schools follow 6 basic principles (from Forest School Association of the UK):
Principle 1: Forest School is a long-term process of frequent and regular sessions in a woodland or natural environment, rather than a one-off visit. Planning, adaptation, observations and reviewing are integral elements of Forest School.
Principle 2: Forest School takes place in a woodland or natural wooded environment to support the development of a relationship between the learner and the natural world.
Principle 3: Forest School aims to promote the holistic development of all those involved, fostering resilient, confident, independent and creative learners
Principle 4: Forest School offers learners the opportunity to take supported risks appropriate to the environment and to themselves.
Principle 5: Forest School is run by qualified Forest School practitioners who continuously maintain and develop their professional practice.
Principle 6: Forest School uses a range of learner-centered processes to create a community for development and learning