At Forest School, Nature is the Greatest Teacher and Classroom

Aug 27, 2019

At Forest School, nature is the teacher. We are mentors and facilitators, helping learners:

  • Connect with themselves
  • Connect with others
  • Connect with nature
  • Connect with what has come before us

We work with learner’s natural curiosity and passions. We gently motivate them to push their own comfort zones or “edges,” reading the ability level of each learner to provide appropriate challenges. We provide a safe as necessary, community-oriented learning environment where each individual’s gifts are honored and learners develop positive relationships with themselves, others and the greater world around them. Learners love it when adults play, learn and wonder with them; as mentors we are part of the group too! We engage their imaginations and help them focus their minds and incorporate lots of sensory experiences to cultivate a true love of learning.

Young learners learn through play and mimicry. Most of what we do each day looks and feels like play. Leaders and volunteers are also role modeling dressing for the weather, being safe around fire, being active learners, being kind and respectful, caring for the land and more so the learners have positive models to mimic.

Every day, we use core routines to build the skills and habits of loving to learn, being happy, focusing attention, being physically active, being helpful, caretaking Mama Earth, being loving and quieting the mind.

Our Core Values + Routines:

All sessions are designed and led by Level 3 Forest School Association leaders and qualified staff and volunteers. Each session is learner led and learners are given the freedom and responsibility to explore their interests and therefore initiate and direct their own learning.

Our Core Values Include:

Children/Learners—as inherently competent, intelligent, creative, and loving beings. All children are born perfect, are whole, complete and enough. They are our future.

Happiness and Joy—we believe these are a child’s natural state.

Curiosity—we harness the natural curiosity of young learners and try to keep them in a curious state as long as possible, because curiosity drives learning.

Helpfulness—young learners love to be helpful and we build on this desire, eventually introducing the concept of service.

Kindness and Respect—our bottom-line expectation is that we all treat ourselves, each other and Mama Earth with kindness and respect.

Physical Experience—we strive to create a place where learners can be fully “in” their bodies, testing their limits and experiencing themselves as strong, confident physical beings. Sensory experiences are an important part of this, too. We know physical strength and sensory experiences are essential for optimal brain development, so we make sure our learners get lots of both.

Peacemaking—we create and maintain a culture where peace is honored, and when conflict arises, we address it using the concepts of empathy, inner peace, listening and using fine words, and looking for what everyone can agree on.

Ancestors—young learners are often surprised to learn that their parents have parents, their grandparents have grandparents, and on and on into the past. We teach respect for past generations, what they discovered, and what we can learn from them. As a corollary, we teach respect for future generations and what we can leave them.

Deep Nature Connection—is the feeling of being truly “at home” in nature, with a deep sense of loving and understanding the natural world of which you are a part. It leads both to an ethic of caring for Mama Earth and a sense of wholeness.

Our Core Routine Include:

Giving Thanks—we start or end the day with gratitude, and pause at other times as well to acknowledge what we value and think outside ourselves.

Hazard Identification—what every beginner needs to know to stay safe as necessary outdoors. We also work to develop common sense— “the least common”.

Sensory Awareness Activities—exercising our senses sharpens them and contributes to sensory integration. Attaching sensory information to a learning experience also makes it more memorable, and focusing on the senses relaxes and quiets the mind and body.

Games—sometimes organized, often not. Many are the wonderful, spontaneous creations of imaginative kids.

Animal Tracking—while we’re wandering, or anytime an animal sign is present, we practice the fundamentals of pattern recognition that will later translate into reading skills. We also like to catch small critters, teaching children how to do so respectfully and safely.

Animal Forms—thinking and moving like specific animals, we exercise our bodies, senses, and imaginations. Imagining being an animal may help a child learn how to empathize.

Navigating and Mapping—as we wonder we sometimes practice “song lining”, that is, telling a story using landmarks that will help us find our way back. Other “lost proofing” skills, and an introduction to maps and mapping, improve cognitive development and sense of place.

Group Singing and Storytelling—staples of every day. Songs and stories are used in so many ways: to inspire, teach, set the mood, lighten the workload, practice listening skills, bring a group together, and more.

Learners Telling Their Stories—For young learners, talking about what they just did is a chance to practice language skills as well as reflect on and integrates new experiences.

Primitive Skills—such as shelter building, fire making, gathering, cooking, jewelry and tool-making are hands-on activities that involve experiential problem solving and creativity; they also give learners a boost towards self-sufficiency and feeling “at home” in nature.

Stalking, Hiding, and Camouflage—activities that learners adore, and that provide teachable moments for ecological concepts. Learning the skills of “invisibility” also requires quieting the mind and controlling the body.

Celebration—inspires learning and builds community. There is always something to cele­­­­brate! Our celebration brings us full circle, back to gratitude.

Children and nature have so much to offer themselves, each other and the world. Our goal at Forest School is to connect to that magic, to allow learners to unleash their inherent gifts, honor the gifts in others and to celebrate that we are indeed stronger when we’re connected.


287 S. Country Road Brookhaven, NY 11719

105 Prospect Road Centerport, NY 11721

Phone: 917.705.0046

Proud Member of FSA
© 2019 Aishling Forest School. All rights reserved. Website design by the ArtWORKS team at Spirit of Huntington Art Center.