We Are Aishling Forest School, Because of Each of You!

by | Dec 23, 2021

“Community involvement sends a powerful message to children. It’s one that says you are important. You are loved. You belong. And it’s a message that, with it, holds the strength to empower every child in the world.” – The National Education Association

With grateful hearts, we welcomed the close of our Fall 2021 season at Aishling Forest School this week. For the past 13 weeks, we’ve watched our learners literally and figuratively reach new heights, from climbing and ziplining to whittling and sawing, and through the waves of agreeing, disagreeing, and peacemaking. All of the mentors here at Aishling Forest School have remarked how every season at Forest School is so different, specifically in the way that our classes flow, how our learners lead their learning and express their interests, and in our group dynamics as a Forest Family and community.

This season seemed to be particularly focused upon free play, physicality, and learning the (he)art of peacemaking. Suffice to say, our Forest School program is a co-creation between the land and our families, and it would not be what it is without the way in which we all show up together and allow the processes of learning and playing and simply being human to unfold. My greatest takeaway from this season as a mentor at Aishling Forest School is what it truly means to be a mentor.

I understand a mentor to be a guide, a confidant, a role model, and a space-holder. A mentor is someone who shows the way, and someone whom you can trust. A mentor’s awareness and clear intentions inspire, through simply being, what they might hope to pass on to their learners. The mentor opens the doors of possibilities and allows others to find their own answers.

Interestingly, a study performed in the UK sought to understand the impact of Forest School programs on the social and emotional development of participants, using the Forest School leader’s reflections. The analysis concluded that Forest Schools form micro-communities constructed by participants and that the micro-communities contribute to the social and emotional development of the children through the construction of a shared space, fostering a sense of community, and a shared power paradigm between mentors and participants. The well-known saying, it takes a village to raise a child, is true in that the whole community has an essential role in the growth and development of its young people.

aishling forest school roots wings ceremonyRecently, we’ve been introduced to the Nguni Bantu term, “Ubuntu,” meaning “humanity”. Nelson Mandela said that Ubuntu is “the profound sense that we are human only through the humanity of others; that if we are to accomplish anything in this world it will in equal measure be due to the work and achievement of others.” A humanist philosophy, Ubuntu implies behaving well towards others and acting in ways that benefit the community. At our Roots & Wings Ceremony this past week, we had the opportunity to personally honor and celebrate each learner for the ways in which they have behaved and acted to benefit our community and make us what we are. Ubuntu aligns well with the Aishling Forest School Way: of taking care of ourselves, each other, and Mama Earth. Perhaps what makes our program so unique is our founding philosophy: that we are all born perfect, whole and complete. And by learning to take care of ourselves, each other, and Mama Earth, we unravel and remember that knowing more deeply. And of course, that Mama Earth holds us in our learning…our growing…and our becoming.

Have your own celebration of community, like our Roots & Wings Ceremony, at home:

  1. Set a specific time and date for your family to gather – the most crucial aspect of hosting a ceremony is knowing that it is a “step outside” of your everyday life.
  2. Gather and prepare items and belongings that feel special and important to yourself and invite each family member to do the same – this sweetens the ceremony and also creates the “sacred space” where everyone feels welcomed, comfortable and inspired.
  3. Share the guidelines as a parent – example: “everyone is expected to listen, use their “deer ears” and remain quiet while each person speaks.”
  4. Set an intention as a family – example: “everyone will be celebrated for how unique they are and how special they make our family!”
  5. Do the celebrating! At our Roots & Wings Ceremony, we have each learner come to the center of our circle, one at a time, and we as mentors share with them a personal letter where we reflect on how much they have grown during the season and how they make our community special. At home, you can follow the same format, and speak to how each family member makes your home a better place.
  6. Have a closing ritual – this can be anything that marks the ending of an event, in a way that uplifts. example: blowing out a candle, sharing a cup of tea,

We wish you a wonderful holiday season, and are looking forward to what Forest School Spring 2022 will bring!



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