"Now I know the secret of making the best persons; it is to grow in the open air & eat & sleep with the earth."
SOL Forest School is a small program with a big vision, offering all-weather Forest School sessions to young children aged 3-7 years in the mountains east of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Forest School is an early childhood approach originating in Europe with pedagogical similarities to the Montessori, Waldorf & Reggio Emilia philosophies. It is offered across a spectrum & in the purest European preschools, students are outside learning all day, every day, rain or shine! By definition, Forest School programming connects children to the same natural space at least six times over the course of the season/s. Some people ask if the children become bored with the same spot, but they do not because they get to intimately know "their place" while witnessing the intricate changes that take place over time. This rooting into place allows for deep connections, understandings, & a sense of "home" to develop, which stays with the child far into their future. SOL is deeply committed to the Forest School Principles set forth by Forest Schools Canada, a program of the Child & Nature Alliance of Canada (see next tab).
SOL Forest school believes that children are born with a right to connect to the natural world, just as mankind has done since the beginning of time, as well as with the right to engage frequently in lengthy, child-led, open-ended, independent &/or supported, soul-satisfying play. We take our play very seriously & strongly advocate for the preservation of play in childhood. We believe that wonder is the seed of wisdom & this belief provides the foundation for our teaching approach. We recognize that learning involves a collaborative partnership between parent/s, educator/s & child / children within a nurturing community & that mindful, connected parenting that is embraced & supported by a caring community creates people who are mindful, connected & caring themselves.
So much of life unfolds in fours (the four directions, the four seasons, the four stages of life, the four elements of life, the four races of humanity, the four heavenly beings, & so on...) & in ironic keeping to this fact, SOL Forest School embraces these four elemental beliefs knowing that they provide the motivation for everything that we do & aim to accomplish.
While we are still learning about the Coyote Mentoring model, this is the "curriculum" that most inspires us. We believe that by incorporating the underlying principles of the curriculum's Core Routines, Child Passions, Book of Nature, Natural Cycles & Indicators of Awareness, we will work towards creating strong connections to nature for all SOL Forest School children, educators & volunteers. We know, too, that an awakened, curious, confident, nature-connected child will in turn impact his/her parents / siblings, & through this process entire families (& even their community!)
"The Art of Mentoring & Coyote Teaching is about the process by which we stretch & stretch a person, in their awareness, in their use of senses, in their search imagery, in their appreciation of where they fit, in their knowledge of self, & in the understanding & telling of their own story within the story of life".
-Jon Young, Founder of the Wilderness Awareness School & Coyote Mentoring method
We are also deeply inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach, which is inherently child-led & project-based. A few of the key beliefs of Reggio educators include the belief that children are born curious, competent & creative; that children's curiosities, questions & interests should inform teaching practice & serve as the basis of the educational program; that teachers are co-collaborators, co-conspirators & co-researchers working alongside the children; that children are born with "one hundred languages" to express themselves with; that essential learning takes place within a system of relationships; and that the documentation of children's work allows for the telling of their stories, while also serving as a tool of reflection for both the children & their teachers. In the fall of 2019 we are excited to launch the use of the Story Park platform, & we believe that by using this amazing tool parents & everyone else who is important to a SOL Treeschooler will see all the learning that takes place when we are out in the forest.
In addition, we frequently enjoy Sitting Like a Frog (mindfulness practices for children, developed by Eline Snell) or getting a Handful of Quiet (more mindfulness practices, developed by Thich Nhat Hanh), learning some basic sign language (Sally is a fluent user of American Sign Language), as well as some whimsical Waldorf-based practices such as oral story-telling, song & the celebration of the seasons / holidays.