When talking about forest school the question inevitably arises: What about curriculum? How will the children learn? What's your method? What kinds of activities do you plan? What is your schedule? While well meaning, these questions usually reflect an adult's perception of learning. Hudson Forest School's education model is child-centred and place-based. Here is what that means in greater detail.
Let's start with child-centred. Many adults view children as empty vessels requiring to be filled with adult fed knowledge about the world, how to behave, how to prepare them for academic success that will somehow translate into "real-world" success as they progress through life. We respectfully disagree. The Hudson Forest School's image of the child is a child that is capable and competent of constructing their own learning. From birth onwards, children are engaged in developing a relationship with the world around them. They develop their own learning strategies and complex abilities without prompting from adults - it's innate in the child. It arises from the natural curiosity and intent children have in discovering the environment around them.
In this sense the adult around the child is a mentor and guide - not a taskmaster, not a drill sergent, not a nature guide or even a teacher in the classic sense. The educator at Hudson Forest School first observes the children, gets to know them as individuals, listens to them - the stories or burning questions they may have. In this way the adult discovers what truly interests the child and then plans to provide them greater opportunities in the future to build on their experiences. This is at the heart of a child-centred approach. It's not teacher-lead. There is no set lesson plan. The curriculum emerges from the children's interests.
The adult is also there to observe how the children engage and interact with each other. They provide opportunities for collaboration among the children. They ensure that each child is respected and valued for their contribution. Loris Malaguzzi, a well known educator from the now famous preschool in Reggio Emillia in Italy says that children have one hundred languages and that it is the educator's job to listen to them, hear them and draw them out of the child for full expression.
The second aspect of our program is that it is place-based. The classroom is the forest. More specifically the forest in Hudson. Hudson Forest school aims to connect children to nature through direct experiential contact. This year we have met small frogs, centipedes and a salamander- as well as squirrels and birds. Children come into contact with the life that teems in an Ottawa Valley forest. They will get to know this place intimately providing them with familiarity while simultaneously introducing them to the processes of change inherent in a natural environment.
The spaces that we frequent in childhood hold enduring memories that they will value later in life. Think back to your own memories of childhood play. What are the most powerful memories that endure? Hudson is often viewed as a caring village, nestled in nature. We strive to reflect those values at Hudson Forest School.