“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder… he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”
– Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder
A “back-to-nature” movement is afoot at schools and libraries across the country. Forest schools, also called “nature schools” for preschool and kindergarten-aged children, are popping up across North America. At the same time, public librarians are designing unique, nature-based opportunities for families to develop a deeper connection with their environment. Here’s an overview of the trend, along with advice for librarians looking to bring it to their library.
THE RISE OF FOREST SCHOOLS
Starting in the 1950s, many European countries adopted the early childhood practice of child-led inquiry in outdoor environments. Snow, wind, rain, or shine, children are outside with their instructors engaging in free play. With no rigid academic standards, are these students behind when they enter grade school? Far from it. Many of the countries that implement a forest school model, such as Switzerland and those in Scandinavia, are some of the smartest and happiest countries in the world.
Now, this movement is starting to take off here at home. Lia Grippo, founder, director, and preschool lead teacher of Wild Roots Forest School in Santa Barbara, CA, believes the growth of nature-based schools has been fueled by both educators and parents. “Recent trends in early-years education have moved towards…
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