In the spring of 2013, after a viewing of the documentary, School’s Out, Eliza was inspired to take her class outside. Encouraged by her principal, Amos Kornfeld, Eliza sought Meg’s help in getting this idea off the ground. Meg and Eliza attended a week long course at Antioch University New England, part of their Nature Based Early Childhood Education series. Forest Fridays began with their Kindergartners in the fall of 2013. With initial funding support from The Wellborn Ecology Fund, Vermont Community Foundation and The Byrne Foundation, Meg joined Eliza and her students each week all year long to spend a day in the forest.
In our first year we learned a lot. We built some infrastructure: a latrine, a debris shelter and a fire circle. We navigated the balance between student-directed and teacher-directed activity. Together with our students we determined boundaries for rough and tumble play, tree-climbing, stream play and more. We exercised our tolerance for cold weather, our respect for the creatures of the woods and our responsibilities to each other and our space.
In April of this first year we hosted a reporter from the Valley News, Vermont Public Radio and WCAX TV.
Watch the clip about us here.
Listen to the VPR story about us here.
Read the Valley News article about us here.
Patti Bailey, our instructor from our work at Antioch New England wrote an article about the possibility of forest school models finding a home in public school. Read it here.
David Sobel who leads the Education program at Antioch New England coauthored an article about our program with Riley Hopeman, an Antioch student who interned with our class in the spring of 2014. Read their article here.
The word was out, and we frequently entertained visitors to our forest. Educators of young children from a variety of settings were expressing interest and enthusiasm for our one-day per week forest classroom model.
Though Meg and Eliza both became pregnant with October babies, the excitement for the Ottauquechee Forest Kindergarten was too great to cast aside. So in 2014, we began our second year of Forest Kindergarten. On October 20, the class took to the woods with Erika Wetzel, Eliza’s maternity substitute and Paul Sadowski, Meg’s substitute. With further funding support from The Mascoma Savings Bank Foundation the one-day per week Forest Kindergarten program continued throughout the 2014-2015 school year.
In the spring of 2015 our forest kindergarten program, at the time led by maternity substitutes Erika Wetzel and Paul Sadowski was visited by Emily Hanford. Hanford, a journalist from American RadioWorks, an APM show, created a half hour long podcast from her visit with us, and a sixth grade in Guilford, VT. Listen here.
Later a edited version of our story was broadcast nationwide on NPR. Listen here.
In May of 2015 we were awarded enough funding to add the second kindergarten section to our forest programming. As we are now beginning the 2015-2016 school year, Meg and I have each partnered with an Ottauquechee School kindergarten teacher and we head out into the forest one day each week.
With administrator support and parent interest, you too can take your class into the forest. Let us know how we can help you by getting in touch with us.