The Rhythm of Forest

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This past week I had the privilege of being part of The Rhythm of Learning in Nature, a Reggio-Inspired, Forest School-Influenced Professional Inquiry hosted by the York Region Nature Collaborative. Educators from across Canada, and a few from Michigan, came together to experience, interact, and embrace nature as the canvas for learning following an emergent curriculum framework. Our learning was very self directed, we had lots of choice, which enabled individuals to feel safe and comfortable to explore and investigate concepts at their own pace and of their interest. On the first day, like many of the days that followed, we set off to explore the Swan Lake Forest. Initially we were a large group travelling down the path, but quickly individuals broke off into pairs, small groups, and some preferred to explore independently. That particular morning, I had one of many a ha moments. It dawned on me how many different entry points there were in the way everyone chose to explore and interact with the forest. Much like our students, we were very diverse in our interests and learning styles. Some individuals were drawn by the materials that the forest offered and chose to create with these materials on different surfaces. Others enjoyed collecting things that they found to be fascinating, bringing them back to research and show the group. I found myself to be an explorer. Though I spent 2 hours observing bugs, leaves, bark, frogs, etc., I was only 100 meters away from the conference building! Another a ha moment! There was so much to look at in such a small space! You don’t necessarily need a forest to have an outdoor learning program! I also noticed that the more time I spent in nature, the better I became at seeing and hearing things. I had a deeper appreciation for colours, textures, and shapes of flowers, trees, bark, and little creatures! I constantly had wonder questions and was very excited to figure out these puzzling questions. There are so many learning extensions (dramatic stories, painting, sculpting, writing, researching, etc.), that nature can foster. According to Condie Ward, “To observe nature requires patience and quiet watchfulness. Imagination comes into play as children create special places and use natural items to create stories and play.” (Teaching Young Children).

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