More parents opting for forest schools

| April 11, 2017 | 0 Comments

At Fiddleheads Forest School in Redmond, Washington, in the US, classrooms are cedar tree groves, forming part of the University of Washington Botanical Gardens. The school was founded in 2012 by Kit Harrington, a certified preschool teacher, and Sarah Heller, a naturalist and science educator. Both wanted to extend the Waldorf notion of learning, which emphasises selfdirected learning through play. Fiddleheads belongs to the Natural Start Alliance of 92 US schools and is in a category called “forest kindergartens”.

The alliance operates under the auspices of the North American Association for Environmental Education. Every day at Fiddleheads, 50 young students suit up in appropriate gear at 09:00 and head outside. Whilst much of their outdoor exploration is self-directed (watchful teachers are always nearby and basic safety rules are clearly stated), there are also “listening walks” with their teachers, during which they stand in a circle with their eyes closed and name the things they can hear – like wind and rain – when they don’t talk.

The children also eat lunch and sing songs under the open sky and towering trees. One might imagine that Fiddleheads parents are hipsters – but, says Harrington, they’re attorneys, CEOs and TV producers. The common denominator is that they have chosen this kind of school and that they believe in nature-deficit disorder. It wasn’t easy to fight for a forest school, says Harrington, as state law requires a school to fulfil a long list of criteria before it can legally operate. At least, though, there are no lights or water bills to pay. 

Category: Autumn 2017

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