Article by Vita Cafnik, pre-school teacher at Cherry Tree, English-speaking preschool in the heart of Vinohrady.
If you are thinking about setting on a marvelous journey of education with your child, you might find yourself overwhelmed with options. Prague truly has a lot to offer when it comes to early childhood education, and there are various things to consider when choosing a school best suited to your needs. If you appreciate nature and all it has to offer, and if you wish your child could spend more time outdoors, a Forest school might be the way to go.
Our relationship with nature, and the way we introduce it to our children, set an example for their future and forms a bond that lasts a lifetime. By greeting the outdoors with open arms, Forest schools offer a beautiful gateway to learning, paved with wonder and discovery.
The learning process of Forest schools has a long tradition. Originating in Scandinavian countries, it has since gained popularity all over the world. Including right here, in Prague. Focusing on outdoor education, Forest schools moved their classrooms into open-air settings by letting kids grow with nature and helping nature prosper by raising environmentally conscious kids.
So what exactly is a Forest school?
The concept has been defined as:
“An inspirational process that offers children, young people and adults regular opportunities to achieve and develop confidence through hands-on learning in a woodland environment.”
Forest schools figured out that learning can, and should, take place on the spot. Why learn about life within four walls, when the majority of it takes place outdoors? Why not experience it?
In that sense, Forest schools promote a well-rounded approach to child’s development and well-being. Incorporating nature into children’s daily lives nurtures their sense of wonder and inspiration for discovery – bringing out their inner little scientists, artists, storytellers, and everything in between. Furthermore, exploring the outdoors encourages children’s natural curiosity, which is a wonderful starting point not only for their educational journey but life itself.
Nature-enriched experience makes learning interesting, it makes it enjoyable, and it promotes Independence and Self-confidence. In addition, it stimulates the development of:
- Social-emotional skills (for when they are team players and group leaders),
- Cognitive skills (for when they are scientists and engineers),
- Language skills (for when they are journalists and storytellers),
- and Physical skills (for when they are athletes and artists).
What are the benefits of outdoor education?
There are many positive aspects to moving the classroom outdoors, however, my absolute favorite is how genuinely excited children are to spend time in nature. There are always new places to discover, fresh knowledge to acquire, and more games to play. And by the end of the day, the little explorers are satisfied and ready for a well-deserved rest – having fun can be hard work.
What is more, an important principle in Forest school education is letting children be children and understanding the importance of free, unstructured play. It is, in fact, a serious business, the most important job a child has – Play Expert PhD. Valuing their title, Forest schools support children with safe risk-taking and guide them on their magical adventures in nature.
To put the icing on the cake, the benefits of children’s global well-being are substantial. Building awareness about their surroundings and others plays an important role in their overall development, and studies have shown that spending time in nature promotes good mental as well as physical health and general immunity, creating happier and healthier children.
Giving our kids the opportunity to connect with nature is what Forest schools are all about. By learning to appreciate the outdoors, we are making a positive change that will encourage children to impact the world in a positive way when they grow up.
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