Bushkids school draws on tradition of land-based learning

Bushkids school draws on tradition of land-based learning

Bushkids, a forest and nature school pilot program offered through the City of Yellowknife started last Tuesday. Children ages 6-10 will participate Tuesdays — all day — until early May.

Bushkids follows a forest and nature school approach. It is run by two Yellowknife women, Wendy Lahey and Chloe Dragon Smith, who are trained forest and nature school practitioners and teacher trainers with Child and Nature Alliance of Canada.

About forest and nature schools

Forest and nature schools differ from other outdoor and environmental education in that they are always place-based — they involve regular and repeated access to the same natural space. This leads to a relationship with the land that evolves and deepens over time. In this case, Bushkids is located in the forest behind Yellowknife’s Fieldhouse. It’s a perfect in-town space, bordered by thick forest, a small hill, and Kam Lake.

Forest and nature schools use a child-directed, emergent and inquiry-based teaching approach. This means that the Bushkids activities vary depending on the season, changes in the landscape, animals that visited the night before, trees that blew down, different items offered by the educators, tools and loose parts for building and creating, the children who attend, how long the group has been together, and, most importantly, what interests the children.

What can forest and nature school mean for the north?

Sometimes forest and nature schools are seen as starting in the 1950s in Denmark, but their principles have been practiced for much longer than that. Learning in the forest and nature is not new in the north. Indigenous peoples have taught on the land for thousands of years. We are lucky here to have a strong traditional knowledge base and cultures that support this way of learning.

There is the opportunity in the north to work with northern cultures and people to develop programs that reflect a northern way of life, and to integrate this into public education. Forest and nature school is a wonderful supplement to the public school curriculum. The two can work together using a uniquely northern approach.

Educators and parents can get ideas and information on integrating forest and nature school principles into daily life on the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada website. In the meantime, stay tuned for the next offering of Bushkids, workshops, and practitioner training. Most important, take time to get outside and play this winter!

Thanks to guest contributor, Chloe Dragon Smith, an instructor at Bushkids and a Young Women for Nature Award recipient from Nature Canada.

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