A PARENT-CHILD CLASS
Our parent-child classes meet once a week and take place entirely outdoors.
The class is simple and that's intentional. We want each child's encounter with nature to be wonderful, so we try to not get in the way of that wonder. We've designed a class that lets children follow their own imaginations and gives them the freedom to explore on their own.
And yet, as they learn the rhythms of the class and the rhymes of the songs we sing, as they learn the names of their classmates and the features of their forest classroom, the children also learn how to be together. They almost always do join in.
Most of the children who attend forest school are between 12 months and four years old. Nearly every class has a mix of these ages, although we also offer classes for three- and four-year-olds in Prospect Park and Central Park. We've found children learn a lot from each other in a mixed-age setting. We think parents do, too.
1. WALK TO A FOREST CLASSROOM
Each week, we walk to the same place in the park -- our forest classroom. There's dirt for digging, stumps and branches for building and a nearby meadow for wandering. A forest classroom is roomier than a brick-and-mortar classroom, and while we do make use of the park's pavilions and tunnels when it rains heavily, we usually rely on the classroom's tallest trees for shelter from a hot sun or drizzling rain.
2. FREE PLAY
The children follow their imaginations as they play and work -- they make mud pies, look for worms, build tipis and race across meadows.
3. SNACK TIMe
After child-led play, we wash hands and sit down on our picnic blanket for a snack of fresh bread, apple slices and berry tea.
4. NATURE WALK
When we are finished eating, the children often return to their mud-making work or we walk together into the woods to explore ponds, boulders and hollow trees and to search for wildlife.
5. CIRCLE TIME
We end each class with a circle time, when we gather for seasonal songs, nursery rhymes and finger plays.
6. KITES AND GOOD-BYES
a nourishing snack
What better way to make children feel at home in the forest than with homemade bread? Every morning before forest school, we bake bread from a family recipe and wholesome ingredients. Then, after we've gathered in our forest classroom, we wash our hands, sing a song of thanks, and sit down together to eat.
The bread is whole grain, dairy-free and made with oats and honey. We serve it with butter made by a farmer's cooperative and apple butter from orchards right here in New York.
Along with the bread, we serve warm saskatoon berry tea and freshly cut, locally grown apples to the children and their caregivers.
The forest school snack leaves children feeling nourished and warmed-up, restored with the energy they'll need for more work and play. Even the pickiest eaters learn to love snack time in the forest. And after a few weeks, as each one learns the rhythm of the class, you'll never see children so eager to wash their hands in anticipation of what comes next.