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Bend Forest School has a goal of bringing innate “natural wildness” back into the lives of our young children. Inspired by the European model of Waldkindergarten (all outside, all weather, early childhood programs), we have created an inclusive nature immersion early childhood program that provides children with the opportunity for adult supported uninterrupted and unstructured play time in nature. 


This model allows children to build a personal connection with the natural world and those experiencing it with them. This closeness to the natural world and exposure to minimal risk supports a young child’s mental and physical health as well as problem solving skills, social-emotional learning, resiliency, sensory, motor and cognitive development. As a place-based program, children continually discover their “classroom” as the seasons and environments change throughout the year and form a strong connection to place. 


Our program holds high the importance of authentic play. Play is a child’s work and is the natural place and time for young children to learn. Hands-on play allows for children to access creativity, imagination, social and cognitive learning. We believe children learn best when allowed to let their interests guide their learning and therefore, our curriculum. The teacher serves as a support to the child (or children) in exploring and discovering interests and is often described as a “co-learner” to the children. The content and learning opportunities arise freely, with wonder and awe from both the children and adults. 


At the heart of Bend Forest School’s philosophy is the belief that as individuals, young or old, we have the right to feel safe, connected and supported in our community and world. To this degree, we are an inclusive program that respects all abilities and backgrounds. As opportunities arise during our days, we provide social emotional teaching individually and to the group. To help support and connect with each child, we have small class sizes with child-to-adult ratios of 5:1. We provide children tools for safety, connection, and an ability to acknowledge and handle their emotions, and support others in theirs (empathy). We at Bend Forest School model respect for ourselves, others, and the natural world around us.

We strive for all children who attend our program to leave us with a strong connection to self, community, nature and a joy of learning. 


Bend Forest School is a Nature Immersion Early Education Program. We are committed to connecting children to nature, learning through unstructured play, and building self-confidence. Through a balanced use of head, heart and hands we aim to grow creative, compassionate, curious, and confident earth-minded critical thinkers who find joy in being lifelong learners. We strive for them to actively engage in improving their community and the world that surrounds them.


Our core values are community, connection, curiosity, exploration, compassion, relationship with nature, and respect for all. 

KEY FOUNDATIONAL PRINCIPLES FOR PREK-5th GRADE (additional principles for upper grades)

Bend Forest school is modeled after the German based Waldkindergarten. Key principles of this model include:

  • All-outdoor, all-weather nature immersion

  • Place-based education (permanent location)

  • Interest-led/child-driven learning

  • Emergent Curriculum 

  • Inquiry-based teaching 

  • Play-based

  • Small student to teacher ratio of 5/6:1

  • Exposure to moderate risk 


Bend Forest School’s work is rooted in the belief that all individuals should feel welcomed, safe, accepted, valued, and confidently free to explore and experience community and the natural world surrounding us. We deeply value and celebrate diversity in race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic status, citizenship status, age and religion. We consider diversity to be a community strength and benefit. We commit to integrating equity and inclusion into all areas of our work to better serve our mission, the children and families in our program, and our wider community. We commit to cultivating an environment where every person feels safe, accepted and valued, and recognize that this requires we continue to actively listen to the concerns and observations of our fellow community members, address barriers and examine biases, seek out training opportunities led by experts, build relationships and partnerships across differences, amplify diverse voices, and promote empathy. At Bend Forest School we strive to support and encourage a generation of children that are observant, curious, considerate, self-aware, empathetic, inclusive, courageous, bold, and loving so that they are well-equipped to authentically contribute to a more just, inclusive and diverse community.

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