FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: What is a "forest school" and why "Forest Kindergarten" when it is a preschool age program?
A: The earliest form of human learning took place outside in the natural world with learning occurring by doing. A Forest School does not stray far from these origins. Bend Forest School is inspired by the European model of Waldkindergartens (all outside, all weather, early childhood programs) and is 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, resilience, 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.
Even though we are a preschool age program we chose to go by the title "Forest Kindergarten" (based off of European Waldkintergarten) as we align with the key principles of a Forest Kindergarten outlined by the American Forest Kindergarten Association.
Q: What type of curriculum does Bend Forest School have?
A: Bend Forest School follows the forest kindergarten model of a child-led, Inquiry Based, Emergent Curriculum. 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. We believe children learn best when allowed to let their interests guide their learning and therefore, our curriculum. With Inquiry Based teaching teacher serves as a support to the child (or children) in exploring and discovering interests and is often described as a “co-learner” or guide to the children.
Although there is no specific lesson plan for letters or numbers is it very likely that on any given day children will be exposed to counting and sorting through grouping natural features such as rocks, pine cones, etc., and language may be addressed daily by supporting children in asking questions, learning new vocabulary about the world around them and supporting them in social play. We will draw in dirt, write letters and names in dirt or mud. We meet children where they are at developmentally by scaffolding and individualizing our inquiries and play prompts to meet their unique needs.
A key feature of Emergent Curriculum is documentation showing a child's learning and discovery process. We will do this at Bend Forest School through photos, video and our nature journal where teacher's document daily inquiries, discoveries and learnings and use as a guide for documenting learning that has taken place.
Q: Central Oregon can get cold in the winter. What if my child gets cold?
A: There is a common adage for the outdoors that says: "There is no bad weather, only bad clothing." At Bend Forest School, we stress the importance of dressing your child to be prepared for the cold weather. Many similar forest schools around the world are run in similar or colder climates to great success. When children (and adults) are prepared for cold weather with the appropriate gear, their bodies are protected from the elements and are capable of staying warm. Please see the What to Bring page for recommendations and suggestions.
Q: How do you intend to make the program more inclusive?
A: We meet children where they are at developmentally and individualize our teaching to meet each child's unique needs and backgrounds. We hope to collaborate with the High Desert ESD Early Childhood Special Education program so as to ensure that students with varying abilities can access our program.
Q: Do you have art or music classes?
A: We do not have a scheduled time for art or music. However, both can be embedded throughout the day in children's work and play. We do provide chalk in order for children to create chalk paint for rocks and bodies (arms, hands, legs, face). We also provide clipboards and pencils for children to access as desired. Additionally, we hope to partner with local artists and nonprofits in the area to visit us and provide art as an option in the children's day. As for music, the same applies. We sing songs throughout our day as well as create musical instruments with looses parts we find in nature. Additionally we may bring in musical instruments on occasion as well as partner with a local music professional to come and join us on a regular basis. We also have a certified Yoga Calm instructor joining us on a weekly basis to offer the children a chance to participate in yoga while in the our nature immersion preschool setting.