Do you have burning questions about how to connect your kids to nature? Still not sure how to start an outdoor education program at your school or home? Check out these answers to some of the most frequently asked questions from educators looking to take their classroom outdoors.
Q. How do I get school administrators/parents/other teachers on board?
A. The best way to get school administrators on board is to show them the research supporting the benefits of educating children in nature. You’ll also want to make sure you have a well-developed plan for your program, including a year-long scope & sequence (with ties to your school’s standards or benchmarks), plans for adequate adult supervision, emergency protocols, and a completed benefit-risk analysis. Try to anticipate all the questions and potential objections you’ll receive and have an answer for as many of them as you can. If they are still skeptical, invite them to come join you in the forest! It only takes a few minutes of watching children play in nature to realize its many benefits.
Still need help with this? Get in touch.
Q. How do I manage risk?
A. Complete a thorough benefit-risk analysis to present to your school’s administration (and possibly insurance company). Exact requirements will vary by school.
Q. What if I don’t have a forest near my school?
A. Time to get creative! If you don’t have a full-fledged forest nearby, consider going to a nearby city park, empty field, or even your school’s yard or garden. Any sort of natural setting will do, even if it’s not very big.
Q. What if I don’t have time to spend a whole day in the forest each week?
A. Do it for however long you can manage. Instead of a whole day, try just an afternoon, or even one hour. Go less often if you have to—once a month, bi-weekly, etc. Remember: the most important thing is to GET OUTSIDE!
Q. Is this the same thing as a field trip?
A. No. There are several important differences between a nature school program and a field trip:
1. Nature school lessons occur regularly, at a consistent time and place.
2. There are established core routines which provide predictable structure to the lessons.
3. The curriculum follows a very specific progression throughout the year, much in the way that, say, a phonics curriculum progresses.
Q. I teach at a public/private/charter/religious/homeschool. Can I do a nature school program?
A. YES, YES, YES! Although I was fortunate to have lots of flexibility in my schedule and curriculum-planning by virtue of working at a progressive independent school, I intentionally designed my program to be adaptable for a variety of school settings. Your program may not look exactly like mine due to the constraints of your specific situation, but do not let that stop you from giving this a go. Remember, the most important thing is to GET OUTSIDE on a regular basis!
And if you can’t commit to a regular time in nature, there are still lots of ways to help your kids connect with nature whenever and however you are able. In fact, I wrote a book about it!
Q. My students are very wild/young/old/scared/smart/low-income/wealthy/high-energy/low-energy/difficult/special needs/disabled. Can I do a forest program with them?
A. YES! Forest programs are for everyone. I repeat, everyone. In fact, teacher after teacher has reported that the students who struggle the most in the traditional classroom setting are the ones who thrive the most and benefit the most from their time in nature. So stop making excuses and take them outside already!
Q: I teach somewhere cold/snowy/rainy. Can I do a forest school program?
A. Absolutely YES! Although we don’t get much snow (ok, we don’t get any) here in California, we do get quite a bit of rain, and our rainy forest lessons have consistently been among our best and most memorable. There is nothing quite like stomping in giant mud puddles and watching water rush through a creek. Yes, the kids will get wet and dirty. No, they will not melt. Just make sure to tell parents ahead of time that the show will go on regardless of weather conditions (maybe consider cancelling in the case of extreme weather conditions such as thunderstorms, tornadoes, etc.) and to dress their kids appropriately. And be sure to keep a complete set of extra clothes and shoes for each kid in your classroom!
Q. Can you help me get started?
A. Why yes, I can! I offer custom-designed personalized consulting services to help individuals, schools, and organizations start or expand nature immersion programs. Contact me to find out more about how I can assist you in getting your nature program up and running.
Do you have a burning question that you don’t see answered here? Send me an e-mail!