Highland Elementary Holds Forest Kindergarten
Pre-K and kindergarten students at Highland Elementary School are participating in Forest Kindergarten. Teacher Shannon Armantrout received training several years ago at Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, Tenn.
Forest Kindergarten began in Denmark and has spread throughout Europe since the 1950s. The program is designed to get children to learn in a natural environment by exploring nature.
The children learn from an emergent curriculum that is initiated by capitalizing on their interest. For example, Armantrout described a rainy-day hike recently, when the children started playing in a stream of water and trying to divert it in another direction. This activity turned into a lesson on dams, beavers, and civil engineering. The unplanned curriculum resulted in the children building a dam with mud as they learned from nature.
Students participate in the Forest Kindergarten on Tuesdays and Thursdays, often staying outside in the forest for three hours. The children have named certain areas on the trail, such as the seesaw area where they have created a seesaw out of a log. This turns into a lesson on simple machines, emphasizing the fulcrum.
A special area is the jungle-gym area where they climb on the branches of a fallen tree. They have gathered stones in another area to make a fire ring where they build a fire once a month. A lesson on vibrations happened when a buck running in front of the children caused them to feel the vibrations. The changing leaves on the trees initiated a discussion of the earth turning on its axis, causing the trees to prepare for the winter. They might turn a stone over to study the insects and other bugs underneath the stone.
The children go outside unless the temperature is below 32. According to Armantrout, there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. She teaches the parents how to layer the children’s clothing on cold days.
“Going out in all-weather teaches them survival skills, and techniques to stay warm,” Armantrout said. “It also teaches them resilience, and that it’s okay to go outside when it is not perfect.”
There are seven children in this year’s class. Armantrout said her largest Forest Kindergarten class was 12. Often in the past, parents were invited to come along on the hike, but this year, due to COVID, it is just the children and their teacher walking in the forest on the school campus learning something new every day from nature.
Kentucky-Tennessee | May 2021