Nature School and Education Centre is thrilled to offer our Forest Immersion program, in partnership with a research team from Brock University. Students who enroll and participate in the Nature Immersion program will attend the Nature School once a week. These participants will be provided with regular and repeated access to the same natural space and experience emergent, experiential, inquiry, and play-based learning. The experiences of the student participants will be child-led and promote respect and connection with their natural space, assessment and negotiation of risk, and participation within our democratic community.
The impacts from COVID-19 have resulted in an increase of students struggling with their mental health and well-being. For some, this is new and can be difficult to navigate; for others it is not and the pandemic has worsened their situation. Current research indicates that Forest Schooling attendance provides positive benefits beyond children’s learning, such as overall health and well being, increased motivation, concentration, and confidence. Further, parents and teachers of students who have attended Forest Schooling have noted children’s increased ability to stay on task, higher retention and success rates later in schooling, less chance of obesity, greater cooperation with classmates, and positive psychological and emotional effects.
The research partnership will include students (ages 6-14 years) attendance one school day a week from October to June. The students will engage in a variety of outdoor, nature-based inquiry activities that are developed and led by the students themselves. Students will document their experiences using pictures and videos from GoPro cameras, interviews, and completion of 3 well-being questionnaires. Parents will also be asked to complete pre- mid- and post- questionnaires about their child participants. The objectives of this research partnership are to understand how this Forest School model supports children’s mental health and well being; empowers children through documenting and narrating their own experiences and understandings about personal growth and development; and create principles and practices for educators to support children’s mental health and well-being in a Forest School setting.
Nature School hopes that this partnership and community driven collaboration will help meet the current and future needs of children and their families, meanwhile fostering positive principles and practices to promote positive mental health and well-being.