I began teaching groups of young children over 25 years ago. In a searched for a peer learning environment that was welcoming and inclusive and created a gentle and encouraging environment to thrive in, I could not find what I deemed an encouraging and emotionally healthy environment. I started my own program when I was disheartened by the inattentive adult guidance and the jarring manner of interaction between the children in the programs I visited, and continue to visit yearly. This same unguided interaction is also present on any playground, when we stop to listen. I knew there was a better way, a kinder way, of being and learning, speaking, and socializing and creating peer relationships. I saw a need to cultivate and teach a more compassionate and thoughtfully intentional manner for the children to learn and develop their social skills. Very few programs teach children how to interact, and speak to one another and to others. That is where I begin in my teaching,  gently setting an example and assisting children in connecting their heart with their spoken words and actions, to create an environment where children are free to learn. We have cultivated a calmer, all inclusive and bully-free learning , discovery, and playing environment, and are committed to each child to provide days which will nurture their growth and development.

This is a beautiful process to see, and one of the outcomes it provides is the freedom and ability for the children to wholeheartedly use their imaginations and speak their ideas more readily and openly, without worry of rejection from their peers. It opens the  children up to learning, by eliminating the distraction for the need to defend oneself from hurtful interactions. Hurtful interactions absorb energy and refocus the whole group in a negative direction. In the Forest School we have found a way of refocusing  the potentially negative energy thus creating a greatly effective learning environment. All around it is a wonderful way of teaching, learning and playing. We are then free to have fun.

I committed our entire learning day to Nature Immersion nearly two decades ago, when I was hearing more and more children protesting about being outside, or not wanting to walk, thus missing so much of the experience of innate learning provided by playing and exploring in nature. I decided that I needed to do more for my students in this regard. After researching the evidence that shows the importance that natural world exploration brings to the development of our children, and the health it brings into their life, I learned how to switch my practice of teaching a little bit to be immersed in nature. I was already practicing much of what I have learned about natural world experiences with my students, but commiting to immersing in nature required significant planning. I was now able to convey to more parents how important environmental learning and tactile discovery is for our children. It is essential to our health and well-being in so many ways and it helps children tremendously in their ability to learn. I learned that the artificial environments that we so lovingly created for our children were leaving them starving for experiences that the natural world alone could bring to them. We were missing key developments and independence, and doing our children a disservice by preparing them for the next steps of intellectual growth within such narrow confines of four walls. Children who play, grow, and learn in FSMN are thriving and developing beyond their age, as they are learning, laughing and growing strong and healthy minds, bodies, and spirits.

With all of that said, I am guessing that you may have a few questions. Please feel free to call and we can discuss the options available to suit your child’s needs.

To learn more or to enroll in The Forest School Nature Immersion Early Childhood Education please call Michele del Castillo at 612-920-6330 or email michele@forestschoolmn.org.