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Forest schools in Canada

Find schools with environmental and outdoor education programs

 

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Forest schools provide nature education for kids. They teach children about the value of nature, the environment, and plants and animals. They can be a great alternative to traditional schooling, whether as a full- or part-time program.

What do forest schools offer?

Forest schools are full-year schools which provide outdoor education for kids of different ages, from preschool to high school. In these schools, kids spend lots of time studying and working in forests or woodlands. They also learn a wide range of practical and technical skills.

Forest schools are sometimes called "nature schools" or "outdoor schools," given their focus on nature and environmental education. They focus a lot on outdoor activities and the wilderness.

These schools also have a unique curricular approach. This approach is children-centred and emergent. In short, the curriculum and activities is mostly driven by the interests of the kids. This is similar to the WaldorfMontessori, and Reggio Emilia approach to education. In fact, Waldorf schools (and preschools), in addition to being child-centred, focus a great deal on nature.

Forest schools encourage curiosity and exploration with all the senses. They also aim to promote spatial awareness and motor development. This is especially true of forest kindergartens.

At the elementary and secondary level, these schools promote social skills and creative learning. They also focus a lot on teamwork and problem-solving. And at the higher levels, kids learn abstract concepts, such as in math, science, and other subjects.

Who are forest schools for?

Forest schools are for learners of all ages, from primary to secondary school. Some are also geared to young adults.

These schools can be a good fit for a wide range of children. In particular, kids who aren’t doing well, or need a break from, a traditional school often thrive in one of these schools. Because of their lower teacher-to-child ratios and the calming influence of the outdoors, they can be also be a great option for children with special needs. This includes kids with autism, asperger’s syndrome, ADHD, and learning disabilities, such as dyslexia.

Several other types of students can benefit from a forest or nature school (or program). These include students who

  • Struggle in school
  • Struggle socially
  • Have an emotional issue, such as an anxiety disorder
  • Are a troubled teen
  • Enjoy the outdoors
  • Are interested in animals, plants, or forestry
  • Are curious
  • Like to explore

Sometimes forest schools are used as an alternative to traditional schooling. Other times, they’re meant to support a child’s primary education or to provide a short transition back into it.

What are the benefits of forest schools?

Forest schools provide a great alternative to traditional schooling. They offer nature education, and allow children to develop a wide range of practical skills.  As O’Brien and Murray put it (2008), these schools offer “children, young people, and adults regular opportunities to achieve and develop confidence through hands-on learning in a woodland environment.”

These schools also have several other benefits. These include

  • Increased confidence and self-esteem
  • Improved discipline
  • Therapeutic environment
  • Calming influence
  • Increased appreciation of nature
  • Development of social skills
  • Leadership opportunities
  • Exploring special interests
  • Lower teacher-to-student ratio

How do I choose a school?

There are lots of forest schools in Canada. This includes schools in Toronto, Ontario, and Vancouver, British Columbia.

Below, check out our list of forest schools. Some of these schools specialize in outdoor or nature education. Others offer part-time nature programs or courses. Choose a school that's the right fit for your child and family.

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List of Forest schools in Canada

School Expo Exhibitor
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    School NameTypePaceCost

    Gradale Academy (est. 2000)

    • Toronto, Ontario
    • JK to 6 Coed
    • Day school (50 students)
    Gradale Academy at Evergreen Brick Works is like no other school in Toronto. The education program supports strong academic time with a balance of outdoor creative learning. [View profile]
    • Progressive
    Student-paced$15,000Kindergarten Elementary Coed Day15000

    The Nature School (est. 2017)

    • Vaughan, Ontario
    • K to 3 Coed
    • Day school (50 students)
    The Nature School provides an alternative form of education designed to provide experiential learning opportunities and promote curiosity to nurture the whole child. [View profile]
    • Progressive
    Standard-enriched$3,000 to $10,200Elementary Coed Day3000

    Roots and Wings Montessori School (est. 1985)

    • Langley, British Columbia
    • NS to 9 Coed
    • Day school (120 students)
    We aim to create a community to enable children to honour and respect their innate goodness, their joy in learning and their responsibility as caring global citizens and stewards of the earth. [View profile]
    • Montessori
    Student-paced$4,830 to $12,000Preschool Kindergarten Elementary MiddleSchools HighSchools Coed Day4830

    AVRO Academy (est. 2010)

    • Toronto, Ontario
    • 9 to 12 Coed/Coed
    • Day school
    Avenue Road Academy is a small school in Toronto for grades 9 to 12. Students earn credits while developing skills that best prepares them for post secondary education. We focus on student strength! [View profile]
    • Liberal Arts
    Student-paced$12,500HighSchools Coed Day12500

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