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The Nature School

   
9550 Pine Valley Drive, Vaughan, Ontario, L4L 1A6

ADD TO SHORTLIST   Website
Curriculum:
Progressive
Grades (Gender):
K to 3 (Coed)
Tuition:
$3,000 to 10,200/year
Main Language:
English
Avg. Class Size:
7 to 10
Enrolment:
Day: 50 (Gr. K - 3)

School Address
9550 Pine Valley Drive, Vaughan, Ontario, L4L 1A6

About this school:

highlights

The Nature School provides a unique learning environment that has a student-led philosophy where we educate the whole child. The students learn through exploration and interest. Teachers observe and record student interests and develop lessons and learning objectives around what inspires them, linking the Ontario Ministry of Education Curriculum to provide a well-rounded education. The Nature School is offered to students from Kindergarten to Grade 3. — Visit school website




Reviews:

highlights

The Our Kids review of The Nature School

our takeNo two private schools are alike, and The Nature School is certainly a demonstration of that. Held within the Kortright Centre, the school has access to over 550 acres of wetland and forest, field and farm. There is an apiary, wind and solar power generation, an organic farm—in terms of resources, it’s an embarrassment of riches, and the program makes use of all of it. Instruction is hands-on, inter-generational, offering a delivery of the curriculum that, in so many ways, is founded within a direct and authentic engagement with the core concepts. The school is new, but the goals are clear, as is the expertise guiding the programming. Adrian O'Driscoll, the head of school, brings two decades of experience in working with children in through outdoor education. The ideal student is one able to thrive in a challenging, active, vibrant, and very social learning environment. It’s perhaps not for everyone, though for many students, the program is quite literally a dream come true.





Principal's Message

principal

Adrian O'Driscoll, Head of School

I've been involved in children's outdoor education for over 20 years. Over the years it's been an amazing experience to watch children grow and develop as they interact with the natural world. As a parent, I know that my children do not have the same opportunity to freely explore the natural world that I did as a child. 

Spending time in nature is invaluable for childhood development. The Nature School's diverse 555 acre campus allows students to explore, discover and learn. The Nature School campus has many distinguishing features including, an apiary, an organic farm, solar panels, wind turbines, sustainable houses, creeks, ponds, wetlands, meadows, a sugar bush and access to the Humber River. This landscape provides a jumping off point for students to learn math, science, social studies, language arts, visual arts, music, drama and physical education. 

The Nature School's unique ethos uses Forest School learning approaches and philosophies and blends it with the Ontario Ministry of Education's Curriculum Guidelines. Our students are provided with a well rounded education that prepares them to enter the traditional school system while developing the skills to take safe risks, find solutions and answers to their own questions, and develop a sense of belonging to the world.

 


Academics


Curriculum Progressive

Primary Curriculum: Progressive


What The Nature School says: Teachers develop lessons and learning objectives by what inspires the students, tying in the Ontario Ministry of Education Curriculum links to provide a well-rounded education. Teachers use a student-led, inquiry-based approach when developing lessons. Teachers facilitate student learning through providing a variety of tools, resources and experiences that guide students to find answers to their own questions; which builds confidence, self-reliance, and independent thinking skills.

  • Approach:
    Focus
    Nature-based


  • Pedagogies and subject courses:

  • Mathematics Discovery Math

      Discovery Math turns traditional math on its head: it frequently begins by introducing a novel problem to students, and works its way back to “discovering” a method of solving the problem. The goal is to ground mathematical procedures and algorithms firmly in their applications, and to challenge students to think critically about how they might go about solving the problem right from the beginning. Generally associated with the “Chicago Math” movement and related Everyday Math textbooks (Grades 1 to 6), Discovery math spends less classroom time mastering established algorithms and more time getting students invested in and thinking critically about novel mathematical problems and concepts. In this sense Discovery Math aims to establish conceptual and applied understand before procedural understanding.
      Learn about the different mathematics approaches  


    • What The Nature School says: The Nature School learning math takes place in the outdoors. Our students confidently experiment with their ideas and think creatively. We explore math in a practical and investigative manner. Through discussion and inquiry our students are able to to discover patterns and relationships between mathematical ideas.

    • Textbooks and supplementary materials: This information is not currently available.

    • Calculator policy: This information is not currently available.


    Early Reading Balanced Literacy

      Balanced reading programs are typically Whole Language programs with supplementary phonics training. This training might be incidental, or it might take the form of mini-lessons.
      Learn about the different early reading approaches  


    • What The Nature School says: The Nature School primary focus is to instill a natural love for reading in all our students. By exposing students to reading by subjects they are interested in teachers are able to teach phonics and reading skills.

    • DIBELS Testing: This school does not use DIBELS testing to assess reading progress.

    • What The Nature School says: This information is not currently available.


    Writing Process approach

      The process approach to teaching beginner writing aims to get students writing “real things” as much as possible and as soon as possible. The goal is to create the right environmental conditions to encourage a love of writing and a motivation to write well. With children invested in the writing process -- through assignments children find meaningful -- students are then given feedback on how they can improve.
      Learn about the different writing approaches  


    • What The Nature School says: The Nature School encourages students imaginations and instill in them confidence and a natural motive for writing. Students are exposed to poetry, short stories and letter writing. Our students develop their understanding of syntax, grammar and punctuation and become creative and confident communicators both in written and oral communications.


    Science Inquiry

      Inquiry-based science emphasizes teaching science as a way of thinking or practice, and therefore tries to get students “doing” science as much as possible -- and not just “learning” it. Students still learn foundational scientific ideas and content (and build on this knowledge progressively); however, relative to expository science instruction, inquiry-based programs have students spend more time developing and executing their own experiments (empirical and theoretical). Students are frequently challenged to develop critical and scientific-thinking skills by developing their own well-reasoned hypothesis and finding ways to test those hypotheses. Projects and experiments are emphasized over textbook learning. Skills are emphasized over breadth of knowledge.
      Learn about the different science approaches  


    • Teaching approach: At The Nature School we encourage our students to question the world around them, think independently, and making scientific discoveries by themselves. Our teachers enable this to happen through offering a wealth of exploratory and practical opportunities, while also incorporating the Ontario Ministry of Education Science Curriculum. Our students learn about scientific methods, theories and core concepts through investigation, and experiments.

    • Topics covered in curriculum:

      Subject = offered
      Biology
      Chemistry
      Ecology
      Geology
      Meteorology
      Physics
      Physiology
      Zoology
    • Treatment of evolution:

      Evolution as consensus theory
      Evolution as one of many equally viable theories
      Evolution is not taught

    Social Studies Thematic

      The Thematic approach organizes the curriculum around certain themes or cultural universals. Students might spend time focused on food. Then they might focus on transportation or government, and so on.
      Learn about the different social studies approaches  


    • What The Nature School says: The Nature School provides an education to students to understand and appreciate the world around them. Hands on lessons and the campus work as the student textbook to learn about geography and history. The campus offers unique opportunities for students to explore early settlers life, aboriginal sites, geological assessments of land and water,


    Foreign Languages
    • What The Nature School says: The Nature School teachers develop language skills in our students through our learning approaches- students are forwarded the opportunity to learn language from each other as well as foreign languages our teachers may speak.

    • Languages Offered: • ESL


    Fine Arts Creative

      Creative arts programs are studio-driven. While historical works and movements may still be taught to add context to the program, students mainly engage in making art (visual, musical, theatrical, etc). The goal is use the actual practice of art to help educate students’ emotions, cognition, and ethos.
      Learn about the different fine arts approaches  


    • Program offers:

      Subject = offered
      Acting
      Dance
      Drama/Theatre
      Graphic Design
      Music
      Visual Arts
    • Visual studio philosophy:

      Expressive
      Disciplined
    • What The Nature School says: The Nature School teaches art through nature, and student interest. Our teachers enable children through our learning approaches to use colour, form, texture, pattern and different materials to create art. The Nature School campus helps students to develop their creativity and imagination and equip them with the ability to extend this in their art work. The Nature School teachers use students interests to develop lessons that incorporate play, exploration and creativity with the Ontario Curriculum to deepen students knowledge and appreciation of all art forms.


    Computers and Technology Light integration

      Computers are used in the classroom from time to time, but integrating technology into everything students do is not a dominant focus. Digital literacy is understood to be a legitimate skill in the 21st century, but not one that should distract from teaching the subject at hand, or more fundamental skills and literacies. The idea is today’s students, being “digital natives”, are likely exposed to computers and new media enough outside the classroom: the role of the school, rather, should be to develop competencies that may otherwise get missed.
      Learn about the different computers and technology approaches  


    • What The Nature School says: The Nature School takes pride in its limited uses of technology at it's school. Students are exposed to the natural environment and uses technology that students may not have access in their homes. Technology skills children are taught are; using compasses, building fires, and safely using knives to whittle. At times students may be encouraged to use digital cameras and GPS units to enhance learning.

    • Program covers:

      Subject = offered
      Computer science
      Robotics
      Web design

    Physical Education
    • What The Nature School says: Physical education is taught through play everyday at The Nature School. Students participate in active lessons and activities through out the day. It is uncommon for students to be sedentary through out the day- instead the unique outdoor learning environment provides an opportunity to be active in all curriculum areas.


    Sex and Health Education Ontario curriculum
    Topics covered in sex and health education:
    Topics We begin covering this topic at: Begins in Ontario
    Body parts Gr. 1 Gr. 1
    Nutrition Gr. 1 Gr. 1
    Human development Gr. 1 Gr. 1
    Puberty Gr. 4
    Sexual health and hygiene Gr. 4
    Reproduction Gr. 5
    Pregnancy Gr. 7
    Sexually transmitted infections Gr. 7
    Sex and decision-making Gr. 7
    Contraception Gr. 8
    Consent Gr. 9
    Sexual orientation Gr. 8
    Gender identity Gr. 3 Gr. 8
    Misconceptions relating to sexuality Gr. 10
    Relationships and intimacy Gr. 8
    Bias and stereotyping about sex Gr. 12
    Sexual harassment Gr. 9
    Body image issues Gr. 7
    Mental illness Gr. 11
    Social justice and diversity Gr. 3

    What The Nature School says: This information is not currently available.

    Approach:
    Mostly value-neutral

    By and large, we teach sex education free of any particular moral or ethical standpoint. We try not to impose any particular values or value systems (such as social, political, or ideological values) on our students when teaching sex and related issues.


    Fairly value-based

    Sex education is sometimes taught from a particular moral or ethical standpoint. Sometimes particular values or value systems (such as social, political, or ideological values) are invoked when teaching sex and related issues.

    Traditional

    This includes a range of positions. A traditional approach might, for example, go as far as emphasizing the nuclear family and complete abstinence from sex before marriage. Alternatively, this approach might simply involve placing less emphasis on sex outside of the context of marriage and more emphasis on abstinence. Or finally, it might just involve focusing less on sex outside of the context of marriage.

    Progressive

    This might mean more emphasis is placed on the importance of such things as social equality, diversity, and choice in sex education.


    What The Nature School says: The Nature School follows the Ontario Ministry of Education curriculum guidelines for teaching sex-education.



    Preschool/K Curriculum Play-based

    • Play-based
    • Montessori
    • Waldorf
    • Reggio Emilia
    • Academic

    Play-based programs are the most common type of preschool and Kindergarten, and are founded on the belief young children learn best through play. Largely open-ended and minimally structured, play-based programs aim to develop social skills and a love of attending school. “Pre-academic” skills are taught, but in a more indirect way than at, say, an Academic program: through children playing in different “stations” set up around the classroom, which children choose on their own volition. Stations often contain an indirect lesson or developmental goal. Play-based classrooms are highly social and active.

    If you want to learn more about preschool education, check out our comprehensive guide. You can also read our in-depth answers to important preschool questions: What is preschool? What are the main preschool programs? What are the main pros and cons of preschool? What do children learn in preschool? How much does preschool cost?  What makes for a great preschool?

    What The Nature School says: Teachers use a student-led approach when developing lessons. Learning approaches used by our teachers are inquiry based, play based, place based, and experiential.


    Curriculum Pace Standard-enriched

    • Standard-enriched
    • Accelerated
    • Student-paced

    Broadly-speaking, the main curriculum -- like that of most schools -- paces the provincially-outlined one. This pace is steady and set by the teachers and school. The curriculum might still be enriched in various ways: covering topics more in-depth and with more vigor than the provincial one, or covering a broader selection of topics.

    Flexible pacing:

    Flexible pacing style = offered
    Subject-streaming (tracking)
    Multi-age classrooms as standard
    Ability-grouping (in-class) as common
    Frequent use of cyber-learning (at-their-own-pace)
    Regular guided independent study opportunities
    Differentiated assessment

    What The Nature School says about flexible pacing: A multi-age grade is an approach to education where students are treated as individuals.\n


    Academic Culture Supportive

    • Rigorous
    • Supportive

    A school with a “supportive” academic culture focuses more on process than short-term outcomes: academic performance is a welcomed side-benefit, but not the driving focus. This does not mean the school lacks standards, or has low expectations for its students: a school can have a supportive academic culture and still light the fire of ambition in its students. It does mean, however, the school provides a less intensive culture than schools with a “rigorous” academic classification, and is focused more simply on instilling a love of learning and life-long curiosity.

    What The Nature School says: The Nature School has a supportive academic culture that focuses on individual student needs. Students work at their own pace to achieve learning objectives. Students drive the learning process forward;


    Developmental Priorities Balanced, Social

    Primary Developmental Priority: Balanced
    Equal attention is paid to a balance of priorities: intellectual, emotional, social, and physical.

    Secondary Developmental Priority: Social
    Socially aware and active citizens, motivated to change the world (or their community) for the better.

    What The Nature School says: The focus of The Nature School aims to educate students in a variety of different ways in a balanced approach. Students are forwarded opportunities to grow socially, physically, emotionally and intellectually.


    Special Needs Support High

    High

    The Nature School provides a high degree of support for special needs students.

    • Academic Support:
      Support Type = offered
      Learning strategy and study counselling; habit formation
      Extra support and minor accommodations for children experiencing subclinical difficulties
    • Mild but clinically diagnosed ADHD
      Support Type = offered
      Accommodations
      Modifications
      Extra support
    • What The Nature School says: The Nature School offers an inclusive classroom experience. Students are grouped based on learning needs rather than grade level. Small class sizes allows teachers to have greater focus on indivdual student needs. Students who require one on one support will need to provide their own assistant.

    • Support for moderate-to-severe special needs:
      Special needs
      Learning disabilities
      ADHD (moderate to severe)
      Dyslexia (Language-Based Learning Disability)
      Auditory Processing Disorder (APD)
      Dyscalculia
      Dysgraphia
      Language Processing Disorder
      Nonverbal Learning Disorders (NLD)
      Visual Perceptual/Visual Motor Deficit
      Developmental
      Autism
      Asperger's Syndrome
      Down syndrome
      Intellectual disability
      Behavioral and Emotional
      Troubled behaviour / troubled teens
      Clinical Depression
      Suicidal thoughts
      Drug and alcohol abuse
      Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)
      Physical
      Dyspraxia (Developmental Coordination Disorder)
      Blindness
      Deafness
      Cystic Fibrosis
      Multiple physical
    • Forms of support delivery:
      Support Type = offered
      A regular class with indirect support
      A regular class with resource assistance
      A regular class with withdrawal assistance
      A special education class with partial integration
      A full-time special education class
    • Additional Support:
      Support Type = offered
      Social skills programs
      Occupational therapy
      Psychotherapy
      Speech-language therapy
    • What The Nature School says: The Nature School offers an inclusive classroom experience. Students are grouped based on learning needs rather than grade level. Small class sizes allows teachers to have greater focus on indivdual student needs. Students who require one on one support will need to provide their own assistant.


    Gifted Learner Support No Support

    The Nature School does not offer any specialized programming for gifted learners.

    Gifted education: If you want to learn more about gifted education, check out our comprehensive guide. It’s the first of its kind: it covers different kinds of gifted schools and programs, and a whole host of issues parents face in finding the right option for their gifted child.

    Homework Policy

    In grade 3, The Nature School students perform an average of No homework of homework per night.

    Nightly Homework
    K123
    The Nature School 0 mins0 mins0 mins0 mins
    Site Average6 mins16 mins18 mins24 mins

    Report Card Policy

    How assessments are delivered across the grades:

    Prose (narrative)-based feedbackK to 3
    Habits and behaviour reportingK to 3

    Class Sizes Not available

    This information is not currently available.

    Recess Policy

     GradesK123
    Non-lunch recessFrequency 3/day 3/day 3/day 3/day
    Location Outside Outside Outside Outside
    Amount 45 45 45 45
    Lunch recessAmount 60 60 60 60

    What The Nature School says: The Nature School classes are primarily located in the outdoors. Recess is integrated with our child-led programming philosophy and learning approaches including inquiry- based, play-based and place-based.



    Extracurriculars

    principal
    What The Nature School says:
    • Our before and after care program offers students the ability to play sports complete art projects and spend quiet time in small groups.

    • Sports OfferedCompetitiveRecreational
      Baseball
      Basketball
      Ice Hockey
      Lacrosse
      Soccer
      Softball
      Swimming
      Tennis
      Track & Field
      Volleyball
    • Clubs offered: None


    Tuition & Financial Aid

    Tuition

     
    PSK123
    Day$3,000$10,200
    What The Nature School says: Tuition fees for The Nature School Preschool include all materials and a snack each day. Tuition fees for The Nature School include all materials, and field trips. A full tuition and fee schedule may be obtained on our website www.thenatureschool.ca.

    Need-based financial aid

    This information is not currently available.



    Merit based Scholarships

    This information is not currently available.


    Enrollment

    Total enrollment 50
    Average enrollment per grade13
    Average class size7 to 10
    Gender (grades)K to 3 (Coed)
    Boarding offeredNo

    Student distribution:

    K123
    Day Enrollment5555

    Admission

    Application

    Admissions Assessments:

    Assessment = requiredGrades
    Interview
    SSAT
    SSAT (out of province)
    Entrance Exam(s)
    Entrance Essay
    Application Fee 

    Application Deadlines:

    Day students:
    Rolling


    What The Nature School says:

    Our approach to schooling is very different from most other schools. Please carefully consider each statement before continuing on to the application. We want to ensure that each family is a good fit with our educational model and to ensure that their child(ren) have the best possible experience.

    • My child will benefit from a choice-based program that offers opportunities for independent, self-directed study as well as teacher guided activities.
    • I want my child to have choice and collaboration in their learning, but I also with them to try new things at their own pace while moving through the Ontario Curriculum.
    • I want a hands-on, experiential and holistic curriculum for my child.
    • I understand that my child will be outdoors most of the time and they will be getting dirty and muddy.
    • I want a progressive approach to reading, writing and math based on research and evidence. I understand that this approach may be different than what I am familiar with, and that the staff is available to discuss this with me.
    • I want to help and encourage my child to think creatively and deeply understand what they are learning through a program that does not rely on worksheets and textbooks.
    • I want my child to have an environmental and global perspective integrated into their learning.
    • I want my child to be in a multi-age environment where age and grade do not determine academic placement and social relationships.
    • I want the teachers to observe and track my child’s learning path and provide anecdotal feedback but not marks or grades.
    • I want my child to explore and learn about math, science, reading, writing, people, places, nature and the environment, and other integrated subjects in an outdoor environment.


    Acceptance

    Acceptance Rate:

    100%

    Type of student The Nature School is looking for: A student that is looking for an alternative form of education. The student will benefit from learning in an outdoor learning environment and excel in a student-led model of education. The student is able to learn in a group setting and can also learn independently.



    Student Entry Points

    Student TypeK123
    Day Acceptance
    (Acceptance rate)
    10 - 20 (100%)10 - 20 (100%)10 - 20 (100%)10 - 20 (100%)

    Stories & Testimonials

    News

    This is Nature School.

    4-year old Mia steps carefully around a circle of stumps, from one to another, to another.  The next one is slightly farther away.  She pauses to consider whether she can step far enough to reach it. 

    Henry, age 2, finds a branch split lengthwise, leaning against a log forming a ramp.  He rolls a pebble down the branch.  He watches it pick up speed and bounce off the end.  He tries again and again from different starting places.

    A group of 3- and 4-year olds work together to add a heavy branch to the fort they are building.  They talk about how to lift it and where it should go. 

    This is Nature School.  It doesn’t look like traditional learning, but learning is happening all the time. 

    Those fort builders are learning about cooperation, teamwork, communication and compromise.  Henry is learning about physics – gravity, slope, speed.  Mia is developing balance and core strength.  She is learning her body’s limits and to use her own judgement to assess risk.  She might fall.  She might scrape a knee.  But, if she hasn’t learned it yet, she will soon know she is strong enough to fall and get back up all by herself.

    To children, Nature School doesn’t feel like school at all.  It feels like play.  And friends.  And joy.  And wonder.  Time to explore and freedom to roam.  It is learning the way learning should happen. 

    A Nature School parent told us, “Every day our son wakes up and asks, ‘Am I going to regular school today or do I get to go to [Nature] School?’”

    At day’s end, children might be wet and muddy.  Their hair might be full of pine needles.   They might be exuberantly exhausted.  And, like Henry and Mia, they will be asking when they get to come back.

    ...



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