REVIEW OF Explore Nature BY parent, Alicia Shala
- Date of Review
June 01, 2023
- Child 1
Gr. 1 - Gr. 3 (Male, Current Day Student)
(5) Student Experience
This school is all around amazing. My kiddo has a lot of energy and needs space to move around and explore in creative ways while learning. The program here is well structured. A great mix of structured academic learning and hands on outdoor learning and play. The teachers are great at recognizing and building on a child's strengths while helping your kiddo build in areas where they have room to grow. The teachers have such a strength-based approach to even the most quirky and out of the box kids. My child has thrived in this environment where he would have struggled in so many others. He has built resilience and a great appreciation of nature by being outdoors in all weather year round. I find the proximity to nature a great counter balance to our screen addicted culture. I feel confident knowing I'm starting my child out right by exposing him to nature, open ended play and a small group school environment in his younger years.
(5) School Leadership
The teachers at Explore Nature are very focused on inclusivity and ensuring all kids feel seen, included, and valued. They address challenges through discussions with children and apply fairness in all situations. Teachers foster a caring environment where older kids act as role models and guides for younger children. If a child is struggling they are quick to step in and find solutions so that all persons involved feel met. Small class sizes enable teachers to track all students and ensure they are having a positive experience at school.
I love that Explore Nature will work with your child where they are. My kiddo is advanced in some areas and "behind" his peers in others. With their small classroom sizes and mixed-aged classes, they are able to cater their teaching to the level at which your child is currently and move upward from there. I really appreciate this individualized approach. More focused academic learning occurs first thing in the morning when kids are fresh and ready to learn. Additional learning occurs throughout the day outdoors and later back in the classroom. Time outdoors enhances the children's ability to learn over extended periods of time because their bodies get the movement and fresh air they need to extend focus and learning throughout the day.
I feel Explore Nature does an amazing job at covering Ontario's standard curriculum while still making lots of space for learning outdoors and open-ended creative play. Small class sizes enable teachers to cover more in a day than they could in overcrowded classroom spaces. At Explore Nature, classrooms include children from kindergarten through to grade 3. This allows children who are struggling in particular areas to move across the grades and work at the foundational levels before moving up to a more advanced curriculum. This wide range of available curricula allows children to work where they are rather than expecting all children to be at a certain grade level by a certain age. This type of environment allows for a wide range of learning abilities and gives children the individualized attention they need to master the curriculum.
At Explore Nature, "extracurriculars" are included in the regular school day. Students don't have to wait until outside school hours to explore and develop their additional interests. I love that the school day is so well rounded and children are exposed to a great number of activities in a regular school day, not just academics alone. One of my favourite things about Explore Nature is that even in grade 3 my child comes homes with drawings and birdhouses he built from scratch. Creativity is so important for a child's cognitive growth and overall health and well-being. At Explore Nature, children are not confined to a desk once they reach grade 1 as they might be in many other schools. Instead, they are constantly engaging in a wide range of activities.
One amazing thing I found at Explore Nature is that all the kids tend to get along even though they have such profoundly diverse personalities. I think it may be due to the school culture and exposure to the outdoors but children of all personalities thrive in this environment so "getting along" seems to come very naturally at this school, even for kids with very strong personalities. There is a strong sense of community at this school. Older kids are encouraged to build leadership skills and help guide younger children. Younger children get the benefits of playing with their peers but also older kids as they would in typical neighborhoods where kids of all ages mix and mingle and learn from one another. I think it's such a healthy community structure.
(5) School Life
My child is naturally the kind of kid that would struggle in traditional school. He would likely fall through the cracks and develop a distain for learning. But at Explore Nature he loves school. Here, he doesn't mind learning. And looks forward to seeing his friends each week. He enjoys his teachers and the structure of the school day and exposure to outdoor time really serves him well. The school is well organized and the day is planned meticulously by the teachers to cover the Ontario curriculum for a wide variety of ages while also extending learning to the outdoors and into creative play. Children thrive when learning through both structured activities and open-ended activities. Exposure to movement and outdoors helps busy bodies stay calm and regulated and ready to learn.
As a parent with the school, I feel adequately looped into the community of the school. The teachers work diligently to include parents in the everyday events at the school. Parents mix and mingle at pick up and it's not uncommon for friendship to form. Communication is strong between the school and parents. At all times parents feel they have a good sense of what is going on at the school not just academically but socially/emotionally. The school also conducts weekly mindfulness classes and works diligently to expand children's skills in coping with stress and everyday life. The school sets up databases that help parents stay abreast of all the comings and goings and happenings within the school. Report cards are also well written up and give you a great sense of how your child is doing at school.
(5) School Location
The school is located near a beautiful forested area near Leaside. The kids get out daily to explore local paths and parks. On particularly harsh weather days kids have access to a green space beside the school so they can still get some fresh air even on tougher days without having to overexpose to cold or rain. The school makes great use of the green spaces around the school and I can't say enough about the positive benefits of sending your child to a forest school where immersion in nature is part of the everyday experience.