When I think of Forest School, I imagine babes in the woods getting dirty, loving Mother Earth, and learning how to care for her. I envision child-led learning with an emphasis on being kind to nature and all its creatures. With the recent movement to reconnect children with nature, forest school activities are popping up all over social media. Some suggested activities are genius, and others are frighteningly unsustainable. While planting a tree seems like it would be good for the environment, planting a Russian Olive tree would be detrimental to the forest (it is an invasive species). And as much fun as it is to catch minnows, after being handled and kept in a bucket in the blazing sun, many of them will die. Like the old saying goes, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” How then can we get on the path to sustainable forest schooling?
1. Look But Don’t Touch: The best way to view wildlife is in its natural habitat.
- DO encourage respectful wildlife viewing. Bring a monocular or pair of binoculars for looking at animals in the distance, and discuss how you can speak so as not to scare the animals (hint: Shhhhh).
- DO look at bugs under a magnifying glass.
- DO encourage the kids to take photos are draw pictures of what they saw.
- DO look for signs of wildlife (pine cone middens, nests, scat).
- DO NOT catch butterflies, frogs, and minnows or touch tide pool creatures. Capturing and handling many animals and bugs can stress, injure, and even kill certain them! Butterfly wings can be damaged in capture and amphibians’ back legs can be dislocated1 making them easy targets for predators. Fish are very susceptible to stress, temperature changes, and having their slime coat removed (it acts as a barrier to bacteria and fungi). Sunscreen and bug spray on our hands can harm starfish and sea anemones.
- DO NOT feed wild animals. By feeding animals, we not only make them dependent on our handouts, we also endanger them (and people!). Animals that are used to being fed can become aggressive when they don’t get what they want! I don’t know about you, but there is nothing cute about a vicious squirrel scratching at my legs (super scary now that there have been a few rabies cases in the province). Now picture a larger animal doing this…
- DO NOT bring animals and bugs home with you.
|I spy a nest!|
|Pine cone midden (made by squirrels)|
- DO learn what the rules are. This summer, I learned you’re not allowed to collect seashells in BC provincial parks! Did you know that?
- DO explain why certain rules are in place or look it up together. Parks staff are quite happy to oblige.
- DO pledge to follow the rules.
- DO NOT break the rules!
|We left the shells alone and made a sand castle instead!|
|Low profile rock art|
|Take only photographs!|