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Information about the Forest Nature Program; Location

The Forest and Nature Program (FNP) is a unique play and learning experience that offers children the opportunity to succeed and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a natural outdoor setting. Children engage in motivating and achievable tasks and activities throughout the year and in almost all weather.

The goals of the FNP for children, families, staff and students include to:

  • Provide regular and repeated access to the same natural setting, for longer periods at a time
  • Increase opportunities for land-based child-directed, emergent and inquiry-based learning
  • Provide opportunities to be more physically active and increase strategies for mental health and wellness
  • Develop social emotional, language and communication skills
  • Increase knowledge about local forests, ponds, rivers, creatures and animals, biodiversity and traditional teachings (the 4 directions, elements of life (earth, water, air and fire, seasons etc.) and natural life cycles
  • Use simple tools.

The program is based on the Forest School Canada model (www.forestschoolcanada.ca): the mission is to foster rich learning experiences, ecological literacy, and healthy living by connecting children to nature in the early years and for all Canadian children to play and learn in local forests, creeks, meadows, prairie grasses, mountains, and shorelines with a wise and skilled educator who understands the power of play and child-directed learning and how this can contribute to a more sustainable world (2014). The Forest School concept originates in Denmark, originally aimed at preschool children, where it was found that children who had attended forest school then arrived at school with strong social and communication skills, having the ability to work in groups effectively, generally had high self-esteem and a confidence in their own abilities. These foundations helped them to raise their academic achievements.

kids drawing outsideOntario’s Early Learning Framework referred to as Early Learning for Every Childhood Today (ELECT) provides a shared language and common understanding of children’s learning and development. This includes the importance of children’s connections to and interactions with the natural world whether ‘in large urban centres with small patches of green space, gardens, and trees or in vast fields and forests’ (p. 21). A growing body of research suggests that connecting to the natural world contributes to children’s mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health and well-being (Louv, 2008). Providing daily opportunities to explore, care for, and interact with the natural world helps to strengthen these connections.

The core principles of the ELECT framework also inform the jointly developed Canadian Position Statement on Active Outdoor Play based on global evidence and calling for proactive and challenging outdoor play especially in nature as essential for healthy child development.

Location of the Forest and Nature Program: History and Place

  • The 105 hectare Humber Arboretum is located in Adobigok (Place of the Alders in the Ojibwe Language), known as the traditional territory of the Ojibwe Anishinabe aboriginal people and includes several First Nations communities.
  • Part of the Carolinian Life Zone (Ecoregion 7E), it is Canada’s most biologically diverse ecological region. It is home to 50% of Canada’s birds, 40% of Canada’s native plants, and 66% of our reptiles. Some 2,200 species of herbaceous plants and 70 species of trees are found in this zone
  • In 2015, the Humber Arboretum was designated as a new Environmentally Significant Area (ESA) by the City of Toronto
  • For more information on the Arboretum, see http://humberarboretum.on.ca/