Rowing our boat on the high seas.
At Northeast LA Forest School we seek to reverse the "indoorification of childhood" by providing real life, inquiry-based explorations in nature. Children will be able to indulge their curiosity, let it guide their explorations, and build their scientific thinking through trial-and-error style play. We strive to create a space where children can learn through experiences, and to provide them with teachers they can trust to keep them safe while fostering their curiosity and independence. Our hope is that our program fosters a sense of community and a life-long love of the natural world.
Northeast LA Forest School uses an active, experiential learning model, inspired by the European model of the Forest Kindergarten, and set in the urban park landscape of Los Angeles. Our curriculum is emergent and is based on the expanding curiosities of our students. Our days are centered around hikes and explorations and are rich with opportunities for social-emotional development. Our teachers model social behaviors, guide children through conflict, and help children balance their risk assessments. Teachers are present as observers and help to remove hazards that children cannot handle.
Our student body ranges in age from 2-5. This mixed age setting allows for the natural development of learners and leaders, and has been found to foster motivation, self-esteem, achievement, and community. As children grow, they can see themselves becoming leaders while discovering empathy for those who are where they used to be. When we break up into smaller, age-based groups during inquiries, our teachers are ready with the differentiation skills needed to engage different ages at different stages.
We lead with expectations so that children know their boundaries rather than finding them by “getting into trouble”. We model cooperative behavior, healthy social interactions, and empathy as well as teaching safety skills. We teach children about risk and risk management. During explorations, our teachers intervene not to instill fear of action, but to help children understand the consequences of those actions. We work toward emotional awareness to resolve conflicts between children. We also understand that children often become overwhelmed. Nature is a great place to learn self soothing skills, and to take a deep breath if you need one.
Forest Schools can build a foundation for academic success. Children who are given the chance to try, fail, and try again, learn resilience, how to take initiative, and inventiveness. Problem solving skills, social competence, and the openness to learn new things come from the freedom of outdoor play. Transitions, participation, empathy, and how to engage in a group learning setting are all necessary skills for kindergarten and skills we practice daily at NELA Forest School.