This is a living document where we compile some of the writing, research, and community connections that inspire us.
Topics include wilderness education, alternative schools, democratic decision-making, social justice, skill-based and experiential learning, place-based and environmental education, non-violent communication, and more! Please send us your suggestions!
A sweet and short overview of what a "forest school"looks like and the inspiration behind the movement.
Last Child in the Woods (book)
by Richard Louv
Richard Louv is an American Journalist and Author, and the co-founder of the Children & Nature Network. In the Last Child in the Woods he describes how children today are facing an epidemic of “nature-deficit disorder”, it is not a medically diagnosable disease, but something that majorly impacts children's lives. He explains the importance that direct exposure to nature has on children, and how this so called nature deficit disorder is contributing to the rising rates of obesity and ADHD in children today. This book is a compelling argument for why setting aside time for nature play is critical in children’s lives, and why forest school is a great choice for any child.
Balanced and Barefoot (book)
by Angela J. Hanscom
Angela Hanscom is a pediatric occupational therapist and the founder TimberNook, a nature based play program. In this book she discusses how important reasonable risk taking in nature is to a child’s physical, cognitive, and emotional development. The cover summarizes her main point well, “how unrestricted outdoor play makes for strong, confident, and capable children.” She also gives insight on her professional experience with the effects of hours spent inside sitting down at school, as well as increased screen time can have on children's attention; and how exposure to nature and free play can help. This book is a great starting place for learning about the benefits nature has for children’s development.
Carol Black is an American writer and filmmaker who studied education at UCLA. For the past 25 years she has been an activist for the unschooling and alternative education movements. She begins her piece by explaining how typical schools today are based on a framework created during the industrial revolution to create punctual and obedient factory workers. This framework of schools came with desks in rows, in dull classrooms, with harsh fluorescent lights and minimal windows, creating a barrier between children and nature for major portions of the day. She uses this concept as background for why our society has seen increases in attention disorder and a decrease in enjoyment of learning in the recent decades. An important takeaway from this piece is her description of why hands on learning is a more meaningful way to learn, that results in knowledge that sticks with a child. Overall, her piece is a good introduction to the importance of hands on, nature based learning.
Carol Black, an American writer, filmmaker, and activist for the unschooling and alternative education movements, writes this piece about the difference between the science behind how children learn, and the science behind how children learn in school. She begins by explaining how research today looks at children in the school setting and claims results of how children learn best. But they are only looking at children in schools, and is that really the environment and the methods that caters best to a child’s learning? She goes on to explain why this is a problem in more detail, by beginning with the quote “collecting data on human learning based on children’s behavior in school is like collecting data on killer whales based on their behavior at Seaworld.” The mainstream school setting, she states, is an artificial environment designed to produce children that can sit still and take in information; but children in many other cultures and in the time before formal schooling, learn from their surroundings, by watching others and engaging in hands on experiences. Overall, this is a good piece to gain an understanding of the reason behind the self-directed education philosophy.
Peter Gray is a developmental psychologist and a research professor at Boston College. His current research and writings focus primarily on children's natural ways of learning and the life-long value of play. In this book, he brings in evidence from anthropology, psychology, and history, to explain how free play is the primary way in which children learn to control their lives, solve problems, get along with peers, and become emotionally resilient. It expands on the idea that the current school system is limiting children’s creativity and problems are arising in children where we should not see them. It encourages the reader to stop asking what’s wrong with our children who can not sit still and start asking what is wrong with our school system that is forcing them to do so. He believes, with his own research to back it up that free play is necessary for a child to thrive and learn.
Place-based Education: Connecting Classroom and Community (article)
by David Sobel
David Sobel is an education writer and a faculty member at Antioch University. He had a key role in helping develop the philosophy of place-based education. In this article he takes you through different schools who use place-based education and how they do it. From a Berkley, CA school learning through gardening and cooking to a Littleton, New Hampshire school district coming together to open a river science museum full of student designed exhibits and experiments, placed-based education can incorporate many subjects and get children out in their communities. This article is a great introduction to the concept of place-based education and all the possibilities that are out there for hands on learning.
Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), is an organization that works with experts to guide research and practice, and inform policy to benefit schools, districts, and states across the U.S.. Their website is full of resources to understand Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and strategies to promote SEL in children. This page gives a great overall picture of what is SEL and why is it important. It discusses how self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making are at the core of SEL and with the development of those skills we see results such as increased academic achievements, improved behavior, and improved emotional well being. Social emotional learning is important for every child and it is important for parents and educators to have an understanding of what it is and the impacts it can have on our children.
The Power of Mindfulness: How a meditation practice can help kids become less anxious, more focused by Juliann Garey (Article)
Juliann Garey is a journalist, novelist and clinical assistant professor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Studies at NYU. She begins the article by explaining what mindfulness is in the broadest sense of the term, where is came from and how adults use it. She then gets into the child side, explaining why it is important to practice mindfulness with children, stating “mindfulness has emerged as a way of treating children and adolescents with conditions ranging from ADHD to anxiety, autism spectrum disorders, depression and stress. And the benefits are proving to be tremendous.” She gives examples of how to explain mindfulness to children, and some mindfulness practices to do with. This is a great intro article to the concept of mindfulness for children and provides links to additional resources to further your knowledge.
Non-Violent Communication Basics by David Weinstock (article)
David Weinstock is a somatic coach who specializes in non-violent communication. He is the author of Becoming What You Need: Practices for Embodying Nonviolent Communication. In this article he gives an overall explanation of what nonviolent communication is, and describes how empathy and honesty are at the core of it. He gives the basics of how one might practice nonviolent communication through examples of possible interactions and responses. With the specific examples and an overall explanation, this article is a great introduction to understanding the basics of nonviolent communication.