Nature Preschools and Forest Kindergartens: The Handbook for Outdoor Learning

July 20, 2018 - 3 minutes read

By David Sobel

with contributions from Patti Ensel Bailie, Ken Finch, Erin K. Kenny, and Anne Stires

In an era where technology is king it can be easy for outdoor play and the benefits of it to get lost in the shuffle. Nature and Forest Kindergartens the Handbook for Outdoor Learning by David Sobel,encourages us to think outside the box of traditional education and brings nature to the forefront of our minds.

The book starts out with chapter one walking us through what a day in winter looks like for a nature centered classroom. The classroom is located in Alna, Maine and they begin by discussing what is done to make sure the students are properly dressed for the cold weather, as well as the preparations that go into making the day successful for the children. We follow along throughout the various activities of the day and are given a sense of how a nature classroom functions.

As we continue through the book we look at how WaldKindergartens (forest Kindergarten) in Germany are being adapted and used in the United States. The author takes the time to discuss differences in beliefs for traditional American schools and European Forest schools, and also provides research to support the beliefs of the European Forest schools. After the book discusses how we view education, it will then examine how language and literacy skills are encouraged, along with the STEM skills that are developed as well.

Nature and Forest Kindergartens the Handbook for Outdoor Learning addresses the risks and benefits of nature or forest classrooms. While the author addresses some of the safety concerns that may be brought up and how to communicate with parents about their concerns, this chapter is more focused towards the benefits of nature play and its impact on the whole child.

For anyone seriously considering opening their own nature classroom there are several chapters devoted to budgeting, infrastructure, and best practices for nature-based learning.

The final chapter takes us to a rainy autumn day on Vashon Island in Washington’s Puget Sound. The children are arriving for a day of learning and exploring in the forest. The teachers begin the walk to the different areas of the forest asking guiding questions about what children see and hear, but providing no answers. While the children play, and explore the teachers keep their distance and watch what unfolds naturally amongst the children.

Nature and Forest Kindergartens the Handbook for Outdoor Learning allows us to escape to classrooms without walls, where the children are the leaders, and are actively engaged all day long. Whether you are looking for ideas to start up a nature classroom or looking for inspiration to spend a little bit more time outside this book leaves you with a want to explore the great outdoors.

Reviewed by: Cecilia Mintz