Lia Keller asked preschoolers if they could “find the tunnel from last time” and they led the way to a downed cottonwood, where they could play “foxes and bears” in a pit under the root ball.
“I am passionate about getting children outside,” said Keller, who founded the school. “Kids have to get out as young as possible so they learn how to explore and foster a deep love of nature and our wild places.
She also believes “children need more unstructured time” to learn from their play.
Keller offers parents three sessions a week.
The forest school idea started in Europe, but has spread around the world. It seems like a perfect fit for Alaska, says Beka Land, whose daughters are five and three. “The natural consequences of exploring the outdoors and talking through choices is so valuable,” Land said. “As a family, we like the idea of an outdoors-centered program that lets kids pick their own path.”
After 30 minutes of “hollering, discovering and exploring,” the preschoolers were full of questions, writes Kirkland.
Why does snow look like crystals under the frame of a magnifying glass? What happens when you try to climb a tree much taller than your mom and way higher than any recess monitor would ever allow? How can five small kids figure out how to tie up a blue tarp without adult assistance?
Keller answered many questions with: “What do you think we should do?”
I saw the link on OneTree Alaska, a Facebook site set up by Jan Dawe, a University of Alaska botanist who was my best friend in elementary school. We were co-editors-in-chief of The Wednesday Report, which we published twice a month for four years.