This film…I just…I can’t…Words…Gah!
Thoughts and feelings and ideas are darting around in my head like squirrels in a park in the fall. I have sat here for well over an hour typing and backspacing an introduction to this blog post. I don’t know where to start. And that is a good thing; it means that this film is making me think, and rethink, everything that I know, and have known, about education and nature.
Let me try this again.
I just had the life-changing opportunity to screen the film “NaturePlay – Take Childhood Back”. And I am telling you about it today in hopes that you will set up a screening in your community and share this incredible documentary with others. I am telling you about it today in hopes that you, like me, will get inspired and want to do something TODAY to help provide a nature-rich future for our children.
Already convinced? Don’t bother reading the rest, organize a screening in your community today!
What is the “NaturePlay – Take Childhood Back” film about?
“NaturePlay – Take Childhood Back” is an award-winning documentary that will take you on a stunning journey to Scandinavia. This film will show you all of the incredible ways that nature, play and education can work together in harmony to raise smarter, happier, healthier, and stronger children. Children who will love and care about nature because they know nature and use nature. And children who are more self-confident, motivated and empathetic. And isn’t that what we want?
“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” ~ John Muir
The other side of this documentary is a look at the high-stakes test-driven culture of the American education system and its affect on children. It touches on Richard Louv’s diagnosis of nature deficit disorder and suggests nature-based education as the cure. The juxtaposition of these two education models is unsettling and will make you want to act.
Why do I care?
I am a teacher. I am a mother. I am a lover of the outdoors. I am not sure which of those identities is most inspired, excited, motivated, energized, roused, (you get the picture) by this documentary. It is this passion and excitement in me that is making it so hard to write this article. All I want to do is drop everything and follow my dreams of starting a forest school now, not in 20 years, not when we win the lottery, NOW!
Forest School is a nature-based educational approach in which children spend anywhere from a half day to a full day outdoors in various urban and near-urban parks, natural spaces adjacent to or on school grounds, or natural playgrounds and outdoor classrooms. Children attending forest school have the opportunity to learn in a natural environment on a regular basis, ranging anywhere from a half to a full day. At Forest School, young people have the freedom to explore, play, build, create, imagine, and use their senses to experience the outdoor environment and engage with one another. Sustainability is woven into the culture of the classroom, and as nature becomes the third teacher, sustainability becomes the foundation on which both children and teachers stand.
I first learned about forest schools when I helped to organize an event for the entire Bachelor of Education program at the University of Ottawa the year that I was there. We invited Forest School Canada to come present and that was it, I was sold. Based on my own upbringing and education, I could have already told you the benefits of a nature-based approach, but hearing them presented that day felt new and wonderful and inspiring. I knew then that, although I had always wanted to become a French teacher, nature-based education was my true calling. I always finish what I start though, so here I am teaching French but slowly wrapping my head around what it will take to pursue this dream until it becomes a reality.
“NaturePlay – Take Childhood Back” was exactly what I needed to reignite the fire in me. And it is what YOU need to ignite the fire in you and in your community. You could go start up your own forest school, change professions or protest standardized testing, but there are even more transformative ideas that you can consider to make a difference.
For a Nature-Rich Future…
Forest schools aren’t the only way to combat nature deficit disorder and “NaturePlay – Take Childhood Back” addresses several other courses of action to reunite children and nature play. I just happen to find that forest schooling is right up my alley! Perhaps you might be more interested in one of the following concepts:
- Udeskole (Danish term that means “worldschooling”): education outside of the classroom, anywhere from a forest to a factory, a garden to a gallery.
- Friluftsliv (Norwegian term that means “open-air living”): a philosophy of living fully in and enjoying nature in your everyday life – a concept that also pervades the education systems in Scandinavian countries. This promotes direct experience with the natural world on a regular and reoccurring basis for kids.
- Forest Kindergarten: a nature-based pre-school model that has children spending anywhere from half the day to the whole day outdoors, regardless of weather, playing, exploring and learning. The extension of this would be Forest School.
- The Head, The Heart, and The Hand (Whole Body Learning): a teaching method that recognizes the child as a whole and responds to how children truly learn, with all five of their senses.
- Nature Playscape: a natural and diverse playground, with such fixed components as trees, hills, boulders, bonfire pits, gardens, ropes and stumps, and loose parts like small logs, stones, sand, and so on.
- Adventure Playground: a scrapyard play space where children can work with tools to upcycle household and construction materials into forts, tunnels, swings and other play structures.
“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” ~Mr. Fred Rogers
Whether you are a parent, a teacher, a lover of children and/or the outdoors, there is something that you can do to ensure a nature-rich future for all of our children. It starts with YOU and it starts NOW!
If you would like to view this film, you will need to organize a screening in your community. To do this, you simply order a screening kit from NaturePlay and follow their guide for setting things up.You could also share this post via social media and encourage others to
#TakeChildhoodBack for every kid.