For Greene County News
YELLOW SPRINGS — Kindergartners at Antioch School in Yellow Springs start every week in a classroom with no pencils, paper or walls. The children meet their teacher in a forest classroom, where they hike, climb, explore, whittle and play outdoors. The children have constructed a lean-to and are eagerly awaiting winter weather, so they can start a fire in their fire pit.
Their teacher, Lindie Keaton, is a graduate of The National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). The children’s experience this year has been modeled on the Forest Kindergarten movement, which originated in Europe and Lindie’s experiences at summer camps as a child and as a NOLS student learning group expedition leader skills.
Spending time in nature has been shown to have a positive effect on stress levels and learning, while at the same time, kindergartners are deepening their knowledge of local wildlife, habitats and climate. The children are learning to identify many types of trees, plants, birds, tracks, scat and bones. The children are involved in planning their time in their forest classroom, developing goal-setting, decision-making and risk-evaluating skills. While imaginative play always involves creativity, their forest classroom fosters especially rich experiences in creating not only the play scenarios, but all the props from whatever is found in nature.
Forest Kindergarten happens rain or shine and visitors are welcome.