Sierra Club Canada
PEI Wild Child Forest School (Spring and Summer 2018)
The PEI Wild Child Forest School is a program in Charlottetown that takes place in nature, entirely outdoors for the duration of the program: rain or shine. At Forest School, kids build skills to climb trees, identify local flora and fauna, learn bird calls, explore natural areas, develop physical literacy skills, learn to use tools like saws, hammers, and drills, and get outside and play!
Understanding the complexity of our natural world and our place in it is a never ending education. It requires an integration of intense observation, wild creativity, knowledge, critical thinking, and quiet reflection. By bringing our children into nature and helping them to experience it and learn from it, we are helping them to become attuned to the natural world, and thereby indirectly benefiting wildlife. We are helping them to develop the skills needed to be effective leaders who will manage our resources responsibly and sustainably in the future.
During the spring and summer of 2018, 200 children (aged 2 to 12) participated in the PEI Wild Child Forest School program. These children were given first-hand knowledge and experience of how we are connected to and dependent on our natural surroundings. How precious resources like clean air, food, and water can be helped or harmed by human use. Children were given the opportunity to learn about the different roles of trees and plants in the natural landscapes and why it’s important to have diversity and protect and enhance our local ecosystems. Through fun activities, games, art, imaginative play and hands on experience, children learn in a positive way all about the abundant natural resources in their province and how they can help to protect and enhance them. They spent more time outdoors and benefited from the increased physical activity while enjoying the province’s natural spaces.
Of the parents surveyed, 93% mentioned an increase in their child’s curiosity and interest in nature, with 75% of parents surveyed said that that their child asks to go outside more often now, compared to when the program started. One parent summarized the impact of the program: “Our child came home from each Wild Child experience filthy with mud, scratched by branches, exhausted from fresh air and exercise, filled with confidence and independence, and happier than at any other time during the week!”.
Another parents commented: “Since my daughter started wild child, she seems to see the woods like one big playground. Instead of wanting to go to the park, she wants to go build forts in the woods or find hermit crabs on the beach. In the past, she used to want to stay inside on rainy days and now she wants to puts on her rain suit and boots and jump in the puddles or pick up worms.” Ultimately, 81% of parents surveyed agreed, saying that they had noticed greater comfort and willingness to go outside in “not nice” weather since starting the Wild Child Program.