Sierra Club Canada Foundation
Wild Child Forest School—PEI
Sierra Club Canada Foundation successfully piloted the first season of the PEI Wild Child Forest School, thanks, in part, to financial support from the PEI Wildlife Conservation Fund. The PEI Wild Child Forest School is a program that provides opportunities for children to unplug from their screens and get active in an unstructured outdoor environment with trained facilitators that have a passion for nature and working with children. We ran a total of 16 programs, reaching 98 children, for a total of 2,583 cumulative hours of getting kids into nature. Most programs took place in the forested area of Bomber Callaghan Park, thanks to the generous permission from the City of Charlottetown, with one program taking place at West Royalty School.
Forest school and other outdoor nature based programs support healthy whole child development as they promote healthy physical activity, improves coping skills, increases confidence, enhances emotional development, encourages prosocial behaviours, and even strengthens the immune system. Much of this growing body of research can be found on the Child and Nature Network website http://www.childrenandnature.org/. Forest School also provides indirect benefits to wildlife by providing experiences immersed in nature. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests “childhood participation with “wild” nature (e.g., hiking, camping, or playing in the woods), has a significant, positive effect on both adult environmental attitudes and behaviors” (Wells & Lekies, 2006). Children had encounters with wildlife at PEI Wild child Forest School, which provided them with rich experiences to develop strong ethics towards stewardship and responsibility for protecting our environment.