Sierra Club Canada
PEI Wild Child Forest School (Spring and Summer 2020)
The PEI Wild Child Forest School is a program 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 and animal tracks, 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 benefitting 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.
The PEI Wild Child Forest School began in 2017 and has received positive feedback from parents and kids alike. In 2017, 98 children participated in the Wild Child Forest School program, which grew to 338 in 2018, and 539 kids in 2019. This outstanding growth certainly demonstrates the need and desire for a program that is centered on outdoor nature free-play. Despite the challenges of COVID, 339 kids participated in the Wild Child program in 2020 (#0% of these spots were provided for free to families that otherwise would not be able to afford it).
The feedback from parents has been overwhelmingly positive, and demonstrates that we have achieved our intended program outcomes. 92% of parents that responded to our post-program feedback survey noticed an increase in their child's desire to play outside in physically active ways, 70% noticed that their child showed a greater comfort and willingness to play outside in 'not nice' weather, and 92% observed an increase in their child's confidence and ability to self-regulate around managing risk and unfamiliar situations. Finally, 70% of parents reported that their child was more physically active and initiated outdoor play on their own more often compared to before they participated in the program.
One parent summarized the impact of the program: "Wild Child had helped out child learn how nature can help them self-regulate and also to understand how they fit into the bigger picture s of the environment and ecosystem. It has fostered a love and respect for nature as well as confidence in their ability to problem solve."