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Nurturing the Wellspring of Human Potential
The naturalist, Henry David Thoreau, once said, “In Wildness is the preservation of the world.” But do we really appreciate wildness? Many prefer wild salmon at the fish counter yet cringe at the image of a wild child. Can we trust the notion of untouched wilderness? And is there any place for cultivation in the wild? Somewhere between the extremes of control and chaos there is a river that flows. This we call, “A Wilder Harmony.”
A wilder harmony exists where attentiveness greets the innocence of youth. It arises in the group when all are successfully protected from threat, fully fed, and their immediate needs met. What’s left is to open our hearts and minds to the simplicity of play: the fertile ground of optimal development. Effortless attention prevails without striving. Calm envelopes engaged activity, and everything seems to sing. Perennial as daybreak, a wilder harmony arises and passes as surely as waves on the sea when all walk together creating the world we want to live in.
Why does such this description seem so bafflingly rare, perhaps even naive?
The tension between needs and threats is ever-present, continuously shifting within, around, and in between. To meet all needs is like reaching for the heavens. Nevertheless, we call forth heightened mindfulness rooted in connection. Emotional intelligence is the bedrock for our interactions as we monitor the impact of each moment, responding to individual needs in the context of community. We stay current with an evolving understanding of “trauma,” a word describing how emotion can be reactivated from the past, a crucial ingredient in understanding group dynamics. We greet human imperfection with patient flexibility, focusing unwaveringly on what we want to see in our arising world.
Peace is continuously woven, briefly deferred, and deliberately rewoven, alive to the present: the birthplace of the future. Tenderly tuning in, we move relentlessly toward what underlies this social species that sings and dances: A Wilder Harmony.
The Outdoor Classroom
When the Forest is your classroom it is also your teacher. This environment supports a child's natural curiosity and develops a relationship with the Earth we live on and are made of.
As we learn to love the Earth so do we learn to love ourselves. It is our belief that this environment is the healthiest for a child to learn, grow and be in community. This belief is today supported by Science:
"Six themes emerged from the data of the positive impacts on children in terms of confidence, social skills, language and communication, motivation and concentration, physical skills and knowledge and understanding. Two further themes highlight the wider impacts of Forest School on teachers, parents, and the extended family.” O’Brien, L., Murray, R. “Forest School and its impacts on young children: Case studies in Britain” 15 November 2007
Emotional and Social Development
AWH is a community, one that is fully accepting of each individual, caring and supportive of the children, teachers and parents. We nourish and encourage friendships and supportive behaviors.
Children at AWH are encouraged to choose kindness and act respectfully. All emotions are valued and we learn how to respond rather than react to them.
Each child is given the space to be seen and heard. They learn to listen to each other as well as their own wisdom.
We practice listening to the forest, to the birds, animals, trees, wind and rain.
They learn to help each other and how to look after one another in simple team building exercises such as cleaning up after lunch.
Our teachers model and facilitate with care and mindfulness. Our teachers lead by example and practice skillful communication and loving kindness.
We believe in the courage and confidence that the natural world can help amplify. For further reading please see below.
We start our day with some simple Yoga postures, tuning and grounding in our bodies and the environment around us. This also helps develop healthy habits.
Children engage in lots of activity throughout the day, walking, running, jumping and climbing.
They learn coordination and balance, they develop courage and confidence through trial and error, though failure and success.
Children learn basic personal hygiene skills and to wash hands before eating.
We encourage staying hydrated and eating healthy pack-lunches.
They learn to leave no trace in the Forest and to tread lightly on the Earth.
Art and music
Through arts and craft activities AWH children practice motor skills, concentration and the joy of creativity.
Through songs and making music in the forest they develop their memory and connect to their own voices.
We create in craft projects together and in individually for example we may create an altar together out of found objects celebrating the Equinox or Solstice.
Children learn to make music in the Forest using their voices and creating instruments and noises out of their surroundings.
We observe and honor the seasons and our surroundings through songs, stories, movement and art making.
We learn about our environment - the trees, the flowers, the insects, the birds and the animals.
During circle time we sing songs that highlight the beauty surrounding us. During snack time we read stories about Nature.
During meals we discuss where our food comes from, we learn that we are Nature, we are made of the Earth and are nourished by the Earth.
Continued learning from the Forest unfolds and we encourage respect towards animals, insects, plants and trees.
Creativity is deeply valued in this setting. We respect each child’s unique gifts and encourage these to be shared for the benefit of the whole.
Each child is encouraged to express their unique individuality in a group setting through conversation, word play, songs, storytelling, imaginative games, play and art making.
There are times in our program where creative play is child-led and there are times where teachers offer some inspiration for a project. This may have been planned in advance or it may be something that happens in response to what emerges during a day together.
Hold on to Your Kids by Gordon Nuffield and Gabor Mate
Rest, Play, Grow: Making Sense of Preschoolers (Or Anyone Who Acts Like One) by Deborah MacNamara
O’Brien, L., Murray, R. “Forest School and its impacts on young children: Case studies in Britain” 15 November 2007
‘Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident and Capable Children’ by Angela J. Hanscom.
On the Wildness of Children, by Carol Black
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