To connect young children and their families to the wisdom of nature, nurture healthy children with important life skills, build community resiliency through outdoor education and inspire environmental stewardship in the next generations.
We strive to create safe and affirming outdoor spaces that support children’s physical, emotional and intellectual development. We fulfill our mission through:
Nature-based early learning opportunities, with a focus on social-emotional learning, compassionate communication, creativity, imagination, and exploration.
We bring awareness to the cycles of nature and develop outdoor skills and a life-long relationship with the more-than-human world.
Grassroots community efforts to protect forests and advocate for healthy neighborhood green spaces, parks, trails, wildlife corridors, and habitats.
Our founding vision is to create a community and nurturing environment where all children have access to high-quality outdoor education and develop the social, emotional, and academic skills needed to thrive in school and life. We help children and families feel a sense of security, belonging, and joy in their lives by providing quality outdoor education and a supportive community and friends.
Principles of Forest School
We are devoted to holistic education. Holistic means ‘whole’ – and Forest School is about practitioners enabling the development of the whole person. This includes:
Emotional development. Periods of reflection are important parts of all forest school sessions and help children to expand their emotional vocabulary and understand how they feel (emotional intelligence).
Spiritual development. This is not necessarily religious but refers to having a sense of belonging to the wider world, being part of something bigger than yourself, and your connection to nature.
Intellectual development. Knowledge is provided in context with situations as they arise and creates a thirst for learning.
Social development. Consistent meetings with the same group of children means that social connection is gained through shared experiences and goals. Children are able to choose whether to work together or separately.
Physical development. Both fine motor skills and gross motor skills are developed in the outdoor environment, as well as stamina and positive experiences in ‘bad' weather.
Communication and language development. Working together encourages communication and develops skillful expression of thoughts and ideas, as well as the ability to listen to others. Reflection activities increase a child’s ability to understand and describe their internal state, wants, and needs.
Forest School practitioners aim to develop these aspects in a low-intervention manner rather than instructing the children to think or act in a certain way. The development is encouraged instead by measures such as raising interesting questions, being a role model for behavior, and allowing children to self-discover and self-regulate.
Our nature-based small-group education is holistic and learner-led. We allow children to develop themselves through healthy engagement with risk, problem-solving, and self-discovery in a hands-on and thoughtful manner.
We believe that children are strong, capable, and full of potential. Children learn through play, imagination, and observing nature.
Elements of Forest School
All-weather nature immersion every day
Inquiry-based teaching style
Small class sizes (6:1 child to teacher ratio)
We provide a small group experience for your child to learn, grow and thrive. This encourages a close connection to the land, to the other children, and to the teachers.
Scientific research has shown that small-group learning improves academic achievement, and relationships with peers and instructors, as well as promotes psychological well-being.
Fern Gully School was founded by Charissa Waters and a group of concerned mothers in response to the 2020 Covid-19 global crisis. They were concerned about how the pandemic impacted children’s development, mental health, emotional well-being, and social skills.
They wholeheartedly believe that outdoor education is the best way to learn and allow for healthy social interactions, as well as boost immune systems and overall well-being, character and resiliency.
Charissa has witnessed firsthand in her own son that being outside and learning in nature, improves overall health and well-being, as well as emotional, intellectual, and behavioral skills. Outdoor learning helps foster the development of creativity, problem-solving, independence, and confidence.
We are a Waldorf-inspired forest school and believe that this kind of learning with unstructured play allows children the freedom to explore, assess risks, be creative and discover without predetermined rules. It's been shown to foster cognitive development while boosting social and emotional learning.