Sussex-area pre-school launches Atlantic Canada's first 'forest school'

A new pre-school program beginning in September in the Sussex area will be Atlantic Canada's first certified forest school.

Four-year-olds will spend 85 per cent of their time outdoors all year round

Lisa Brown is excited to open Atlantic Canada's first certified forest school in Roachville, N.B. where pre-school children will spent 85 per cent of their days outside. (Connell Smith/CBC)

A new pre-school program beginning in September in the Sussex area will be Atlantic Canada's first certified forest school.

Children enrolled in the Tír na nÓg Forest School will spend 85 per cent of their days outside all year round.

Owner and pre-school director Lisa Brown is excited to begin the new program, which she says will move children away from computers so they can embrace nature.

"Children are a lot less stressed outside in an outdoor curriculum," she said. "They're not as closed in, they're free to run, they're free to be kids."

The outdoor school will include trails in the expansive forest behind the pre-school. Brown says over the next few months more trails, small clearings and wooden shelters will be added as gathering points for children and their teachers.

Brown proudly showed off the winding alphabet trail, where every tree has a letter, as an example of how nature and education can come together.

She explains the forest school philosophy allows children to spend most of their days - all year round - playing and learning outside surrounded by nature.

Brown says those experiences will help the four-year-olds to build confidence and social skills as they prepare to enter the public school system when they are five.

"They're going to be in a classroom setting with four walls and a ceiling for the next 12 or 13 years," said Brown. "Why not let them have that freedom of being in a natural space and not being stressed and being scheduled all the time?"

Amy Savoie has enrolled her four year old son Jesse in the program, which is set to begin in September.

"I  think it's just going to be a great opportunity for him to come out of his shell," Savoie said.

"Learning all kinds of skills, problem solving, having that different kind of a year to prepare him before he goes off to school."

The Tír na nÓg Forest School will be located in Roachville, near Sussex.