A new forest school opened this week at Wesley Clover Parks in Nepean, and the people behind it are hoping to solidify a partnership with the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board to bring the program to more students.
The schoolhouse is a 27-metre by 27-metre winterized wood cabin with a wood stove. The site also has an outdoor amphitheatre with a covered stage, as well as a storage shed.
It's a short distance away from the Wesley Clover Campground and the equestrian park, and the woods around the school site are filled with trails.
Right now seven preschoolers are attending the summer session before fall programming begins. The program allows children to direct their own learning and become familiar with natural spaces.
"I really like just the inside of the nature and how beautiful it is," said five-year-old Zara Zrudlo. "I like how sunny it is sometimes, and how rainy it is sometimes, and how cold and hot it is sometimes."
Talks with OCDSB ongoing
In June, the forest school trained 16 Ottawa-Carleton District School Board educators to run nature programs at their own schools.
Marlene Power, Forest School Canada's executive director, said they're in discussions with OCDSB about partnering for field trips as well as full- and part-time programs for students in the OCDSB system in the next couple of years, but that nothing is finalized.
"What I can say is that the [board] is really committed to environmental education, and the conversation will hopefully unfold in great ways," Power said.
"It's really important to me that we're not just creating something on the fringe. We're creating an opportunity and shifting education to recognize that nature should be an integral part of how we teach children every single day."
An OCDSB spokesperson said board officials — who are currently on annual leave and are unavailable to comment — are enthusiastic about the program.