Rationale for “Nature Kindergarten: A Developmental Analysis of Forest Schools”
This artifact is my final paper for Education 633, our required course on Human Development. I believe this paper is a strong example of my understanding of educational theory, especially in the context of how nature-based education can foster the development of skills that can often be difficult for many children with exceptionalities to master if confined to indoor classrooms.
For this assignment, I was asked to research and analyze a particular educational practice to identify the underlying biases about human development it is based on. We were required to conduct a literature review, then write a paper that includes both a description and a developmental analysis of the practice in question. My focus on a nature kindergarten run in Sooke, B.C. as compared to forest schools in general enabled me to systematically go through foundational theorists and determine to what extent this particular example of nature-based education has been influenced by and promotes which educational theories.
In revealing theory bias – for example, towards staged understandings of human development that proponents of Nature Kindergartens hold as compared to the belief in continuous development that proponents of Forest Schools in general share - my analysis in this artifact demonstrates why teachers, researchers and environmental educators need to be aware of the seemingly subtle differences between theorists. In my school district 61, a refusal to fund Nature Kindergartens in favour of attempting to make nature-based education available throughout K-12 reflects a bias towards a continuous development model and reveals a repudiation of staged theories of human development that see early childhood as critical to lifelong competence. Parents who move to neighbouring school district 62, which is expanding their Nature Kindergarten program, clearly believe the opposite. Those of us who see that (nature based) education is both important throughout life and critical during early childhood need to be aware of and undaunted by the theoretical foundations of either/or arguments and policy decisions.
This artifact demonstrates my familiarity with the work of Piaget, Vygotsky, Erickson, Montessori, Bronfenbrenner, Bandura, and Baldwin which support learner-centered, hands-on, nature-based education, as well as showing where Skinner and Locke’s theories are used to prioritize teacher-directed, classroom-based learning. This artifact also reveals underlying influences from Rousseau that we need to be careful of, as too often environmental educators romanticize, stereotype and ultimately alienate Indigenous learners and knowledge keepers by resting on his concept of the “noble savage,” instead of embracing an explicit focus on real, place-based and contemporary Indigenous pedagogy. This is addressed by pointing out the theoretical underpinnings of this particular Nature Kindergarten, and noting similarities in Saunders and Hill’s 2007 ‘native ontological perspective of education,’ as well as the theories of Leroy Little Bear (2012) and Delores van der Wey (2001) on how to make education inclusive, equitable and effective for Indigenous learners.
Little Bear, L. (2012). Traditional knowledge and humanities: A perspective by a Blackfoot. Journal of Chinese Philosophy, 39(4), 518–527.
Saunders, S. E. R., & Hill, S. M. (2007). Native education and in-classroom coalition-building: Factors and models in delivering an equitous
authentic education. Canadian Journal of Education, 30(4), 1015-1045.
van der Wey, Delores. (2001). Exploring multiple serendipitous experiences in a First Nations setting as impetus for meaningful literacy
development. Canadian Journal of Native Education, 25(1), 51–67.