Do Filipino Kids Need A Forest School? Yes they do!

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Our city kids could benefit from a little bit of mud and fresh air, don’t you think?

Now that we’re in quarantine, we’ve started to see the real benefits of being outdoors, especially for children. All that glorious sunshine, fresh air—nature definitely helps and soothes the soul. But did you know that kids can actually learn from nature and all its messy, muddy glory? We speak to Sharon Cortez of Forest School Philippines to understand more about learning outdoors in a forest school:

Meet Sharon Cortez, Forest School Philippines founder and forest school leader

A former preschool teacher and adult education trainer, Sharon Cortez started Forest School Manila when she hit a fork in her career path. When running her family business didn’t feel right, she started to search for her purpose. Three themes always popped up: education, children, nature / outdoors. “So when I saw a post on social media about forest kindergarten, something just clicked, and I knew that’s what I wanted to pursue,” Sharon reveals.

What is a forest school?

For those of us who’ve never heard of what a forest school is, it’s pretty straightforward: children learn in nature and are encouraged to use all their five senses to explore the natural world. This stimulates their imagination and sparks that endearing sense of wonder in children. Above all, it encourages free and risky play — something that our kids definitely need! Sign us up please!

Is it actually a school?

“The term ‘school’ is kind of a misnomer because there’s no teaching per se. The child takes charge of his learning, and he comes up with his own solutions and answers,” explains Sharon. Kids have freedom and choice, which allows them to think for themselves, speak their mind, and keep on getting up every time they make a mistake. And yes, classes happen rain or shine!

How can kids in the Philippines benefit from a Forest School?

“Now that we’re in a pandemic, it’s the perfect time to re-think the type of education our children are having. We do not undermine the value of academics, but that alone should not be the sole focus of schools. A forest school provides experiences for these areas of development to be met so that kids are prepared to live a successful life of their own,” says Sharon.

In these changing times where there is more access to gadgets and screen time, where kids are being more disconnected from the present, a forest school is able to reconnect them to nature and to the more important things in life. And for us parents who are constantly worried about our kids spending time indoors and in front of a device, this is pretty refreshing stuff.

That’s great! Have you seen any changes in your regular students?

At Forest School where kids are taught to be independent, they become more aware of their feelings and thoughts. They also learn how to watch out for others. Sharon says, “During classes, they learn that other people may have a different point of view from theirs. Most importantly, they learn how to care for the environment, as they become protectors of their classroom.”

If we can’t get to Forest School, how do we implement it in our homes?

Get them outdoors! “Children thrive outdoors. It gives them a lot of space to move around so their muscles and lung capacity are developed. Playing with dirt boosts their immune system. Nature provides a rich, sensorial experience for kids. It has both a calming and invigorating effect. Outdoors, there are no restrictions. They are free to make noise and express themselves, or they can choose to sit in a quiet spot by themself.” she explains.

Although the idea of a forest school may not appeal to everyone, there’s no doubt that most parents would love their kids to have fun. And we think splashing around in puddles, getting dirty, and being in touch with nature is a whole LOT of it!

Want to give Forest School a try? Check out its website here.

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