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Reclaiming the way they learn: A Forest Learning project - Dawn Ottereyes-Lacasse & Cynthia Lapierre

9:30 AM, Sunday 6 Oct 2019 (30 minutes)
Forest School projects take students out of indoor classrooms and into natural outdoor learning spaces, such as forests or meadows. Research shows that children’s opportunity to learn and play in natural settings has yielded social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development benefits (e.g., Barton & Pretty, 2010; Taylor & Kuo, 2009). These projects are spreading across several countries following findings that preschoolers’ school time is excessively inactive, with as much as 89\% of their day spent in sedentary activities (e.g., Sugiyama et al., 2012). For Indigenous peoples, Land is more than a context or a material object: Land is a living interlocutor and teacher. The Forest School project at Kateri School in Kahnawa:ke aims to reclaim the original classroom by taking students outside to engage in unstructured, play-based, and sensory-based learning. Advantages observed include critical thinking and problem-solving skills, a strong sense of their Indigenous culture, and advanced communication in all three languages of instruction: Kanien’keha (Mohawk), French, and English. Preliminary results from observations, teacher and parent feedback, and sharing circles with students suggest that students are more actively engaged in their learning. One teacher shared that “there are no behavioural issues out in the forest”, which adds to previous findings that learning outdoors helps children to self-regulate (Faber et al., 2009). Our goal is to share how we have adapted the Forest School project to fit within our Kanien’keha:ka context so that Inuit communities can be inspired to bring home this initiative and adapt it to fit their students’ needs.