Structures & Philosophy
ACORNS Forest School programs are rooted in the natural cycles of our bioregion while reviving ancestral traditions of nature-based skills and seasonal celebrations. Our teaching philosophy is an adaptive blend of emergent learning and combined wilderness mentoring methods. Emergent learning curriculum is based in facilitating meaningful learning experiences that are responsive to what the children are currently interested in. We use the children’s curiosity as our guide in creating curriculum as we move through the year, meeting the interests and questions as they emerge naturally, preparing lessons geared toward their inclinations to strive for the most authentic and potent learning possible.
We employ continuous lessons to help develop ‘nature fluency’, meaning we explore how the intrinsic connections that build the natural systems around us. We study the plant life cycle and how the seasons affect food, harvesting and survival. ‘Sit Spots’ are an important part of young naturalist curriculum. Each program, we will start by coming together as a community and setting intentions for what we will be focusing on noticing out in the woods that morning. By building focusing and noticing skills, we expand our ability to read nature signs around us, track animals, draw connections and become more self-aware of our role in these cycles.
Our play-based curriculum combines inherent curiosity and wonder, with natural movement, exercise and skills in community-building and personal accountability. Our strong focus on emotional intelligence and body awareness assists youth in getting to know themselves and voice their needs. We empower youth to ask questions and define their experience through teaching skills in communication, conflict resolution, decision-making and leadership. We acknowledge children as young, capable individuals with unique learning styles and innate capacity and worth.
ACORNS teachers strive to connect families with our mission and purpose of providing education that nourishes the relationship between people and their environments. We recognize play as a meaningful part of learning, exploring the world around us and experiencing joy and spontaneity. Research continues to recognize play for its profound therapeutic and educational benefits in all ages. We embrace anti-oppressive frameworks, inclusive community values, nourishing relationships, ancestral wisdom and healthy risk-taking as methods for building resilience in our community and our world.
Each month, we shift our focus as the spiral of the year moves forward. Ancestrally, we recognize the purpose and meaning each season plays in our lives, from exploring fall root harvesting to welcoming the return of the sun during Winter Solstice and celebrating Spring Equinox with honoring the fertility of seeds and eggs about to sprout and hatch. We seek the deeper teachings present in nature through exploration of story, metaphor and myth, combining natural sciences with theater, play, art, movement, plant medicine, wilderness ancestral skills and community building.
Through pursuing perspectives of wholeness in our approach, we seek to create programs that holistically nourish children while preparing them with a skill set in self-reliance, resilience, community leadership and better understanding of their relationship to the greater world around them. These foundational life skills help to prepare youth for success.
Our daily flow provides blend of structure and exploratory play that allows teachers to create consistency while still allowing flexibility to meet children’s needs.
Welcome Circle (stretching, singing, games, overview of the day, etc)
“Self-Care Break” : Snack, Warm Layers, Water, Sunscreen, Bathroom
Lunch (Bathroom Break)
Free Play, Games
“Self-Care Break”: Water, Warm Layers, Sunscreen, Bathroom
End Circle ( review day, closing thoughts)
Free Play, Games
Examples of Activities & Skills:
Ancestral Skills: Plant Medicine, Knife Work, Safe Tool Use, Fire Building, Tracking, Fiber Arts, Farming, Shelter Building, Harvesting Techniques, Food Preparation
Natural Sciences: Animal Habitats, Plant Studies, Geology, Hydrology, Astronomy, Ecosystems, & more!
Creative Arts: Theater Games, Song, Crafts, Storytelling, Dance
Personal Development: Sit Spot, Conflict Resolution, Community Values & Accountability, Self-Reflection, Compassionate Feedback, Individualized Mentoring, Intuition Work
Physical Well-Being: Natural Movement, Nutrition, Consent & Boundaries Curriculum, Stretching & Movement Practices