What is Forest Playschool?
Forest Playschool is the ideal environment for young children to explore the natural world. It’s an innovative model of early childhood education that instills in a deep love of nature and the environment, while fostering numeracy and early literacy through organic, forest-based activities. Forest Playschool is also a community of parents, educators, conservationists, and children who strive to care for and appreciate the environment. Forest Playschool is a registered and insured LLC that operates in partnership and with a permit of the Chicago Park District. It meets all applicable state and local regulations. Additionally, we are currently exploring converting to 501(c)3 non-profit status.
What do the kids do?
The kids and their teachers are in the woods for about 4 hours a day. Over the course of the year, kids develop a rich appreciation of the life cycle of the woods. During autumn they observe the falling leaves and have puppet shows about the deer who roam the area. In the winter they see the beauty of the snow-filled forest, make forts and snow angels, and measure the temperature. In the spring, they watch the trees and plants wake up from the winter and come to life. They sow their garden seeds and splash in spring rain puddles. In the summer they tend to and harvest their plants, climb trees, and catch bugs. We are also happy and privileged to share this space with other educational groups like Fraternal Forest Wilderness and Adventure School and various homeschooling and un-schooling groups from the surrounding communities.
How has the school enriched the land?
Forest Playschool is based in an isolated corner of North Park Village. Once underused, now a vibrant community loves and tends to this space. The school transformed the weedy unused concrete planters into a productive food garden. The parents volunteer their time twice a month toward forest restoration under the supervision of Chicago Park District experts, including chopping down invasive buckthorn and planting native species.
Why is this Kind of school important?
Forest Playschool is the first outdoor forest preschool program in Chicago, and one of the first Forest Schools in the United States. This program has been very popular over the 5 years of its partnership with the Chicago Park District, and is a model for programs around the city. This program is crucial for Chicago's children, who increasingly grow up in a society disconnected from the natural world. The Playschool is also an important influence on and model for Chicago educators. The cutting edge of educational research suggests that children everywhere benefit from this kind of outdoor education—and especially urban and disadvantaged kids.
This program is even more vital for our society as a whole in the face of global climate change and rampant pollution of our air, water, and soil. We strive to enable our community to build a more intimate, deep-rooted connection to the natural world for the future of our planet.