Christina Wild wishes that more teachers felt empowered to go beyond traditional modes of learning. So, she’s co-writing a book about getting outside the classroom—both literally and figuratively.
Christina has some experience teaching outdoors. In August 2016, she took her kindergarten class at Mt. Lebanon School out for their first day of forest kindergarten. They never turned back.
Each Wednesday, Christina’s kindergarten class spends the entire morning in the woods in a teaching model that was developed first in Scandinavia in the 1950s and has recently become popularized in other parts of Europe and in North America.
A typical Wednesday in the Woods, as they call it at Mt. Lebanon, starts with Morning Message that includes advice about what to wear as well as Morning Work to make a plan for the morning.
Also, part of the routine is a gear/clothing check after the children line-up. This allows Christina and her co-teachers to make sure kids are happy with their clothing choices.
Once in the woods, the children follow the schedule of:
- Morning Meeting: A greeting and a check-in
- Offering of activity choices: Some of these are play-based like fort building, boat building, charades, or “mud kitchen”. And some are academic, e.g., looking for tracks in the snow, writing, finding collections of things, and building letters, words, and numbers out of natural objects like sticks.
- Free Playtime. During playtime, an adult helps students cook food over the fire and students can eat their snack from home.
- Closing Circle
- Singing of the Forest Song
- Walk back down to the indoor classroom to journal about the day
“A teacher that served as an informal mentor to me had done a sabbatical in Denmark. Ethel Weinberger didn’t start a forest kindergarten when she got back but she did utilize many components in her classroom. Then last year my principal, Eloise Ginty, suggested starting one at our school.”
Wild and Ginty visited several forest kindergartens in the area. After those visits they knew the model would be right for the Mt. Lebanon School.