Wood you believe it! Teachers open school – in a forest
Most of us can image kids having a nature lesson in the forest, but what about maths, history and English?
The concept has become a reality in Osowicze near Białystok, where a team of passionate teachers have opened the Puszczyk forest primary school, the first in Poland, and they have received funding to build a campus where children can learn in the forest all-year-round.
The school says that the idea behind having classes in the forest is to combat nature deficit. The theory is that many of today’s child health problems like allergies, obesity, depression and ADHD derive from children having a lack of contact with nature.
The foundation behind the school – Fundacja trzy czte ry! – says that a school without walls and ceilings in which the kids spend most of their time outdoors and explore what is around them is the perfect way to protect against nature deficit.
Climbing trees, smelling flowers, chasing forest animals, listening to the trees and waiting for rain to stop under branches provides children’s bodies and minds with exactly what they need at any given moment to develop.
The purported benefits of the school are not just about being close to nature. The Puszczyk school follows the student-centred education philosophy of the Good Education Academy in which children learn at their own pace.
Agata Preuss, the founder of the school, explains: “We don’t just rattle off a 45-minute lesson in which all the children are taught the same thing.”
“The school’s philosophy is to reach children through what they are interested in at a given moment to find out what they are ready for. The teacher is like a mentor who makes the children interested in learning. They don’t just impart dry knowledge, rather they help children to understand, which may take an hour, a day or a week, however long the child needs.”
“If a child doesn’t remember everything at once, they will make it up in later years. Our education is spiral – it gets repeated at later stages in a wider context,” says Preuss.
Rather than traditional classes in which knowledge is spoon fed, pupils learn by working on projects that they choose themselves.
Gaja, a fifth-grader, is working on a project to learn about global geography. So far she has learned all the continents and the major rivers on each. She has chosen three countries on each continent and is learning about the mountains and lowlands using geography books and guidance from the teachers.
The school has been open since the beginning of September, next to a forest kindergarten set up by the same foundation a few years ago, and it plans to spend the money it has been awarded by December this year to build workshops in which pupils can work on their projects.