by Dave Ferreira, Carp Ridge Learning Centre Admin

Last Saturday, in terrific fall weather, over 65 educators from the Ottawa area attended an outdoor tour & presentation, ‘Early Childhood Learning in a Forest School’. Carp Ridge Learning Centre was one of three morning tour stops along with the Kanata Research Park Family Centre and Algonquin College Early Childhood Education Department. The tour was part of the ‘Week of the Child’ initiative from the Association of Early Childhood Educators in Ontario (www.aeceo.ca).

Our Forest School Preschool program, now four years old, was the first of its kind in Canada. And just last fall we opened the Forest Kindergarten — it celebrated its one-year anniversary in September.

Parts of Europe have operated Forest Schools in their early learning curriculum for many years and the concept is now taking hold in North America, part of a larger trend to offer hands-on, nature-based play and learning programs for young children. 

Connecting children to nature at a very early age (the LC enrolls children at age 2 1/2) helps sow the seeds of sustainable living & ‘green’ consciousness.

Director Marlene Power is now in the process of helping to form a national ‘Forest School Canada’ program with the Child & Nature Alliance of Canada (www.childnature.ca/forestschoolcanada) and other interested parties.
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Three members of our team (Marlene, Kindergarten educator Heather Andrachuk & naturalist activist Martha Webber) recently won awards from COEO, the Council of Outdoor Educators of Ontario (www.coeo.org/recognition.html).
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On-site at Carp Ridge we’re at the finishing stages of setting up two insulated tent classrooms that will enhance our Forest Preschool and Kindergarten programming.

The tent project began almost two years ago and required a lot of legwork from the Learning Centre Board, Marlene, our insurance company, Katherine Willow, the Learning Centre staff (Jay, Sara, Heather & Dave), various contractors such as local tradesman Bob Healey, our own handyman Matt Selic, and finally, the City of Ottawa Permitting Department.

One tent is currently in full use for Heather’s daily Kindergarten, and TopHat Comfort Services is busy installing woodstoves, heat-shielding and chimneys into both tents this week — not a moment too soon as winter will soon descend upon the land!