Forest School in Inverness and Point Reyes
Marin Mommies presents a sponsored article from Emerald Heart Forest School, offering programs in Inverness/Point Reyes.
For Emerald Heart Forest School, the pandemic sparked an unexpected silver lining.
Before the pandemic, Emerald Heart was a nature-based program for 3 to 6 year olds. “We started our day with two hours indoors,” Taira Restar, the director and lead teacher, said, “Then we transitioned outdoors for three hours of play and exploration in forest land.”
In response to the pandemic, Emerald Heart shifted to a fully outdoor program. “This change felt so right!” Taira continued, “And now we are ready to take our next big step.”
Emerald Heart is preparing to move from Fairfax to the Inverness / Point Reyes area. Taira, who is a longtime Inverness resident and a seasoned teacher, will circle back to serving families in her own community and to serving the land, which she holds dear.
Taira’s original preschool students, now in their late teens and twenties, are stepping forward to support the move. One of them, who is a trained naturalist, has been asked to guest teach in the fall. It is intended for the forest school to be a community resource.
Emerald Heart Forest School is a place-based program. The children learn through play in and with the place itself. They slowly and gently develop love and respect for the living land through their own direct experiences.
When asked to define place-based, Taira explained, “I’ll start by telling you what it is not. Recently, I heard of a nature-based program in the midwest. The preschoolers were learning about kangaroos. Don’t get me wrong. Kangaroos are wonderful creatures. However, a young child living in the midwest—or here in Marin!—will likely only see a kangaroo on a screen or in a book. How about the wonderful creatures that are local? For us, that would be black-tailed deer, crows, red-tailed hawks, turkey vultures. These are a few of the neighbors that we interact with on a regular basis. At forest school, we develop meaningful friendships through curiosity, conversation and song. The children experience themselves as a beautiful part of a large and interconnected community.”
Friendships also extend to plants and trees. This spring, Emerald Heart children have been discovering wild flowers. A favorite is Hound’s Tongue, which they call Purple Puppies. The children also noticed sweet smelling blossoms on their favorite California bay laurel tree.
Teachers use an emergent curriculum. Last month, a child asked, “Why are juices and teas different colors?” This launched creative exploration, including harvesting dandelion leaves for tea. Teachers offer practical hands-on ways to nourish the whole child.
To that end, the children’s inner landscape is attended to. Children develop social skills, while growing in confidence and self expression. Recently, teachers facilitated three quests to practice inclusion and kindness. Over three weeks, kind words and kind actions were tracked. Even when the children were not questing, teachers noticed an increase in spontaneous kindness.
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