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My Winnipeg Forest School Training Experience

In October, I began my Forest and Nature School (FNS) Practitioner Training.

I’ve been playing with children in the woods for two decades (!!!!!) and am so excited to take this important next step and go deep on pedagogical theory and practical skills.

In Canada, FNS Practitioners are certified through the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada (CNAC). My course is delivered in partnership with Momenta, an outdoor education and training organization based in Winnipeg. The training is made up of a 5-day in person portion, followed by a year of coursework.  

My five day in person training was based out of the Woodhaven Community Centre in West Winnipeg. There, we reflected on our relationship with the land, with seasons, with our learners. We collaborated and shared stories, success and barriers. We learned skills for the outdoors: fire starting (and permits!), using tools, making shelters, tying knots, etc.

Each day, we considered how we are working and playing on stolen indigenous land, and what responsibilities that gives us. I’ve been learning more about Treaties and how, in fact, we have always known and agreed to these responsibilities. As a non-indigenous practitioner, this means caring for the land the way Indigenous people expect us to, and ensuring Indigenous community members always have access to that land. 

The Forest School community is one of the best places for Teachers and ECEs to network and collaborate. The students in my cohort are people I’ll continue to learn from and share with over the years. There was so much knowledge, curiosity, excitement and drive in this group. After hearing the barriers others face (especially teachers in our school systems, yikes)  It felt good to learn and collaborate there, and come home to Riverview Ashland, where our play-based philosophy aligns with so much of Forest School practice. 

We had a celebration day at Hinterland Nature Co, an acreage belonging, in part, to our instructor, Jamie Vann. Many of us brought children and family. We showed them everything we learned and made Poplar Mallets together. We learned about the Thanksgiving Address and I loved its thread to our Morning Song. Johnny whittled a stick all day and told Jamie what it meant to him as a way of asking permission to take it home. 

I have to say, I am feeling so hopeful and grateful as I work through my assignments. I know it’s exceptional to have this much support here. I have always been cheered on by my co-workers, Corine and the Board, and our families. Many of you will already know how much this course means to me, and if you don’t - I hope I can talk your ear off about it over the next year!

Over the next year, I’ll complete eight assignments. Here’s what I’ll be working on (please ask me about them!):

  • A personal expression of my relationship with the land, and a personal Land Acknowledgement. This assignment includes clear and direct commitment to one or more of the 94 calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada

  • A proposal for a FNS program

  • An Ecological Impact Assessment of the land we play on, a plan for reciprocal relationship with the land, and a history of that land. (Tessa, our resident historian has actually made this last part possible for me, she’s amazing)

  • An assignment demonstrating my practice of balancing risk in outdoor play. 

  • Completed Site Risk Assessment, Experience Benefit/Risk Assessment, and Dynamic Risk Assessments

  • A Review and Revision of Riverview Ashland’s Policies and Procedures, and a Handbook for the Forest School program

  • A Demonstration of Practice, based around seven sessions in the woods (I’ll complete this with our preschoolers!)

  • A final reflection piece

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