Offering an innovative approach to education, forest schools are believed to first originate in Denmark in 1952 when Ella Flatau used to take her four children to a nearby forest, and soon other parents and their children began to join her. This led to the forming of a ‘walking kindergarten’ and the idea soon caught on.
This type of child-led and play-based approach of learning in nature was eventually adopted in countries like Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Finland, Norway, the United Kingdom, and more as practitioners began to recognize the benefits of a more holistic approach to education. Here, we dig a little deeper into the philosophy behind forest schools and list out where you can find them in Kuala Lumpur and surrounding areas.
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Forest Schools practice a child-led and play-based learning that centers on outdoor play in nature to encourage a direct engagement of all the five senses and environmental stewardship. It is thought that the inspirational learning will happen by stimulating the child's innate curiosity and sense of wonder.
The Forest School approach is underpinned by the Danish philosophy of friluftsliv (pronounced free-loofts-liv) which believes that raising children in nature can help them experience freedom, fresh air, and a spiritual connection to the earth. The Forest School approach encourages play, exploration, and supports risk-taking to help children develop confidence and self-esteem in a natural setting.
Forest School practitioners are meant to guide children to explore their natural environments and allow the child to lead the learning experience. They will aim to eliminate risks without going overboard and focus on building trust between themselves and the students. They will also present opportunities for activities with no expected fixed outcome, and model a positive attitude towards nature play.
Materials used in Forest Schools can be found in nature. Children will get their hands dirty while learning about how nature works as they engage in outdoor explorative play, rain or shine. They are also encouraged to have proper, weather-appropriate attire to fully enjoy outdoor learning sessions.
Learning is done outdoors, preferably in natural forest environments. The learning environment should be open-ended where children create their own adventures and decide how to use the resources in their environment.
The Garden International School Early Years Centre (EYC) encourages young pupils to learn not only within the classroom setting but also outside of the classroom. To uphold this ethos, the Jungle School programme is incorporated as part of the learning syllabus for pupils from nursery to reception level. Among the significant skills and knowledge acquired through the Jungle School programme are sawing, den building, weaving, boat and fairy house making, tree climbing, minibeast hunting and natural art designing and so on.
EYC Jungle School, 1, Jalan 41/70a, Desa Sri Hartamas, 50480 Kuala Lumpur, +603 6209 6888, Website
Little Urban Forest is KL’s first urban forest preschool for children 2 - 6 years old, where a unique partnership with mother nature and an extraordinary early childhood outdoor learning experience unfolds. At this preschool, the learning environment is always alive and no two days are the same. Children are invited to daily outdoor adventures, encourage hands-on learning, be very curious of their surroundings and be in touch with all their senses.
Little Urban Forest, 66, Jalan Taman Bukit Desa, Taman Bukit Desa, 58100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, +603 7971 4466, Website
This nature-inspired school with creative and passionate educators turn learning into a fun, memorable experience for children. They believe that children should experience the world through their hands, hearts and minds and with that, the school is dedicated to provide children with the awareness of the beautiful world that they live in while delivering fun activities that will let children learn. Children also get to practice their school readiness skill organically and naturally through fun play and games. Programs include weekly morning sessions, day care, afternoon programs, transit, school holiday program and enrichment programs.
Naturekids, No. 1, Jalan Beluntas, Medan Damansara, Damansara Heights, 50490 Kuala Lumpur, +603 2011 0064, Website
Steiner Education provides a rich experience that aims to prepare children to meet the challenges of our world and the future with clarity of thought, a caring heart and confidence. They achieve this through a creative experiential approach that addresses the whole child through willingness to learn and explore, feeling and thinking. The school follows Rudolph Steiner’s theory of child development, with the purpose of awakening the “physical, behavioral, emotional, cognitive, social, and spiritual” aspects of each individual, fostering creatives as well as analytic thinking.
Kuala Lumpur Steiner Education, 3197, Jalan Penchala Indah, Kampung Bukit Lanjan, 60000 Kuala Lumpur, +6012 312 8038, Website
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