When I was 34 years old I was teaching 5th Grade. Right at the end of the year we went to Ardeche in France for a 5 day trip. I had been teaching the kids all year and thought I knew them pretty well. What I saw over those 5 days made me question everything I thought I knew about teaching, learning and behavior. The students became kinder, more respectful and made deep learning connections in the outdoors, in a way they never did in the classroom. The exposure to risk, the sense of belonging and the significance they all felt as part of the group were all completely genuine. THIS is what classrooms were trying to recreate. I had to bottle it! As a lifelong learner, I am always questioning what, how and why I do the things I do. This was a time to act.
As soon as I got home I enrolled in a free Forest School course (which anyone can do in a few hours and I highly recommend) and then, soon after, started my Forest School Leadership course. It took 18 months of theory and demonstrating practical skills, but I have loved every minute of it. Now, I can safely run Forest School programs and have observed how this can have such positive impacts on children and adults. It all started with questions. Why do my students behave differently here? Why does the learning stick more? Why does it only take 5 days to make these strong, lifelong bonds?
El PEP advocates for Lifelong Learning. That might sound obvious to most of us, but I challenge you to ask yourself, when was the last time I really challenged myself and asked why? We need the future of humanity to be thoughtful, curious, lifelong learners. Our species depends on it.
Written by Christi McEvoy – Homeroom Teacher, G4