Ottawa Forest and Nature School
What We Do
Our Forest and Nature School educators strive to provide children with opportunities to build an ongoing relationship with the land, with each other, and with themselves.
All Forest and Nature School programs, while sharing space on the outdoor learning continuum with other outdoor and environmental education programs, adhere to basic principles that define and distinguish them:
- regular and repeated access to the land
- child-centred, interest-led, inquiry-driven, educator-supported, learning through play
We continue to be inspired by Indigenous history and presence on the land and acknowledge that we are walking and playing on unceded Algonquin Anishinaabeg Territory. The Ottawa Forest and Nature School offers children, families and their communities inclusive, safe and supported, opportunities to learn and form connections to the land, each other, and themselves through child-centred, interest-led play in Ottawa’s urban nature continuum- from forests to parks, meadows to mud-puddles.
Who We Are
The Ottawa Forest and Nature School offers the following programs:
- Community programs
Running Fall/Winter (Sept to Dec) and Winter/Spring (Jan-June) children join us one day a week from 9am-3pm. With an 8:1 ratio for school-age children (4-12 years) and 5:1 ratio for pre-schoolers (2.5-4 years), each group of children with two educators gather, play and learn out on the land. Registration for Fall/Winter takes place in July, registration for Winter/Spring takes place in November.
- Summer programs
Week-long summer programs run through July and August, 9am-4pm at 411 Corkstown Rd. Families are invited to register for up to two weeks of child-led play and learning in the shade of the canopy. Registration for summer programs takes place in early March.
- Drop In
OFNS offers open drop ins and four-week registered sessions where families join an educator to hike out on the land, play and gather for story. Inquire for registration dates.
- Ottawa-Carleton District School Board partnership
This program mentors teachers and ECE’s in play-based inquiry-driven learning on the land, through six weeks of programming onsite at 411 Corkstown Rd in the first year, and in Nearby Nature within walking distance of the school in the second year. Schools in their third year and beyond are offered continued support in the development of their self -directed outdoor learning and play program. Schools are selected in partnership with the school board.
The Ottawa Forest and Nature School is not able to offer before or after care or transportation.
A Day at the Ottawa Forest and Nature School
Every day at Ottawa Forest School unfolds differently based on the community present, their interests, the season, the weather, and the various loose parts found or introduced at the site. While every day is different, play, exploration, and connection to each other and the land threads through our adventures at Ottawa Forest and Nature School.
Each program values gathering to build community and support children in their friendships. We gather for story, to share ideas and vote on where in the forest we might play. Most days include a wandering out along the forest paths, or sidewalks in Nearby Nature programs, to a space that’s been chosen for play. Play can look like so many things – the construction of a stick shelter, the tarp that has been tied up between trees to become a boat on seas, the meticulous design of a fairy village, the game of tag or hide and seek, the squelching through mud or the opening of an ice museum. The play is active and still, quiet and loud and sometimes very messy! Our educators know and trust that the learning is always there – sometimes asking and sometimes quietly supporting.
The educators and children are always aware of the changing weather. Thunder, lightning or extreme cold means that that we stay closer to home, moving in and out of our cabin or yurt as needed, making art, putting on a play or tinkering with tools.
As the ending of the day approaches, we gather for a closing to again check in with each other and share highlights and stories from our day, as well as gratitude for the land, her creatures, and each other.
The Ottawa Forest and Nature School began as a branch of the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada (CNAC) and transitioned to Andrew Fleck Childrens Services (AFCS) in July 2019. CNAC shares an office with OFNS/AFCS and continues to operate Forest School Canada, including the Forest and Nature School Practitioners Course, Risky Play workshops and Outdoor Play First Aid.
All the OFNS teaching staff are experienced forest and nature school educators, who have participated in CNAC’s professional learning opportunities. Many are Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) and some are Early Childhood Educators (ECEs). They love to tell you what they’ve seen with your children that day, the learning that transpired and the challenges they worked through.
The Lottery Approach
We are warmed by the value our communities see in connecting on the land. We know our programs fill quickly.
We have continued offering priority to currently enrolled families resulting in very limited spaces being available for open registration. Open registration is by a lottery approach. The next registration opening will be early June for Summer programs. You can keep an eye out for that date through our Facebook and email newsletter.
Occasionally spaces become available in our community groups through the year. In these cases, we do contact families who applied to the lottery, as well as those who have expressed interest. If you would like to be considered, should a space be available during the year please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Interested in volunteering?
Do you want to support children as they discover the magic of the forest? We welcome volunteers to join us regularly or occasionally. We need your help to chart our paths, record our adventures, and unlock the secrets of the rocks and trees and the creatures who live among them. We’d love to hear from you: email@example.com
E-mail Notification List
Sign up for our e-mail notification list to receive e-mails concerning future Ottawa Forest & Nature School opportunities. This includes notifications prior to the opening of public registration of all our programs.
How to Contact Us:
411 Corkstown Ave.,
Ottawa, Ontario K2K 2Y1
Tel. 613-736-5355 ext. 356