About ACORNS NW Youth Forest School Curriculum
ACORNS Forest School programs are rooted in the natural cycles of our bioregion while building earth-based skills and seasonal celebrations. Our teaching philosophy is an adaptive blend of emergent learning and combined wilderness mentoring methods. Emergent learning curriculum is based in facilitating meaningful learning experiences that are responsive to what the children are currently interested in. We use the children’s curiosity as our guide in creating curriculum as we move through the year, meeting the interests and questions as they emerge naturally, preparing lessons geared toward their inclinations to strive for the most authentic and potent learning possible.
We employ continuous lessons to help develop ‘nature fluency’, meaning we explore how the intrinsic connections build the natural systems around us. We study the plant life cycle and how the seasons affect food, harvesting and survival. ‘Sit Spots’ are an important part of young naturalist curriculum and nature observation. Each program, we will start by coming together as a community and setting intentions for what we will be focusing on noticing out in the woods that morning. By building focusing and noticing skills, we expand our ability to read nature signs around us, track animals, draw connections and become more self-aware of our role in these cycles.
Our play-based curriculum combines inherent curiosity and wonder, with natural movement, exercise and skills in community-building and personal accountability. Our strong focus on emotional intelligence and body awareness assists youth in getting to know themselves and voice their needs.
We empower youth to ask questions and define their experience through teaching skills in communication, conflict resolution, decision-making and leadership. We acknowledge children as young, capable individuals with unique learning styles and innate capacity and worth.
ACORNS teachers strive to connect families with our mission and purpose of providing education that nourishes the relationship between people and their environments. We recognize play as a meaningful part of learning, exploring the world around us and experiencing joy and spontaneity. Research continues to recognize play for its profound therapeutic and educational benefits in all ages. We embrace anti-oppressive frameworks, inclusive community values, nourishing relationships, ancestral wisdom and healthy risk-taking as methods for building resilience in our community and our world.
Each month, we shift our focus as the spiral of the year moves forward. Ancestrally, we recognize the purpose and meaning each season plays in our lives, from exploring fall root harvesting to welcoming the return of the sun during Winter Solstice and celebrating Spring Equinox with honoring the fertility of seeds and eggs about to sprout and hatch. We seek the deeper teachings present in nature through exploration of story, metaphor and myth, combining natural sciences with theater, play, art, movement, plant medicine, wilderness ancestral skills and community building.
Through pursuing perspectives of wholeness in our approach, we seek to create programs that holistically nourish children while preparing them with a skill set in self-reliance, resilience, community leadership and better understanding of their relationship to the greater world around them. These foundational life skills help to prepare youth for success.
Examples of Activities & Skills
Skills covered depend on the interests of the group, weather, supplies and skills of the instructors.
Ancestral Skills: Plant Medicine, Knife Work, Safe Tool Use, Fire Building, Tracking, Fiber Arts, Farming, Shelter Building, Harvesting Techniques, Food Preparation
Natural Sciences: Animal Habitats, Plant Studies, Geology, Hydrology, Astronomy, Ecosystems, & more!
Creative Arts: Theater Games, Song, Crafts, Storytelling, Dance
Personal Development: Sit Spot, Conflict Resolution, Community Values & Accountability, Self-Reflection, Compassionate Feedback, Individualized Mentoring, Intuition Work
Physical Well-Being: Natural Movement, Nutrition, Consent & Boundaries Curriculum, Stretching & Movement Practices
Pacific Northwest Nature Fluency Curriculum
Participants will learn about the creatures and plants, their natural environment, what kind of ‘home’ it lives in or where they can be found, their food sources, seasonal behaviors, its lifecycle, who eats it, what it moves like, looks like, sounds it makes and it’s tracks if possible. We will use this opportunity to teach literacy, math, biology, ecology, music, art, etc..
For any given topic teacher’s will bring songs, games, crafts, activities, books, ideas, questions and lead learning experiences to gain understanding and opportunity for exploration.
Below are a few examples...
Bald Eagle, Crow, Great Blue Heron, Robin, Gray Squirrel, Douglass Squirrel, Buffleheads, Mallard Ducks, Chipmunks, Raccoons, Black Bear, Salmon, Pacific Wren, Black Eyed Junco, Stellar’s Jay, Osprey, crabs (type), Acorn Barnacles, Limpits (types), Moon Jellies, other jellyfish,
Banana Slug, Bark Beetles, Worms, Rollie Pollie’s, Various Larvae, Earth Worms, Ladybugs, various Ants, Sand Fleas, Butterflies, Moths
Participants will learn to identify plants, their ecosystems, edible properties, other animals that eat them, and how to sustainably harvest them.
Dandelion, Plantain, Red Huckleberry, Evergreen Huckleberry, Western Red Cedar, Douglas Fir, Hemlock, Foamflower, Licorice Fern, Oregon Grape, Coltsfoot, Self-Heal, Usnea, and more!
For more info check out our Program Handbook
Participants who are unwilling to follow our guidelines, which are designed specifically to maintain physical and emotionally safe environments for learning and play, may be asked to reconsider their participation and risk being asked to leave if they do not change their behavior. We are interested in working with families to make the program work for everyone.
Group Agreements for Participation
We will cover these every morning with kids and support them in maintaining our group agreements. Please take the time to review and go over them with your participant.
- No Violence with words or actions
We do not allow gun play or games that encourage violence towards one another. We do allow games with competition in addition to our collaborative curriculum. Conflict is inevitable, and important. We will work with participants to navigate and communicate through conflict. In addition to respecting humans, we encourage participants to respect the more-than-human world of plants and creatures, and help teach skills to build awareness, listening and relationship to our surroundings.
- No exclusive behavior
Participants are encouraged to engage with the whole group and allow others to join their play and exploration. This is not an play date, it's a community.
- You must participate & be willing to listen to safety guidelines
Youth do not have to play a game or do an activity if they don't want to, however they will be encouraged to stay close to the group and offered another alternative. If the participant needs some down time, we will find the best way to support them within the context of the environment and activity.
- No food sharing
This is out of respect to families and youth regarding special diets and allergies.
Tribal Sovereignty Curriculum
Since Time Immemorial: Tribal Sovereignty in Washington State Curriculum
"a ground-breaking curriculum initiative made possible through federal, state, and tribal funding. This project seeks to build lasting educational partnerships between school districts and their local tribes via elementary, middle, and high school curriculum on tribal sovereignty."
By the time Washington State students leave elementary school, they will understand:
ACORNS NW has begun implementing this curriculum into our programs in an effort to teach a more accurate history of this land and the indigenous people who have lived here since time immemorial.