What did you think when Collège Champittet talked to you about the concept of a "Forest school"?
I was delighted by this new concept! Thinking of all the benefits it would bring to our students and teachers filled me with enthusiasm. As a teacher, I find taking my students to the forest to teach is a great experience. At home, with my children, it is already one of my main educational values. So, I am used to being outside in all weathers! I am a great nature lover; it is a concept that I totally embody.
How was your Silviva training and what did you think of it?
The training went very well. It was a privilege to be led throughout the process by a coach from the Silviva Foundation. There were many enriching experiences during this training period, and to be able to invest in it from the very beginning to the actual establishment of the “Forest school” at Collège Champittet was an honor! Several colleagues from the pilot group also benefited from several days of training at the University of Geneva, which brought in another important contribution.
But concretely, what did you do?
The pilot group first developed a common vision and then we analysed the necessary resources, needs, pedagogical objectives and the integration of this new concept into our curriculum. It was a year-long process where we met regularly in working sessions.
How were the first days with the children? How did they react?
I found these moments magical! The children reacted with so much joy! I have one image that struck me, the one where they all instinctively sat down on the tree trunks with a smile and the sunlight coming through the leaves and illuminating their faces. It was enchanting to see. As for the parents, they were delighted. On New Parents' Welcome Day, some even asked me if they could come back to school!
It is now more than two months since the concept was launched, have you seen any changes in how children learn? Have you had any feedback from parents?
I think it's a little early to observe major developments. On the other hand, what I have noticed from these first days in the forest is that there is a lot of mutual help going on, more than within four walls. More interaction between participants, much more creativity. As for learning acquisition, I am convinced of what the “Forest school” concept brings to children: creativity, concentration, mastery, fulfilment, well-being, as well as the discovery of and the respect of nature that surrounds us which is important for tomorrow's citizens so that they may preserve it for the well-being of all ...
The parents are positive about it. Parents are extremely enthusiastic about the project and happy that their children can develop in the beautiful setting that Collège Champittet has to offer.
Some teachers may feel that not being in class makes children lose focus. What do you think about this?
I think that it is also up to us teachers to set the framework as well as the boundaries. It is necessary to create routines that allow the child to find his or her bearings and to integrate what he or she may or may not do. In the forest, there is time for everything: moments of play, moments of work, and it is our job as teachers to define it.
Do you have other plans for the near future?
It's already an incredible project! We have a lot of learning experiences and discoveries to make with our students. Personally, I would like in the future to offer the younger students longer time slots outside and why not spend the whole day!