Another piece of the educational puzzle is unfolding in the woods at Kemptville Campus. North Grenville Cooperative Preschool and Learning Centre (NGCPLC) has been delivering a year-round program for 2 – 12 year olds – and it happens in the forest. The children call it ‘Bear School’.
“We are passionate about giving children the opportunity to experience nature and learn while outdoors,” says Katie Weatherhead, RECE, Supervisor. “We are interested in providing children with the opportunity to experience a certified Forest School program while attending Licensed Child Care. The term Bear School was coined by the Preschoolers at our Leahurst location when they chose to visit a small group of trees located nearby.”
The NGCPLC has been located on the Campus since 2004, and has been running outdoor learning programs as part of their regular curriculum for over 5 years. They have recently trained some of their staff as Certified Forest School Practitioners.
“We believe that when children are given the opportunity to engage in self-directed play in a natural environment, they build confidence, resilience, and social skills,” said Mary Jane Kohler, RECE, Executive Director. “This gives them the ability to thrive both emotionally and physically, building a foundation for successful lifelong learning.”
The program’s goal is to provide families with quality care that encompasses a philosophy and curriculum that centres on learning in nature, about nature. Besides the main centre housed in the historic campus building known as Leahurst, the NGCPLC offered programs at the Centre Éducatif Riviere Rideau site on Campus, and also at Kemptville Public School (KPS). All locations offer time in nature and the surrounding forests.
Earlier this summer, NGCPLC was unable to operate their usual program at KPS due to construction starting for their new child care addition to the school, and had to find an alternate location to offer programing to children aged 4-12 years during the summer. They discovered that the Campus Agroforestry Centre on Bedell Road was the perfect setting to introduce a certified Forest School that is also a Licensed Child Care centre.
“We were excited that the trails were at our doorstep and the children would be able to learn and play in the forest all day long!” Weatherhead said. “Our programs have been very successful this year and have reached full enrollment for the summer.”
Kemptville Campus Education and Community Centre is an educational and multi-use facility serving the community of North Grenville and surrounding area. The Campus includes 630 acres and 17 main buildings, as well as woodlands, cropland, wetland, greenspace, green houses, an agroforestry centre and maple bush, trails, and other buildings - sports facilities, residence, and catering facilities. A recent Master Plan was completed with significant community input, and can be found at https://www.kemptvillecampus.ca/regen