About the Edson Forest School Experience

Our philosophy of learning

We aspire to create a learning community where every student will find or reinforce a love of learning, make connections to nature, and find community.  Our job as educators is to channel a child’s natural interest in the world into activities that will foster deeper understandings while building confidence and resilience. Edson Forest School seeks to provide a close-knit and non-traditional school experience that is tailored to the needs and interests of the students.

We know that all human beings learn best when the information is relevant and interesting to them, and when they have a stake in the outcomes.  Engaged children are learners.  Children are natural scientists; even as babies, we test the bounds of gravity, make art from found materials, and conduct psychology experiments upon nearby adults.  The best of us keep this natural curiosity throughout our lives and we hope that all of our students will be lifetime learners, no matter where their passions take them.

Students in indoor lab and outdoor classroom

Progressive education

Edson Forest School follows a progressive education model, embracing an ideal of using emergent curriculum to drive our students participation.  In short, we encourage children to follow their interests and become engaged with their learning while developing a “tool box” of skills and proficiencies that will lead to future success in and outside of academics.  There is some Montessori influence in our expectation that children will become more self-reliant and self-confident as they are given opportunities to direct their own learnings.  We also draw heavily on the “child centric” model made famous by the Reggio Emilia School, acknowledging that every child is capable of amazing insight and imagination while striving to help the students communicate and refine those ideas via social interactions and group projects. 

We do a lot of project-based learning, whether individual or in groups, and engage in hand-on investigations.  As a school with an outdoor focus, a lot of our emergent curriculum will naturally revolve around nature.  We believe that ecology, environmental science, and earth science are great gateways for kids to build a love of science, and our forest gives us a springboard for our STEM program.  That said, we don’t believe that experiences and exploration should be the end goal of an experiment – there is great value in taking notes, making drawing, and comparing observations with peers.  Students’ skills are refined through practice.

Why mixed age classes?

In any class, there is likely to be a mix of ages, skills, and developmental levels. Because our classes have a range of up to three years within them, those differences are even more evident. However, at our low student/teacher ratios, the instructors are able to make sure that each student is getting an appropriate level of challenge. Perhaps equally as important: every student shines in some aspects of school and may struggle in others, and thus will have opportunities among peers to be a leader and assistant, mentor and observer, in different scenarios. Children learn differently from other children than from adults, and mentorship can benefit both students to grow not only academically, but socially as well.

The commitment to outdoor education

At Edson Forest School, one of our primary aims is to ensure children get as much exposure to nature as time allows, while still maintaining academic rigor.  On an average day, we should get multiple solid doses outdoor time; while we don’t want to let weather be a barrier to our outdoors exploration, we will limit time outside during extremes of hot or cold weather, and risk of lightning is also going to keep us indoors.

During recess, students can play at one of our designated play areas, do some gardening, get messy in the mud kitchen, express themselves artistically, experiment in fort-building, or just play kids’ games around the yard.   This provides a multitude of opportunity to build social-emotional skills along with gross motor skills and confidence.  The primary limit that we set is that no student can get out of visual range of an adult. 

Beyond recess, we also have educational time in the outdoor space – the woods provide us a natural laboratory as well as a source of inspiration for child-led projects, whether STEM or otherwise.  Among the benefits to the students are a better sense of connectedness to nature, engagement with the topic of study, and better focus without the distraction of being forced to sit still in a desk for long periods. 

We sometimes are lucky enough to have parents come in to lead some lessons or teach some skills. Fridays are outdoors, as much as weather allows!