Whereas the idea of Nature/Forest Schools have been popular in the UK, Scandinavia, and other parts of Europe since the 1950's, why do you think we are now seeing a sudden growth of nature-based schools in North America?
We are seeing a response to myriad changes in the culture. The growth of nature-based schools in North America is being driven by both educators and parents. Responding to an erosion of opportunities for unstructured outdoor play, especially in natural settings, parents and educators, who had a radically different experience of childhood than do many children today, are seeking avenues for this type of play for today's children.
Many of us remember experiences in our own childhoods as having the qualities of timelessness, wonder, adventure, and leaving us with a feeling of deep satisfaction. Recent trends in early years education have recently moved towards a focus on acquiring and drilling direct academic skills and facts, and away from play and practical work.
Some folks are responding to this changing landscape, seeking alternatives that honor the needs of young children for near constant motion and play. One might say they are looking to give children a more "natural" childhood.
Still others, are responding to a growing recognition of the environmental problems we all face and are looking for a "new" way to educate the next generation.
While the movement was growing slowly and steadily for some time, I would also venture to guess that the wide reaching success of Richard Louv's book, “The Last Child in the Woods,” published in 2005 both touched on existing feelings in the culture on the question of children and Nature, as well helping to propagate and normalize the idea that healthy children require Nature and that Nature needs children as well.
Lia Grippo is a co-founder of The Academy of Forest Kindergarten Teachers, and founder/director of Wildroots Forest School in it's 17th year running in Santa Barbara. Lia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.