Kimberton Waldorf School—the second oldest Waldorf School in North America—is to offer a Forest, Field and Farm Kindergarten program for the academic year 2015/16. The Kimberton, Pennsylvania-based school will offer students ages four to six a half-day schedule in which the 430 acres of school grounds constitute the classroom. Following the model of similar programs in Europe, classes will be conducted outdoors to encourage children to play, explore, and immerse themselves in the natural environment.
“At a time when children are experiencing less outdoor free-play and parents are concerned with their children’s lack of exposure to nature, we are excited to offer an outdoor early childhood program that focuses on nature-based, hands-on learning,” Kevin Hughes, Dean of School, told the Phoenixville Chamber of Commerce. The school will put its substantial grounds to effective use: the rolling hills, conservation trail, creeks, wooded areas, farm and gardens will give young students the opportunity to use their imaginations, develop critical thinking skills, stretch their muscles, and hone their motor skills.
As Hughes explained in a school newsletter: “Forest kindergartens can be described as a class without a ceiling or walls because the activities are held outdoors and often in a wooded or forest environment. Classroom spaces are used in inclement weather, but for the most part, the class is held outside.” In a forest kindergarten, the curriculum grows out of the environment as it changes with the seasons. At Kimberton, children will work in the garden and care for the farm animals, watch local birds and animals, enjoy storytelling and song, create art and crafts with found objects, and witness the changes in the land—all while getting a healthy dose of exercise outdoors.
Forest kindergartens have their roots in Scandinavian education, dating back to the 1950s. Other US Waldorf schools offering forest kindergartens include Saratoga Springs Waldorf School, New York, and Hartsbrook Waldorf School in Massachusetts. Kimberton Waldorf School’s Forest, Field and Farm Kindergarten will commence in September 2015. As previously mentioned, the program is open to preschool students ages four to six. To find out more about the program or to make enrollment inquiries, please contact the school via their website.
Photos via Kimberton Waldorf School