Forest School Prospective Families Info Page
Huckleberries, Blackberries, Salmonberries
At Heartwood, we believe that children are competent and capable individuals, who learn best through direct experience and when following their own interests. Along with an engaging nature curriculum, we provide children with ample time for exploration, self-directed projects, and play. Our teachers support and guide the children while encouraging their independence, perseverance, and peer support. Participants in our programs gain greater understanding of their own strength, build strong bonds with each other, and form a deep, personal connection to the natural world around them.
Commitment to Safety and Kindness
All participants in Heartwood, including teachers and staff as well as children, are expected to act and speak in ways that are safe, respectful and kind toward themselves, other Heartwood participants, and all visitors, staff members and wild animals at all class sites. Educators work actively with the children to continually develop ways of being safe, respectful and kind.
If a participant is having challenges following this commitment, teachers and directors will work with the child and caregivers to resolve the issue. If a participant is consistently unable to behave in a way that is safe, respectful, and kind, they may be removed from the program temporarily or permanently.
If your child ever reports that they are not feeling safe or respected at Heartwood, please inform your teachers, the Program Coordinator or the Executive Director so that we can work to address the issue and support your child’s concerns or feelings.
Please note that as part of our commitment to respect the park and its wild inhabitants, we ask that children do not take any natural items from the park home with them - this includes rocks, sticks, shells, pinecones, etc. We want to do our best to limit our impact by leaving the park intact.
Please view Heartwood's Participant Requirements, Rules, and Discipline Policy for more details.
Our inquiry-based, experiential curriculum is shaped by the seasons, natural processes, and events in each individual class site and community, connecting the children to their local environment and giving them an intimate understanding of the natural world around them. Learning emerges organically. Children are given time to seek out activities following their own interests, while teachers ask questions and share their knowledge to extend learning. Throughout the school year, we will explore different weekly themes as they emerge with the seasons.
Mindfulness and Movement Practices
Each class will include mindfulness and movement practices designed help participants build balance, flexibility, self-confidence, tolerance and concentration. Our daily playful practice is filled with songs, poems, creativity and teamwork.
Throughout the year, participants (depending on age) will practice outdoor skills such as knot tying, responsible and sustainable foraging, shelter building, fire building, woodworking, and navigation. Participants will gain familiarity with tool safety and basic use, building practical foundations as well as fine motor skills and self-confidence.
At the beginning of the year each participant will be given a nature journal, which will be available to them for drawing or writing each day. These journals provide an opportunity for reflection and quiet time during class, and also serve as a record of what each participant has been seeing and learning about through the year.
Personal and Social Skills
One of the primary benefits of nature immersion programs like Heartwood is the social, emotional and cognitive skills developed through extended free play in the natural environment. At Heartwood, participants are given the space and time to independently and/or cooperatively plan and implement games, projects and experiments. With the support and guidance of our educators, participants are encouraged learn how to think critically, work through disagreements and challenges, take appropriate risks, and trust in themselves and others, all through outdoor play and exploration. Participants are allowed time to authentically interact with each other and with the world around them, building vital social skills and helping them to recognize their own strength. Special emphasis is placed on teamwork and cooperation through group games and collaborative projects.
Extreme Weather Protocol and Closure
Heartwood considers weather closures of local schools (Northshore School District and/or Bastyr University), guidance from the rangers of Saint Edward State Park, and local weather alerts to determine if the school must be closed for extreme weather. If the roads within or leading to the park are deemed unsafe for driving, Heartwood will be closed. Class may also be cancelled if it is judged to be unsafe for children to be outside, for reasons of weather, air quality, or any other reason, as determined by the Forest School Director.
If lightning is in the forecast for a camp day, any trips to the lake or long hikes will be cancelled for that day. If thunder is heard or lightning is seen, teachers will take shelter with students in the gym building next to the ranger office until it stops.
High Wind Advisory
In the case of a High Wind Warning during class hours, classes will be cancelled for the day.
In the case of a Wind Advisory during class hours, any forested hikes or activities will be limited to times outside of the Wind Advisory. During the Wind Advisory period, activities will be kept to the fields or open spaces, to avoid potential falling branches or trees.
In the case of a weather-related closure, an email and Remind message will be sent out to parents to inform them of the change. We do not issue refunds or make-up days for classes cancelled due to weather.
In the event of an emergency, such as a severe weather situation or an earthquake occurring during school hours, the following protocol will be followed:
● If the situation is safe, teachers and students will remain in place at the park waiting for parents to return to pick up their children.
● In the case of extreme weather during programs, the class will take shelter in the Ranger Office building/Gymnasium until it is safe to return outside. If conditions are such that it will not be safe to return outside, parents will be contacted to pick up the children.
● If it becomes necessary to evacuate the park before parents are able to come and pick up their children, parents will be contacted, and we will evacuate to Arrowhead Elementary or to the nearby home of the Co-Executive Director.
To see updates on Heartwood programs and happenings, as well as photos from our classes, you can follow Heartwood on Facebook and Instagram.