Wild Island Forest Academy is an academic facility for elementary aged children from 5 to 12. At Wild Island Forest Academy, children will learn experientially by engaging in practical, hands-on activities and play. Students and staff alike will make deep connections with the Earth by spending most of our time learning outside – in all weather – all year long. As a result, children learn critical life skills while developing emotional and social intelligence within a natural environment.
Like other schools, Wild Island Forest Academy will close upon inclement weather as determined by the Newfoundland and Labrador Eastern School District. Wild Island Forest Academy is unique in its structure of small, multi-aged classes, a high educator:student ratio, inquiry-based learning, and the seamless integration of Newfoundland curriculum outcomes. The licensed teacher will be responsible for each child’s meeting of these outcomes and our team of facilitators will assist in carrying out daily lessons as per the instruction of the teacher.
WIld Island Academy is located on a beautiful 3-acres in Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s and provides ample natural elements for children to explore, experiment, play, learn, and design in. The 1200sq ft. Wynwood building is where students will learn indoors and outdoor learning will include working within the greenhouse and chicken coop.
A Better Way to Learn
By being immersed in nature on a regular, long-term basis throughout the unique four seasons of the Newfoundland school year, children will develop a deep emotional connection to nature that will help them understand they are a key stakeholder in the complex workings of our natural world. With this mindset, it is our hope that our students will grow to be the leaders of tomorrow with a strong ecological consciousness and become valued caretakers for our planet.
We encourage students to think of themselves as multifaceted individuals in relation to each other, the school community, and the world, and to think about these commitments. Within this holistic approach, students are imagined as thoughtful, active, participatory learners capable of forming strong and positive human relationships. Examples of this include: learning about and being supportive of each other’s strengths, intelligences and struggles, learning to be allies to one another as we partner up with different age groups in, engaging in action projects in the community, studying the systems (environmental, economic, cultural) we live in, and thinking of alternatives to support a more sustainable future. We will nurture students to think of their responsibility to each other, and to the planet beyond the classroom.
Today’s children and families often have limited opportunities to connect with the natural environment. Richard Louv called this phenomenon, ‘nature-deficit disorder’ in his book, The Last Child in the Woods. Louv opened the nation’s eyes to the developmental effects that nature has on our children and documented how modern family life has changed dramatically in the last two decades. Children spend more time viewing television and playing video games on computers than they do being physically active outside. In the past decade, the benefits of connecting to nature have been well documented in numerous scientific research studies and publications.
Collectively, this body of research shows that children’s social, psychological, academic and physical health is positively impacted when they have daily contact with nature. Schools with naturalized outdoor environments allow children to have safe, ready-made access to green places and engagement with nature. A diverse array of plant life encourages children to experience nature in more ways and more frequently. Positive impacts on nature-based play and learning include the following (Selected excerpts from Children and Nature Network (www.childrenandnature.org/research/), Annotated Bibliographies of Research and Studies, Volumes 1 and 2 (2007):
- Supports creativity and problem-solving. Studies of children in schoolyards found that children engage in more creative forms of play in the green areas. They also played more cooperatively (Bell and Dyment, 2006). Play in nature is especially important for developing capacities for creativity, problem-solving, and intellectual development (Kellert, 2005).
- Enhances cognitive abilities. Proximity to, views of, and daily exposure to natural settings increases children’s ability to focus and enhances cognitive abilities (Wells, 2000).
- Improves academic performance. Studies in the US show that schools that use outdoor classrooms and other forms of nature-based experiential education support significant student gains in social studies, science, language arts, and math. Students in outdoor science programs improved their science testing scores by 27% (American Institutes for Research, 2005).
- Increases physical activity. Children who experience school grounds with diverse natural settings are more physically active, more aware of nutrition, more civil to one another and more creative (Bell and Dyment, 2006).
- Improves nutrition. Children who grow their own food are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables (Bell & Dyment, 2008) and to show higher levels of knowledge about nutrition (Waliczek, & Zajicek, 2006). They are also more likely to continue healthy eating habits throughout their lives (Morris & Zidenberg-Cherr, 2002).
- Improves social relations. Children will be smarter, better able to get along with others, healthier and happier when they have regular opportunities for free and unstructured play in the out-of-doors (Burdette and Whitaker, 2005).
- Reduces stress. Green plants and vistas reduce stress among highly stressed children. Locations with a greater number of plants, greener views, and access to natural play areas show more significant results (Wells and Evans, 2003).