Hands on learning in the woods
On Jan. 19, like every Tuesday and Thursday for the last couple of years, the Flatwood Forest School students and parents gathered to embrace curiosity and develop skills through a hands-on experience on their campus at the Florida Agricultural Museum.
Michele Pellicer, Missy Clauson, and Amy Cardin took on the mission of creating an alternative and nature-based education for their children in 2018 after several camping trips.
The lessons are inspired by the Montessori philosophy of hands-on learning and exploring nature with children, which was created for homeschooling parents. This program adjusts classes to match Florida's seasons.
The program is open for children 3 to 6 years old from 9 a.m to 1 p.m. two days a week.
Birding was the lesson of the day on Jan. 19. It started with the circle of learning, where Clauson asked questions and taught the class.
Then, it was time to hike. The Florida Agricultural Museum and its 460 acres of land offer a diverse opportunity to explore, learn and connect with farm animals and wildlife.
With binoculars, magnifying glasses and books in hand, the group spotted local birds and tracks of local wildlife on a sunny and cool morning.
"It is amazing to watch them thrive," says Michele Pellicer as the children walked with excitement toward the tree climbing areas, where they pointed out the different types of moss and air plants around them.
"Going on the hike" was Wilder Pellicer's favorite part of the day. Michele Pellicer, one of the teachers and founder, had the desire to have a different teaching style grow into a school. They hope to create a more robust curriculum to offer classes four days a week by next year.
After the hike and a lunch break, children reinforce the lesson with journaling exercises, crafting experiences and gardening.
Parents are encouraged to participate.
"We encourage questions and wonder," said Amy Cardin, the first employee of the school. She teaches the Thursday lesson supported by the other teachers and parents.
Parent Libby Morin said her child looks forward to using her "Forest feat" at school every day.
For more information, including details about the June 21-25 summer camp, visit https://flatwoodsforestschool.com.