Japanese Forest Kindergarten: Thoughts from Atsuko Sensei

In recent years, the development of forest school in Singapore showed the potential of people living here to change and grow to understand the meaning behind our connection with nature. But during these years, there were deep and powerful conversation behind the scene shared between an inspiring mentor of Forest School Singapore, Atsuko Yamamoto and her young disciple, Coach Darren.

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She was the inspirer, advisor and guide to our fellow forest school team in Singapore. Both her eldest and second child were part of a forest kindergarten community in Japan. Here are some excerpt of the conversations and advise, we had.

CONVERSATION 1: ADMISSION ISSUES & LEARNING FOR ADULTS TOO

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  • Our admission was strict
  • Either you support the philosophy or you’re out
  • You teach the parents
  • In the end, that philosophy becomes the parents strength for raising kids and giving back to community
  • It has to be learning curve for the parents too, if not we’re not doing it right
  • If it’s only a “parent child stroll in the park” session, they can do that by themselves on the weekend in botanic garden

CONVERSATION 2:
COMMITMENT REQUIRED

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  • Ok imo first of all, it shouldn’t be a one off thing, people need to commit to it (eg 3 days a week) and pay for the term
  • And it should be a drop off
  • It must be a drop off, otherwise it defeats the whole purpose
  • My school was payment per term
  • And you cannot bunk off just because you don’t feel like it, it’s a community thing, commit and stick together
  • Although there was one coach, parents took turns to walk with the kids for support, not just their own kid but all kids and support the activity and aim behind it
  • So it was something like 15 kids plus 1coach&2adults

CONVERSATION 3:
WHY FOREST SCHOOL IN JAPAN

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  • They just need to know it’s not an outing, it’s a way of life🙂
  • I won’t say it’s the only way, but the forest is sure one beautiful way to raise young souls
  • Into beings that are truly kind and aware of their surroundings, knowing pain and how to protect the your community from it etc
  • Which I believe will be treasure for the rest of their lives and what is needed in the future of human kind – the overall one-ness
  • The old way of scores and status seeking is so over
  • Kids will eventually go to mainstream school, but their roots in the forest will be deeply embedded. I know that for sure.
  • Cos I’m proud of my kids LOL
  • It raises their concentration level, so they do well once in mainstream school too
  • If that encourages any sg parents (hahaha)
  • If anything, teaching with flash cards since young only ruins their joy for learning
  • My kids, with flaws of course. But all of them get praised from teachers for their level of awareness towards peers, their mental maturity. And I won’t take credit for it. It’s the forest.

CONVERSATION 4:
WHAT THEY DO AT FS IN JAPAN?

  • My forest school in Japan, we had this contingency plan for rain
  • Of cos, normal rain we will walk the forest. But japan has rainy season and typhoon. When the forecast was really red alert, we stayed indoors. Maybe it happened 2-3 in a year
  • Also we have seasons. So cooler seasons we walk in the forest. In the very hot months in summer, we walk through the forest to the ocean and dip
  • We had a car pool action going on where sometimes we took all the kids a little far out in parents cars
  • Change it up a bit
  • Then come back to our usual route the next session. Everything seems fresh again
  • We had a little garden where we grew vegetables. Sometimes we spent half of the session mending the plants.
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A little sharing from my mentor herself… it is not an easy journey… but it is all worth it. =) 
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