Scott Ross wants children to fall in love with nature.
That’s why Ross created the Pictou County Forest School, offering two one-week day camps to children this summer as part of a pilot project.
“I’ve always been a believer that whatever you teach should be about helping personal growth as well,” said Ross, founder and lead instructor of the forest school offered on 23 acres of land in Meadowville. “I want to help children learn the skills so they can go on their own expeditions. It helps children build confidence and feel good about themselves.”
The forest school is something Ross has seen done in other jurisdictions so he set out to talk to people who started them. He wrote a proposal for funding to help offer the day camps and within 24 hours of announcing the school, all spots were full and 70 children were on a waiting list.
“It’s been great to see the interest,” said Ross. “We’ve had great results with the forest school and feedback from parents so far. There have been some heartwarming stories and we’re going to continue into the fall and hopefully do this fulltime.”
The pilot project saw children learn about shelter building, animal tracking, edible plants, and proper use of maps and compasses. Yoga was also part of the project, with students learning various animal poses.
Starting with five-week sessions in September, the forest school will be available for three different age groups: 4-7 on Tuesdays, 8-11 on Wednesdays, and 12-14 on Thursdays. The school will run 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on those days. It’s modelled after the Guelph Outdoor School, which Ross says has had “resounding” success.
“I really want to work with the school system on this, as I see it as a complimentary supplement to what’s already being taught. I think it will excite the children, which will then see them learn more on their own and do more at home.”
Ross also hopes to create a program for high school students while partnering up with a local blacksmith.
Because of the interest already shown by Pictou County residents, Ross can picture the forest school offering programming year-round and has already ordered a large canvas tent that includes a spot for a wood stove for colder temperatures.
“I can see us doing some snowshoe expeditions,” he said. “We have 23 acres of land that is full of beautiful growth of hemlocks. For our final expedition we will be leaving the site, but most of our regular programming will be on that land.”
Because the forest school is a not-for-profit organization, Ross says a number of fundraisers are in the works and he’s hoping to be approved for grants.
“We are hoping to fundraise to be able to provide some school positions for children. We are really hoping to make some schooling free for children.”
While the school only has a small staff (it’s Ross and three others currently), big things await.
“I’m so energized by the people we have, by the kids and the outdoors,” he said.
For more information, visit Pictou County Forest School’s page on Facebook.