The forest provides the children with the opportunity to explore and appreciate the natural world around them. It takes the
classroom outside. In our culture children are pressed to spend more time indoors in structured school settings with little opportunity to value the learning experiences offered by the natural world.
Researchers have found that “ the more personal children’s
experiences with nature, the more environmentally concerned and active children are likely to become” (Wilson 1996) .
Exploring outdoors helps children to develop what has been termed as their ecopsychological self–the child’s sense of self in relation to the natural world (Phenice & Griffore 2003). Researchers believe that children are born with a natural sense of relatedness to nature and that this innate and developmental tendency towards empathy or affiliation with nature needs to be nurtured in the earliest years of life (Barrows 1995, Lewis 1996, Nelson 1993, Sobel 1996, Tilbury 1996, Wilson 1993 & 1997). Children’s draw to nature can best be identified by their love of fairy tales that are set in nature - wherein the characters are animals (Barrows 1995). Nurturing a child’s connectedness to nature will help to foster positive
environmental attitudes. (Shultz, et al. 2004) It is also known that children’s early experiences in life give shape to the values and
attitudes they will have toward the world later in life. (Wilson 19945 & 1996). Offering children the opportunity to explore nature and appreciate what it offers helps to develop a basic respect for it and a genuine caring for its preservation.
And so we head into the forest to help the children explore a setting where they can see the changes of the seasons, find the animals that live within its trees and under the rocks, become explorers, gatherers, researchers and makers of theories about how it all works.