Finding community in Free Forest School
When we moved to San Antonio in 2016, I was 8 1/2 months pregnant, with a 2 1/2 year old. I had my baby the next week. It felt like I’d been ripped from my community and thrown into a sweltering solitude, in a new city, with no friends close by (at least not close enough). On Sunday evenings, when the reality would set in that Erick would leave us alone again for school in the morning, a heavy desperation would weigh on me.
It wasn’t until I was introduced to Free Forest School that I found myself in community again. Free Forest School is a volunteer-led movement started by Anna Sharratt in Brooklyn in 2015 to be an avenue for children to be out learning in nature, in all weather, as in the Scandinavian forest schools. Volunteer facilitators and parents accompany children into the woods and watch as the children explore and collaborate and learn with all their senses. I found my people. It felt so right to be out in the woods, sitting in a circle of like-minded parents, helping each other keep an eye on which baby was crawling too close to poison ivy or which 4 year old was climbing near the wasp nest.
I was hooked from my first session and started facilitating as soon as I could. I recently wrote a blog post for the Free Forest School website, Hiking in the Rain for Mental Health. It shares a glimpse of encountering nature in community has helped to keep me integrated these past two years, and delves a bit into the psychology of why nature can be so crucial for mental health.
I hope you’ll check it out! And while you’re there, I hope you’ll browse the FFS website a bit. There are Free Forest School chapters all over the country and in at least 6 other countries. And if there’s not one in your area, the organization has a simple process for starting one!
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