Forest school method converts students and parents

Ryan Anderson, The Daily Citizen, Dalton, Ga.
·2 min read

Apr. 9—ROCKY FACE — While the COVID-19 pandemic may have driven some families to the outdoor Arden Forest School this year, the atmosphere and curriculum there are motivating more families to sign on next school year as the school expands.

Though the pandemic "put our school on the radar of a lot of families, many have signed up for full time next year" because they've been satisfied with Arden Forest, and "I'm so happy," said co-founder Hope Gold. "We're thrilled."

Arden Forest School "is a hybrid learning community featuring immersive, significant time outdoors as rooted in contemporary forest school philosophy, blended with quality academic classroom time," according to its website. Kindergarten and elementary grades attendees learn in a "nature-based, collaborative environment that supports their academic and personal growth as human beings."

Nonviolent conflict resolution is a bedrock principle of the school, and "I'm really proud of the kids, because they do so great with it," said co-founder Alana Sane. "We encourage them to work it out, and they respond really well."

They "become solution-oriented and develop empathy," Gold said. "It also builds self-empowerment."

Jubilee Elliott, 12, appreciates the nonviolent conflict resolution approach, she said. "Here, they really care about how we treat each other."

Elliott attends Arden Forest with her two younger sisters, and she's eager to be a full-time (four-days-a-week) student next school year.

"I think it'll be really good for me, this whole (lifestyle)," she said. "I'm looking forward to learning Latin here next year, (as) I'm already learning French on my own."

At Arden Forest, Leah Tello has "learned things I might not at a regular school, (like) how to garden, and I like being in the forest," said the 12-year-old. "I like the people here, my friends, and the environment, (the way) they've turned nothing into something."

More information on the school, which conducts classes primarily outdoors, can be found at https://www.ardenforestschool.com/, and Arden Forest will host an open house on Thursday, April 15, at 6 p.m. Individual tours can be scheduled by request.

At Arden Forest, children of mixed ages learn together, and "younger kids step up and learn a lot faster because their peers are helping them, (while) the older kids explain content, which really solidifies it for them," Sane said. "They've become teachers in a way, and I've seen it with my own three children" — a pair of sixth-graders and a fourth-grader — who attend the school.

"They have that growth mindset," she said. Instead of saying, "I can't do this," they say, "I can't do this, yet, but I'm working on it."