/ / Owen Sound Forest School

Owen Sound Forest School


Mondays, Wednesday & Fridays  8:30am – 3:30pm

Age Groups:

Nature Preschool (18m-3yrs)

Kinder-Gardeners (4yrs-7yrs)

Earth Explorers (8yrs-12yrs)


September 6th – June 29th  (80 days of F.S.)





We at the Owen Sound Forest School are very excited about the growth of our Forest School community. Since launching this past September (2016), we have had so many student success stories.   Whether a student is home schooled or attending a more traditional school, evidence shows there is a huge benefit for participating one day a week in forest school.

What is Forest School?

The practice of immersing children in nature from an early age has long been popular in the Scandinavian countries. We are part of a large movement in Canada to provide children with regular and repeated access to a natural space, as well as child-directed, emergent and inquiry-based learning.

Children attending At Last Forest School (ALFS) in Owen Sound or Saugeen Shores have the opportunity to learn in a natural environment, spending the majority of their day outdoors in small groups with qualified teachers or Early Childhood Educators. .

The defining feature of this type of nature-based education program is that children are provided with opportunities to build an on-going relationship with the land, to a dedicated educator, to one another, and to themselves through this educational lens.

The ALFS Mission is to use the Forest School model to bring children closer to nature. By cultivating rich learning experiences, children will develop a life-long relationship with the diverse natural environment our locations have to offer.

The ALFS Vision is for children to play within their local forests with a knowledgeable and experienced educator who understands the importance of inquiry-based learning and it’s rule in supporting a healthy child and more sustainable world. We



What is Forest School

The practice of immersing children in nature from an early age has long been popular in the Scandinavian countries. We are part of a large movement in Canada to provide children with regular and repeated access to a natural space, as well as child-directed, emergent and inquiry-based learning. 

Children attending At Last Forest School (ALFS) in Owen Sound or Saugeen Shores have the opportunity to learn in a natural environment, spending the majority of their day outdoors in a 1:6 (teacher:student) ratio.

The defining feature of this type of nature-based education program is that children are provided with opportunities to build an on-going relationship with the land, to a dedicated educator, to one another, and to themselves through this educational lens. 


Our mission is to use the Forest School model to bring children closer to nature in the early, primary and secondary years.  By cultivating rich learning experiences, children will make a connection with the diverse natural environment our locations have to offer.


Our vision is for your child to play and learn within our local forests with a knowledgeable and experienced educator who understands the importance of play and inquiry-based learning and how this  can lead to a healthy child and more sustainable world.

Our Teachers

As Forest School teachers view themselves as “co-discoverers” and guides who explore and experience nature alongside the children. 


Our teachers are; caring and energetic individuals who are enthusiastic about teaching in the outdoors, they are; committed, organized, and reliable, they understand child development, and are patient and warm. 


To teach for ALFS, teachers must have the following qualifications; 

Certified Ontario Teacher Certificate

Early Childhood Education Certificate 

Valid First Aid Certificate 

Wilderness First Aid (can be obtained during the school year)

Clear Criminal Record Check 

What are the Benefits of Forest School?

If you think that this sounds like a lot of fun, but secretly wonder if the kids actually learn anything, then keep reading. 


For young children, the benefits of forest school are both plentiful and profound. (Too many to list)

  • Improves health (environmental, physical, emotional, mental) 
  • Develops fine and gross motor skills
  • Increases understanding of and appreciation for nature 
  • Augments ecological literacy 
  • Accommodates multiple learning styles 
  • Promotes safe risk-taking, and reduces harmful behaviours 
  • Encourages problem-solving skills 
  • Improves communication skills 
  • Creates engaged and passionate learners 
  • Supports creative and imaginative thinking 


While Forest School children are consistently exposed to traditional disciplines like science, math, physical education, literature, and art, all learning happens organically through inquiry and direct experience, rather than teacher-led lesson plans in a classroom. This gives children of all ages a chance to do what they really excel in – learn through play.


Studies have found that children who are enrolled in forest schools:

  • Are less likely to come down with common infections, since they spend little time inside, where viruses and bacteria thrive (Grahn, 1997)
  • Have better motor skills, such as agility, balance and coordination (Fjortoft, 2014)
  • Engage in more imaginative and dynamic forms of play (Mårtensson, 2004)
  • Are less likely to be overweight or obese (Boldemann et al, 2005)
  • See improvements in confidence, social skills, language and communication, motivation and concentration (O’Brien, 2007)
  • Become more resilient (Blackwell, 2015)
  • Are less likely to experience ADHD symptoms (Isted, 2013)
  • Meanwhile, forest school teachers report that outdoor learning boosts problem-solving and critical thinking skills. They also believe it helps children figure out how to respond to challenges, overcome fears, and work with others – skills that are transferable to the classroom and help the students become successful later in life.

What programs are offered?

Forest School Program

Our schools operate September - June and follow the Bluewater School Board calendar. Children can come 1-3 days/week (depending on the location and availability). Children attend for the duration of the school year. 


Most school-aged children who attend an educational institute (Public School, Catholic School or other) will attend their regular school 4 days/week and attend Forest School 1 day/week.


Days of Operation: 

Owen Sound - Monday, Wednesday and/or Friday 

Saugeen Shores - Tuesday and/or Thursday



P.D. Day Program *(Owen Sound Location)

Our P.D. Day Program offers children (who are no registered for the school year) the opportunity to attend Forest Schoolon P.D. days only. 


Days of Operation:  

Friday, September 29, 2017  8:30am - 3:30pm

Friday, October 27, 2017       8:30am - 3:30pm  

Friday, November 24, 2017   8:30am - 3:30pm

Friday, February 2, 2018        8:30am - 3:30pm

Friday, April 27, 2018             8:30am - 3:30pm

Friday, June 1, 2018               8:30am - 3:30pm

How do I Register for these programs?

Step 1 - Review the “Parent Handbook” (found on the website) 

Step 2 - Complete the online registration (all options available online)

Step 3 - Print and Fill out Informed Consent & Medical Form

Step 4 - Make Payment: Post-Dated Cheques made out to “At Last Forest School


Owen Sound http://www.atlastadventures.com/osfs

Saugeen Shores http://www.atlastadventures.com/ssfs

What are the age-groups?

Half Day Program (8:30am-12pm)

  • “Nature Preschool” - Age (18 months - 3 years) *Accompanied by Parent(s)/Guardian(s)

Full Day Program (8:30am-3:30pm

  • “Kinder-Gardeners” - Age (4-7 years) 
  • “Earth Explorers” - Age (8-12 years)

Where is Forest School Located?

Owen Sound location:

Fall/Spring: Grey Sauble Conservation (September - November) & (April-June)

Winter:        Harrison Park (December - March) 



Saugeen Shores Location:

MacGregor Point Provincial Park - Day Use Area (first paved road on the right once you enter the park boundary - before the main gate into the campground).

Are you always outdoors? What happens in Winter and and inclement weather?

Children spend most of their day outside, every day, regardless of the weather. That said we do have a heated indoor shelter, because child comfort and safety is our priority.


Educators consult the forecast throughout the day, and weather-related safety is considered in all decisions (i.e. how far to venture away from the shelter, how long to be outside). 


In the case of potential thunder and lightning, groups will stay close enough to shelter so that it may be reached quickly if a storm occurs. During thunder and lightning, participants will stay in the shelter for 30 minutes after the storm passes. 


In the case of extreme cold (-30C or below) or extreme heat (30C), educators will limit the time outside based on age/outerwear, and will constantly check in with each child’s comfort and safety watching for signs of frostbite, hypothermia, heat exhaustion, etc. 

Where do children take shelter?

Owen Sound Shelter:

In the fall and spring our location offers Grey Sauble Conservation Picnic Shelter and the option to enter into the Grey Sauble Conservation building in case of severe cold/heat or storms.


In the winter season we change the drop off/pick up location to Harrison Park were we rent out the “Community Hall / Stone Building” for our shelter to warm up by the indoor fire place, use the washroom facilities, dry our clothing and eat our snacks/lunch. We remain outdoors as much as possible! 


Saugeen Shores Shelter:

We use a 30 foot renovated trailer as our indoor Forest School space. It is parked at our “base camp” (Day Use Area at MacGregor Point) and is accessible for the entire year, however is only necessity during the winter months for children to warm up, change clothing and eat their snacks and lunches. 

Are you under any guidelines from the Province?

Forest School is an education initiative of the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada.


We follow the “Forest School Canada” guidelines and abide to the Recreation Exemption for the “Childcare and Early Years Act”. 


As Certified Ontario Teachers and Early Childhood Educators it is in our nature to make many connections to the Ontario Curriculum, we are however not in any rush, nor do we follow a “curriculum guideline”, this allows us to embark on grand adventures with the students as our guides. It is a true representation of emergent curriculum and child-inspired education!

What type of learning styles are taught?

Certified Ontario Teachers and Early Childhood Educators, with Outdoor Specialists, guide children to self learning and discovery in a ratio of one teacher to six students.


Forest School programs follow two guiding principles that distinguishes them from other outdoor and environmental education programs: regular and repeated access to a natural space, as well as child- directed, emergent and inquiry-based learning. The defining feature is that children are provided with opportunities to build a deeper connection with nature, to a dedicated educator, to their classmates and to themselves through this educational opportunity.


Sometimes children will work independently, finding a quiet space within themselves their creations and their thoughts. Other times children will work collaboratively to create something, problem solve, or tell stories. Forest School can often be described as a ‘magical’ thing to witness and be a part of, as it is often a world where children collaborate, communicate and build trust. 


Our educators wish to be co-learners with the child, prompting children with questions to extend their thinking about the world around them. They wish to grow your child’s compassion for the natural environment by introducing them to tools, loose parts and supplies that constantly change their learning environment, therefore leading to a change within your child. 

What do I need to bring to Forest School?

*Please label everything (even clothes and shoes!) 


  • Your Child dress in proper attire;
    • including long pants, long shirt (outer layers for winter), hat, sunglasses (optional), bug spray, socks & shoes/boots
  • Child's Backpack (comfortable for the child to wear) that holds;
    • Water, Lunch & EXTRA Snacks.
    • Additional “backpack” items (depending on season) rain suit, sunscreen, bug repellent
  • Child's Extra Gear Tote (waterproof bin) that holds;
    • extra; shoes, rubber boots, socks, hats, mitts, underwear, pants, shirt, sweater, coat, sunhat, rain gear.
    • crocks, water shoes, or secure sandals are great for "creek crossings!" in warmer weather.

Please pack your child's backpack and extra gear tote thoroughly to avoid a call home. Ensuring your child(ren) are comfortable will ensure their comfort and safety! 

Gear Check List:

All Seasons:

  • Small backpack
  • Lunch and two snacks (children typically need more food at FS then during a regular day)
  • Water bottle
  • Two extra FULL changes of clothes (including underwear and socks)



  • Rain gear (waterproof boots, pants, jacket)
  • Sneakers for running (no open toe shoes)
  • Sun Hat (for warmer months)
  • Warmer sweater, hat, outer layer pants AND jacket for colder days
  • Bug Jacket
  • Lightweight clothing (silk/cotton ideal, synthetic fibres do not breathe well)
  • Even on warmer days children should wear full length pants and shirts (to reduce risk of poison ivy and tick bites). A light cotton/silk/hemp long sleeve shirt also acts as protection from the sun.


  • Two winter hats (must cover ears and stay on the head, one as extra)
  • Balaclava or neck warmer (no scarves please due to risk of strangulation)
  • Two pairs of warm, waterproof mitts
  • One/two warm, waterproof snowsuit
  • One set of warm, waterproof boots (with extra liners!) 
  • *Three base layers: see suggestions below on how to dress your child appropriately for the winter season

How do I dress my child for Winter?

You don't have to invest in expensive brand names to keep your child warm. Thrift stores are great places to look for the appropriate clothing at cheaper prices.


When it comes to boots you should get a boot that is one size larger than your child’s foot. This helps with insulation. Socks help to wick moisture away from the skin, (please note: cotton tends to sweat and doesn't do a great job at wicking away moisture). To keep your children’s feet warm, the best option would be to have two pairs of wool socks with waterproof boots that have some room around the toes.


  1. Insulation: The key to this layer is to wick moisture away from the skin and insulate. Natural fabrics such as wool or silk work well as an inner layer, as well as fleece. Please avoid cotton. 
  2. Middle Layer: This is another insulation layer to keep your child warm. Wool sweaters (merino wool is exceptionally warm and soft on sensitive skin) and fleece tend to work well. These could be multiple layers that your child could remove should they get too hot.
  3. Outer Shell: Waterproof and windproof, as well as breathable. Should reflect the day’s weather

Where can I find more information?

#1 Parent Hand-book

#2 Call Deb (519)-379-6383 

     Call Carlin (519)-373-6951

How do you manage risk?

We believe that children should be allowed to experience and manage their own risk. The benefits of risk-taking is a fundamental part of Forest School and an important part of healthy child development. Our educators co-assesses and co-manage risk with the children. We believe that self-regulation with regards to risk is an essential skill for children to acquire. 


External risk factors are managed by seasonal site risk assessments as well as activity-based risk assessments.

How will my child learn / be taught?

To truly follow the interests of the children, the educators’ focus is more observation and reflection rather than planning. Instead of having lessons prepared and ready to present, educators observe the children while they are playing, intervening with open-ended options such as presenting a new loose part, etc. 


The educators take photos, videos and written notes to support their observations. These are used to extend the children’s learning, refocus it or redirect it if needed. Educators may use these materials to ask the child or group of children what they were doing, what they were thinking or what were they trying to accomplish during this activity. The educator may offer support by suggesting a solution to a potential problem or showing them an alternative activity with the same idea. 


Documents gathered by educators and the children themselves work together to answer questions “what is happening here?”, “what is being learned, mastered or struggled with?”, “what did the child or children learn about their natural environment from this?”. This is how we “assess” the learning and development of the children. This theorizing way of assessing allows for further and deeper learning for both the educators and children. 


One of the many special features of Forest School is that our days are held in the same area throughout the whole schoolyear, allowing the students to become very comfortable in and knowledgeable about the area. We believe that through making deep connections to the lands we expose the children to, they will grow to be stewards of the land. We like to maintain a balance between promoting free play but as well teaching and demonstrating the care and ethics that is required to respect the lands around us. This balance can sometimes have an adverse affect on the environment where overuse can be a problem. We minimize these impacts by rotating our sites for play, staying on trails as much as possible and keeping activities with the highest impact in multi-use areas. We also like to leave areas cleaner than when arrived by making sure that all of our exploration materials are return to the base or thrown out in their respective trash bins. We routinely collect garbage around the areas that we visit to better the natural environment around us. 


At Forest School, environmental sustainability is a priority and something that we are very passionate about. We continually monitor our play areas for any ecological impact that may have been caused by our program. We have plans for the future to monitor, manage and limit our potential negative impacts. We also encourage the children to think about possible positive impacts and activities that we can preform to the help the natural environment around us. 

Are the age groups mixed?

The preschool age group is a half-day program 8:30-12 (and requires a parent/guardian to attend with them). The older age groups join us for the full day 8:30-3:30. We begin the day as one big community group where we have a Children Yoga Instructor lead us in stretch / dance, we also use our community circle to talk about our hopes and dreams for the day, how the weather might play a role on our activities and any other topics that arise. We then have snack and break off into our "pods". Some pods buddy up together for their exploration/activities. Therefore… yes they are separate groups, however it all depends on the wishes of the “pods”. The children truly do shape their learning. 



Waiver Form

Parent Handbook

Payment Calendar


“..this has been a life saving game changer opportunity for our son…”- Aly Boltman

Yesterday I found Solly sick on the couch feeling sad that he had to miss forest school again. I asked him what we could do to cheer up and he said “let’s go outside! I always have better thoughts outsideThank you so much for creating our school. Our lives and choices are changing all the time because of it.”Becky Thorne


Debbie Val

I have passion, especially for the outdoors and its use in empowering students through meaningful experiences. I graduated from Brock University’s Outdoor Recreation and Education Program, where I learned the significance of outdoor and play-based learning and developed my passion for teaching with

nature. I further completed a Bachelor of Education in Outdoor Ecological and Experiential Education at

Lakehead University. It was then that I came to understand the significant influence that outdoor, experiential education can have on the whole-child, and how essential it is on the development of today’s youth!

In the summers I facilitate outdoor programs for students in places as far away as The Yukon - paddling the Yukon River and camping with children ages 5-12!


“Debbie brings life and light to everyone she interacts with. Children immediately flock to her and she finds the most nurturing ways to guide them to independence. Deb is a ball of positive energy, and a exceptional outdoor educator. She provides safe and innovative programs that stimulate the mind body and soul.” - Car Val (Husband and Co-Teacher).

Carlin Val

Carlin Val

I have devoted my life to education and the outdoors. After completing an Honours Degree in Outdoor Recreation, Parks and Tourism at Lakehead University (specializing in Leadership), I continued my education by obtaining my Bachelor of Education Degree in Outdoor Ecological and and Experiential

Education. During the last ten years I have been putting my education and leadership skills to work, as a

teacher and an adventure tourism guide. Traveling throughout Southern Ontario, Whitehorse, and

Peru, I have lead rock climbing, caving, canyoning, sea kayaking, and hiking trips. I enjoy sharing this world with our youth, through summer and winter camping, dog sledding, snow shoeing and back country skiing trips.

“Carlin does not only have an exceptional ability to lead and teach, but the ability to design and facilitate innovative programs that become lifelong lessons for children. With Carlin’s real life experience and skills, students are in the absolute best of hands when learning around him.” – Deb Val (Wife and Co-Teacher).