While some schools are planning to reopen for in-person or distance learning, the Nature Kin Farm and Forest School has its sights on outdoor learning.
The new academy, which was founded by Dr. Jean Lomino in 2021, will open on Thursday, Aug. 12, in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
At the Nature Kin Farm and Forest School, students between the ages of 9 and 11 will have science, math, business, language arts and history classes in addition to a nature-focused curriculum that includes gardening, animal husbandry and student-led exploration.
“The school is located on the 50-acre, Rowell family farm at Lookout Lake that includes wetlands, creek, forests, meadows and a lake, making it an ideal outdoor classroom/STEM laboratory,” Lomino, who is the school’s director, told FOX News via email.
She went on, “The forest school philosophy is based on the fact that nature provides the context for all learning and provides meaningful, holistic, and real-life experiences.”
So far, the Nature Kin Farm and Forest School has 10 to 12 full-day students enrolled. Lomino said the school has an “equal number” of half-day students who are enrolled in programs for kids between ages 9 and 11 and 12 and 17.
All classes will be conducted outdoors with an exception of a few cooking classes and any “other pursuit” that might require an indoor setting.
According to Lomino, enrolled students will engage in “engage in outdoor learning in all weather conditions, throughout all four seasons.”
Lomino added, “In my teaching experiences over my 50-year career, I know that children are more focused, more responsive and joyful when they learn in nature. I believe that occurs because there are no walls around them and no ceiling above. Their spirits soar. They are more observant, creative, curious and ready to learn.”
Although some schools throughout the U.S. have become accustomed to outdoor learning as a temporary measure during the coronavirus pandemic, Lomino told Fox News the Nature Kin Farm and Forest School takes inspiration from the “forest school philosophy” that sprouted in northern Europe more than 70 years ago.
Danish teacher Ella Flautau is credited with creating the world’s first known forest school in the early 1950s with her “walking kindergarten” class, according to the Forest School Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to the learning method.
Aside from offering physical, cognitive and social benefits, Lomino believes forest schools are growing in popularity due to COVID-19.
“The pandemic created a surge of interest because school could no longer exist as it always has,” Lomino said. “Being inside a classroom was not a safe place to be, but taking children outside was a safer place to be.”
She went on, “As teachers, parents and administrators began to see the many benefits of this kind of learning experience for children, more and more schools adopted an outdoor education model.”
Lomino thinks the outdoor learning trend will continue to grow as time goes on. At this time, she’s searching for partners who can help fund after-school programs and scholarships for children in underserved communities.
Prior to starting the Nature Kin Farm and Forest School, Lomino co-founded the Wauhatchie School in 2015, which is another nature-immersive school in Chattanooga.
She served as the school’s director until she began the Nature Kin Farm and Forest School and a forest school teacher training program known as the Forest School Teacher Institute.
“Literally and figuratively, we must let children burrow down into the earth—find their roots—and then, nourished by open sky and a friendship with nature, they can grow into healthy, happy, whole human beings,” Lomino said. “I believe that Forest School is reclaiming the roots of education.”