"Learning has no boundaries when there are no walls."
"GO ECO: Every Child Outside."
We’d love to hear your success story. How did you get started?
Christy and Emily met at a homeschool convention in Broward County, probably somewhere around 2012, where they were both representing their programs.
Emily and Christy connected through their love and appreciation of the beauty on earth and their passion to share those wonders with children and families. From there a beautiful friendship and collaboration began.
Emily and Christy spent the following years building and growing their own programs while also collaborating on field trips, some events and programming ideas. When Hurricane Irma temporarily shut down their outdoor programs, they saw an opportunity to work together to support and strengthen their initiative. They began a new venture together as business partners in the Spring of 2018. This unification gave them an opportunity to share the excitement, responsibility, and challenges of owning a small, woman-owned South Florida business.
Initially the team kept both of their programs - Treehouse Learning in North Miami and ECO/The Nature Teacher in Broward going simultaneously. In an attempt to bring the programs together, Christy and Emily created “Nature Seekers” as an umbrella for both their programs. After the first year they realized that having multiple programs was confusing and did not embody their vision of unifying their programs as a holistic,
nature-based education program. In 2020, amidst Covid and the need for adaptation, the team sought new methods and ideas and discovered the Forest School movement.
Forest Schools are a blossoming initiative in the United States, an awe-inspiring movement of creative and revolutionary educators who resonate with a forward-thinking, but ancient, way of learning and being. Typically Forest Schools are programs meant for early childhood. However, Emily and Christy saw the need for nature-based AND holistic outdoor learning for older children. They agreed that the Forest School model would be a great foundation for them - bringing both outdoor play and exploration, as well as holistic, whole-child education and learning to the forest for ages 3-12. September 2023 will be the start of their third year as Take Root Forest School & Homeschool.
As any sailor experiences, there are times where you are tumultuously navigating huge, choppy swells, and times where you are in the doldrums - barely moving in windless, stagnant waters; and then there is the happy place - where the sun is shining, the air is cool and the seas calm - but with a nice breeze blowing in. As we develop further as business owners, partners, leaders, managers and educators, we are thankfully enjoying more of those happy places.
However, we don’t ever forget that it is the upheavals that cause adaptation and growth - the constant drive to find what works best for the children and team. Being an educator or “idea person” doesn’t equate to being a savvy business owner - this has been one of the biggest obstacles - learning how to manage a business and a forest school.
On par has been the difficulty in translating our passion, our ideas, our philosophies into a mission and a program that exemplifies and embodies those passions, ideas and philosophies. The ethos of forest school has helped guide us on that path - one of the principles states, “Forest School aims to promote the holistic development of all those involved, fostering resilient, confident, independent and creative learners.” This principle matches our own and has provided us with a clear path through the forest.
Model for Instruction
Take Root Forest School uses a variety of methodologies to fuel our bag of tricks: Forest School, Nature-based, Place-based, Emergent, Whole-child, Earth-centered, Waldorf, Montessori, Reggio Emelia. As a homeschool learning community, Take Root provides an ALL-OUTSIDE, PLACE-BASED approach to learning - focusing on exploration, play and discovery. Using holistic methodologies, the teachers and guides combine language arts, cultural studies and history, science and mathematics, place-based ecology and stewardship with a forest school approach based on the rhythm of the seasons, sensory awareness and the students’ discoveries in the forest. Students enroll with us to enrich their homeschooling journey. This model allows for development of the whole child...Head (through transformative experience and reflection), Heart (through relating) & Hands (through engagement).
Activities and lessons begin with what is happening in the season - as the earth moves around the sun. Next, the students and the team notice, observe and discover what is happening that day, that hour, that minute and build on the experience - their interests and their curiosity. The teachers and nature guides scaffold from there, building an emergent curriculum that fulfills the students' needs.
Teachers may build a thematic unit, create stations or provide learning resources on interested topics. The older children create their own curriculum books where they get an opportunity to see their own progress and growth throughout the year.
Teachers use developmentally appropriate objectives while holistically, weaving it all together. They offer various experiential activities and invite the children to participate in activities such as: group games, scavenger hunts, art projects, hand work, wood work, nature journals, felting, active math, creative writing, book club, science experiments, live history, nature study, and DEEP PLAY all play a part in our time at Forest School.
Advice for New Microschools
To purposefully (and with patience) work on outlining your goals, mission and principles - writing and rewriting them until they truly resonate and make sense with what you’d like to achieve. To develop your niche.
To accept that nothing is permanent and there is always room for change - going backward or forward (or sideways).
To keep your passions and motivations at the forefront of what you are doing and to be clear about what they are, while also being able to welcome new ideas and concepts that groove alongside your own.
Shoutouts and Thank you
Our community - all the families and students that have LOVED, followed and supported the
goals of revolutionizing education and honoring the natural way children learn. The team at the Bonnet House, especially Linda Schaller, the Education Director; and all the parks and natural areas where we explore, play and learn.
Favorite phrase or motto to live by
Christy: “GO ECO: Every Child Outside”
Emily: “Learning has no boundaries when you have no walls”
About Christy Schultz
Co-founder of Take Root Forest School
Founder of The Nature Teacher and ECO-Every Child Outside
Teaching for 25+ years
About Emily Feldman
Co-founder of Take Root Forest School
Founder of Treehouse Learning
Teaching for 15+ years
How to find Take Root Forest School
Located in South Florida,
Two locations: Dade - N. Miami - Greynolds Park
Broward - Ft. Lauderdale - Bonnet House
LinkedIn Group - Microschool Florida www.microschoolflorida.com