Williams Park is sporting a new hut, known as a yurt, for Langley Forest School.
The forest school is an alternative to classroom learning and encourages kids to reconnect with the environment. The pilot program began with preschool in September 2014 and interest is growing.
This year’s program expanded to include kindergarten and the school grew from 15 to 26 students in one year.
Mom, Teresa Porter feels her daughter Elizabeth has gained a greater appreciation for nature by being in the school.
“She really enjoys it” Porter said. “I see her loving going outside… she’s very curious about nature.”
In a climate like Langley’s, not every day is ideal for outdoor learning as noted by the school’s director of funding, Becky Steward.
“It can be dangerous for them to be out in a forest [on a high wind day],” Steward said. “This gives somewhere for the classroom to be and somewhere to put their things”
If kids create paintings or are working on writing, they now have a place to keep paper dry and clean. Plus, it’s a dry environment on those really nasty Westcoast days that frequent the region.
“It’s a place for the kids to warm up and it’s dry during the very inclement weather,” Porter added.
Another important factor that led to the need for the yurt is that each child needs a complete change of dry clothes on hand. These are stored in the yurt for those times when the rain gets through all the layers.
Jessica Birak, another Langley Forest School parent as well as a member of the school’s board said parents are seeing growth in their children’s development since begin part of the program.
“From listening skills, to emotional and social skills. We can see that through learning outdoors, our little children are growing up and developing the skills needed to thrive,” Birak said. “Not to mention, they sleep pretty well after a day spent exploring the forest.”
Now complete, the yurt is a large round hut covered in canvas. The walls and roof are supported by the wood structure exposed on the inside. Teachers have moved supplies into the yurt and began using it Monday Nov. 16.
Obviously, building the yurt came with a hefty price tag and as Steward explained, the fundraising effort ends on Nov. 30.
“It’s been tough trying to get [information] out there, we are a small group,” she said. “People can come to the park and see it.”
Porter said improvements to the school are being made as the group grows and learns. Teachers recently went to outdoor education.
“I think, the bigger picture, is having our young people care about the environment,” Porter ssaid. “This is instilling in them an appreciation of nature. An awe of nature.”
The school is hoping to raise $10,000 to cover the costs of the now complete yurt. Those interested can contribute through https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/langley-forest-school-help-us-grow-2-0#/