Many note that “school playground” no longer fits the bill — the swings with rules about direction and the slides you’ve been instructed to not climb up. “School playgrounds,” after all, mimic nature’s playground, and rather poorly. Why use monkey bars when real branches are full of crags and moss and texture? Why use stairs when boulders will get you there? Why have a plastic playground molded to look like nature when Missouri is full of woodland? It’s time for the training wheels to fall off. (A garden plot on a plastic playground just doesn’t cut it.)
Raintree School is a campus amidst a forest. We hope the existence of our forest school marks the beginning of a new awareness — and embrace of — children’s need to have wildlands. Children are observers and explorers by nature. But the fantasy many parents once coveted, of beautiful landscapes for children to frolic in and run free, has given way to a dull reality mitigated by landscape-crowding play sets, shrinking recess times, and a generation worried about getting their hands dirty. The forest for us is intimately entwined with the
"It takes a universe to make a child both in outer form and inner spirit. It takes a universe to educate a child. A universe to fulfill a child."
— Thomas Berry
the daily creative work our students do. And at once, our 11-acre wood stands apart as an honest diversion for young children (i.e., something explored for sheer personal fulfillment without concern for the inherent learning, personal growth, and ah-ha moments it bestows.)
As a school for children of the creative and scientific sort, we need the forest in our lives - place that helps refresh our personal wellspring without the pressure of academic obligations and rigid time frames. Often we choose to search for evidence of mammals or measure the changes brought on by the rhythm of seasons (because every venture needs a touch of structure) but our forest will remain a magical place, full of wonder and mystery.