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Part 2 of 2 in Diversity Equals Health: Impact of Nature Preschools and Forest Schools with race, class, ethnic, and gender diversity.

Updated: May 2

Today, in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday 2024, Part 2 of 2 in Diversity Equals Health we are sharing our most ambiguous blog post yet: 

Boy and girl in rain outdoors showing Forest Schools with race, class, ethnic, and gender diversity.
  • One that we hope to co-create and live into with you (add your comments below);  

  • One that centers the most complex of the Triple Well Being competencies:

  • One that will be updated and modified with reflections from our Outdoor Nature Based Preschool;

  • One that will be responsive to your comments on this blog;

  • One that will be woven into our Caregiver, Guardian and Parent Compacts with workshops that build mutual support and shared knowledge and resources in partnership with the Rock Center in 2024-2025 school year.

Our previous blog post connected how nature preschools and forest schools boost immunity, an example of how diversity equals health.  

We connected this diversity equals health principle with the concept of Triple WellBeing® in the emerging field of regenerative learning ecologies.  This concept combines three core skills of thinking, feeling and connecting with three core practices of self-care, people-care and earth care.  This framework generates 9 different competencies 

  • self awareness; social awareness; environmental awareness 

  • self compassion; compassion for others; compassion for nature [or more than human]

  • resilience and agency; citizenship and belonging; rewilding and regeneration

This MLK Day blog post is UNFINISHED - on purpose!!!  We are hoping to continue the dialogue about diversity equals health beyond the microbiome and the diverse aspects of health outlined in the Triple WellBeing® competencies.  We want to gather and reflect on your diverse perspectives and iterate this blog post in the essence of co-creating knowledge.

How and why should we create Outdoor Nature Based Preschools or Forest Schools with race, class, ethnic, and gender diversity?

image of VUCA future to emphasize need for Forest Schools with race, class, ethnic, and gender diversity.

In her book, The Future of Smart - Dr Ullca Hansen (author, educational thought leader, mother, social change advocate and former Denver School Board Candidate 2023) describes that Holitistic Indigenous Liberatory (HIL) schools are the most adept at creating impacts that support students and families with skill sets that prepare us for characteristics of a present and future of VUCA in the next 20-40 years.  VUCA is an acronym characterizing the near future that many people, even those from opposing political viewpoints, seem to agree on. A future where “smart” means we have the skills to deal with Volatility Uncertainty Complexity and Ambiguity.  She says “Education is at its own leapfrog moment as we face a choice about whether or not to invest in the ‘infrastructure’ needed to rapidly make human-centered/liberatory education available to all communities [as opposed to only wealthy and privileged communities]... [At the same time] You can’t ask people to have a sense of mutuality and agency and to build the communities in human-centered liberatory schools if they don’t have the sense of belonging, the sense of relating, or the sense of being part of something bigger than themselves.”

We thought it may be a good way to honor Martin Luther King’s birthday to launch this next blog post unfinished (Ambiguous and Uncertain) with links to research connecting diversity in relationships, community and true friendships to economic mobility and well being (Complexity) with a very challenging and historically painful concept of Integrated Schools (Volatility).

Through critical dialogue, and your comments on this blog, can we co-create a “sense of mutuality and agency” by cultivating a “sense of belonging, sense of relating, [and] the sense of being part of something bigger than [ourselves” so that we “build the community [of Nature School Cooperative] in a human-centered liberatory manner?

Trees with roots, mycelium and mycorrhizae as a metaphor for the importance of Forest Schools with race, class, ethnic, and gender diversity.

Below are links to research that our staff and community are reading as we develop a Pay What You Can culture to honor the unfair history of our economic system and create an Integrated School community that goes beyond “exposure” to diverse families and perspectives (which history has shown to be harmful to some involved).  We seek to mindfully and responsively build relationships and friendships that are mutually beneficial across race, ethnic, gender and class divisions.  In the essence of Lila Watson aboriginal activist and community organizer “If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

Lila Watson quote about liberation and working together instead of the savior complex in Forest Schools with race, class, ethnic, and gender diversity.

Please dabble and reflect with us on these resources linked below and the Perceptual Reciprocity practices below by adding comments on this blog or emailing us directly.  In this way we seek to co-create a community of praxis on Regenerative Learning Ecologies that centers Holisitic Indigenous Liberatory learning through multigenerational and multilingual communities that surround and support our youngest learners.  (When commenting or emailing PLEASE REFERENCE SPECIFIC TEXT OR AUDIO NOT SIMPLY YOUR OWN OPINION ON THE TITLE/TOPIC initial opinions/reactions without citing material linked below may be too Volatile 😉 at this time- we can engage in that escalated volatility once we have a deeper long lasting relationship) 

  • How we show up; Our intention is to promote integration, however those of us who have been educated in and existed in predominantly White spaces bring assumptions that are steeped in Whitness.  These resources expand our awareness of how those norms impact how we show up in integrating schools, help us examine our cultural assumptions and give us a framework for becoming, with continual practice, better parents and caregivers -

Beyond research and theory what does this look like on a typical day in an outdoor nature based preschool or in an adult workshop with Nature School Cooperative? 

Jaguar eyes for interspecies communication similar to communication across boundaries in Forest Schools with race, class, ethnic, and gender diversity.

We are building a narrative that we can live into!!!

One day …



“One day; Then; Finally” are 3 prompts we use in a Storytelling and Story Acting protocol to help 3-6 year olds structure a story of their own creation with a beginning, middle and end.  The prompts are loose suggestions to elicit a creative student-led voice and story that the whole class acts out with characters and settings in our circle stage with the student author as director and character if they choose to.  Research has show this to be a deeply effective literacy protocol and when done in our outdoor classroom we also imagine it helps with ecological identity and “perceptual reciprocity” which are topics the aunties, uncles, grandparents, parents step parents, guardians and other adults in the family could study and benefit from in a higher education setting.

These three prompts can also be used in the liberatory practices from Theatre of the Oppressed by Agusto Boal which we may use or reference in some adult workshops.

“How Diablo Became Spirit”  is a story we use with 3-6 year olds about a Jaguar in captivity based on a true story about animal communication. It reveals the potential for cross species communication.  The Jaguar in this story will serve for adults as a reference point for the difficulty of communicating with the “other” and the need for developing a contemplative practice to be effective in Social Justice goals.  The potential is there, but as Van Jones explains in this video talking to board members of the Pachamama Alliance, IF we are to have perceptual reciprocity with a history of pain, we need to develop a contemplative practice so that we can “Grow our *%!?!^ comfort zone” 

Even if we are not able to comprehend this type of communication, or if we believe that it is simply a metaphor of empathy and reading body language cues or keen observation, we still benefit from taking the perspective of a different “being” and in this case the perspective of cross class and cross race and cross ethnic and cross generational perspectives”

Ed. Yong a British-American science journalist highlights this idea in his book “An Immense World” showing 

Book cover of Immense World with quote related to liberatory learning and communication in Forest Schools with race, class, ethnic, and gender diversity.

The Earth teems with sights and textures, sounds and vibrations, smells and tastes, electric and magnetic fields. But every kind of animal, including humans, is enclosed within its own unique sensory bubble, perceiving but a tiny sliver of our immense world.”

This perspective taking can lead us on the journey of cultivating an ecological identity and increasing our capacity for what author Mitchel Thomashow calls “perceptual reciprocity”

“What Will all this eventually yield?  What will happen when you find the middle ground, blending perceptions along with the shared perspectives of multiply people, generations, cultures, networks, creatures, and landscapes?” (Thomashow 2020)

We understand as Mitchel Thomashow writes in “To Know the World”

“Under the best circumstances, a truly reciprocal encounter yields generosity.  Reciprocity implies exchange. Generosity implies gratitude, kindness and compassion.  It encourages empathy, dialogue, connectedness and love – the giving of yourself to others.  Reciprocity is the sharing of perspectives and ideas.  Generosity is sharing what is most precious to you and doing so with no exchange in mind.  It is a gift of kindness and love.”

Kids playing together at a creekside classroom in Forest Schools with race, class, ethnic, and gender diversity.

In only the first 3 months of school we have already seen this in our cohort of mixed age 3-6 year olds.  They are practicing this deeper level of kindness and love that goes beyond compliance or exchange and dives deep into “perceptual reciprocity”.  The care they show for each other even in escalated conflict resolution and the passion they show for creating a grasslands seed bank of 15 diverse species and re-seeding areas we have impacted is exceptional.

Without using too many advanced terms these young humans are embodying the Triple WellBeing® approach and have begun their journey of combining three core skills of Thinking, Feeling and Connecting with three core practices of Self-care, People-care and Earth-care.  Especially in these three competencies: resilience and agency; citizenship and belonging; rewilding and regeneration.

We invite you to explore this as and adult and share with us your reflections on “perceptual reciprocity” and contemplative practice of communicating with the “other”.

  • What “other” are you living into and trying to communicate with?

  • What is that “other” telling you?

  • How would that “other” share, grieve and act in a Council of All Beings or a Theatre of the Oppressed workshop?

Our blog posts are written for a diverse audience of families, guardians, parents, practitioners, graduate students and other adults with topics covering a “Tangled Bank” (one of Darwin’s most enduring metaphors) of interests, initiatives, and networks. Through Outdoor Nature Based Preschools (ONB Preschools), Forest School for older grades K-8 and Emergent Strategy Bushcraft Workshops for Adults, we explore the perception, observation, interpretation and reciprocity of senses from human and non humans’ perspective. Central to the topics for all age groups is the concept that Early Childhood is “Not just cute, but powerful and incredibly important”.

Find out more about our Outdoor Preschool here.

Stay tuned to our blog posts for adult learning workshops both online and in person in 2024.

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