Holland Christian Schools is a vibrant, multi-campus community that is united by a common mission to equip minds and nurture hearts to transform the world. There has been a large push toward nature-based education in early childhood and kindergarten, but Holland Christian Schools expressed interest in expanding the curriculum through elementary (grades 1 and 2), intentionally placing the Forest School near the middle school building and taking steps to establish future educational models to support outdoor learning at all grade levels.

Holland Christian Forest School

Location Holland, MI
Status Completed 2019
Applications Learning Spaces
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The Forest School is supportive of traditional subjects, but nature is the method through which students learn the concepts. Nature-based education is much more robust and sensory-based; students exposed to outdoor spaces show much lower levels of depression and anxiety, and that translates throughout their lives. Clustered together as a community, three buildings each have an outdoor learning space adjacent to it where students are encouraged to explore, connect with nature, and get dirty. Active outdoor play, falling down, and making a mess are considered crucial elements in learning about yourself and the environment you live in.

With ample natural light and views outside to the wooded areas surrounding the campus, the goal is for students to be in the building as little as possible, but when they must be inside to stay connected with nature. Even the indoor finishes and materials connect students to nature – composed of rustic materials and wood, the space is intended to be durable and easy to clean.

By connecting students with nature early and throughout their educational experience, the Forest School creates a hands-on, movement-based experience in the natural elements that enables students to take greater risks and explore their boundaries. Students have shown improved cognitive function, academic test scores and social skills, as well as higher amounts of wonder and creativity as a result of outdoor learning experiences.

We've always taught kids to stay out of puddles and not to climb on fallen logs because they might get hurt, or play in the mud because they'll get dirty. There's a lot of learning that we're withholding from our kids when we keep them from these experiences.

Miska Rynsburger, Principal, Holland Christian Forest School & Rose Park Elementary School