If you ask any Foundry Family member what they're currently reading you're sure to hear an impassioned report. After all, the only thing more personal than peeping into someone's medicine cabinet (or, in our case, their brush collections) is looking through the stack of books on their bedside table. While recently our reading lists have been skewing in the direction of new(ish) fiction and meditations on social justice (and Lillian has been doing a personal deep divee into the weaving of sweetgrass, so she's already right on track for this week's reading list)... The books that have most recently captured our imaginations are these lovely, slender Foxfire-style softcovers about "Forest School".
If you're not familiar with the concept of "Forest School", pull up a (toad)stool and let us (cedar) wax(wing) poetic about it for a moment. Forest School is both an ideology and an educative methodology that creates a process of inspiration by having humans interact with natural spaces.
These books are practical hands-on guides to harnessing the magical, ceaseless curiosity of childhood and directing it, gently and naturally, towards discovery (and self-discovery) of all of the things that might be possible when the utility of one's own hands are paired with the power of knowledge and imagination in equal measure. Plus, it all really just sounds so darn fun!
An entry titled "bramble cordage" teaches us how to make rope and string from blackberry canes and honeysuckle. An entry on "sistrums" (an ancient Egyptian instrument similar to a maraca) asks us to pause in springtime to consider the trilling threads—birdsong, water droplets, a chorus of bees visiting early tulip poplars—that make up the fabric of sounds that festoon the woodland branches and join in the symphony with a handmade rattle and a barbaric yawp. An entry on "blackberry ink and feather quills" fashions a whole desk-full of writing implements from foraged goods, another on "evergreen brushes" fashions an artists palette. Fire building. Shelter construction. Wild foraging. Tracking. Intuition. Survival. Wonder. Celebration.
These books, while specifically written for children, call forth the ancient power of woodlands and the deep, real teachable-magic of being with trees for all humans. We know that, as we've been reading them, we've been shot through with wonder in the same vein as when we read Emerson or Thoreau, but this is less an intellectual enlightenment and more a visceral one. Who doesn't need a reminder to be more present in breath and acknowledging of the miraculous possibilities of simply being alive in the world? Who can't appreciate a call to arms that transcends simply "hey, you, go outside!" but also gives you simple instructions on how and tools to know why?
In short, Forest School celebrates the endless possibilities of knowledge and self-knowledge that can be gained—by ALL learners—from being out in the woods and experiencing nature with all of our senses. Not restricted by age or ability, not bound by core curricula or test-teaching, not limited to fair weather or dampened by (inevitable) rain, these books, and the concept of Forest School in general, nurture independence and interdependence, the grace of both growth and fallow-states, and, most importantly, they honor and elevate the power of the natural world.
Sign us up.
Special heart-thunderbolts to our favorite wild foxkits Juniper + Iris and their wonderful Mama—and Foundry Sister—Katie Rose, who facilitates a beautiful Forest "Tree School" in the Hudson Valley. Thank you for building something so beautiful and for letting us live inside the pictures for this post.
Looking for Forest School Supplies? Right this way.