At VFS, we prioritize building a community of children and instructors who grow together, trust one another, and respect all life. Our instructors are trained thoroughly to manage risk appropriately at Valley Forest School. Due to the high risk nature of a forest school setting, the behavior expectations are significantly higher than the average school or daycare.
All students must be capable of the below expectations:
1. There should be mutual respect between teacher, student, and nature.
2. Instructors establish clear boundaries for the children and remind them of those boundaries daily. Boundaries both on property and boundaries with interactions with classmates and teachers.
3. Instructors and students foster kindness and have zero tolerance for pushing, hitting, name calling, grabbing, aggressiveness, excessive attention seeking, or other demanding behavior.
4. Students must have the ability to follow basic instructions on a regular basis. Basic instructions include: Always be able to see a teacher, ask a teacher prior to eating something you find in nature, follow through with directions, and going through the daily rhythm with their class even if it's not exactly what they want to do at that moment. Preschoolers are in the first stages of developing these skills so there is more tolerance for this age range.
While some of these expectations may seem trivial, it's extremely important for an instructor to know that their students have the ability to listen to directions and follow through with instructions should directions be for the child's safety. Example scenario: A class is hiking and sees a venomous snake in the middle of the trail. The instructor informs the class they are to leave the snake alone, not get near it, and to walk away from the snake and they'll go to a different area far away for the day. If a child follows these directions, all walk away unscathed. If a child is unable to follow these directions, they are creating a very dangerous scenario for themselves, their instructor, and other students.
First, if a student cannot follow directions, the instructor will have a conversation with the child to talk about what happened, what should have been done differently, and what needs to happen to rectify the situation.
Second, if a child is repeatedly unable to respect the clear guidelines (such as "Always be able to see a teacher.") for their safety or the safety of others, parents will be informed of their actions and the child must be picked up for the day.
Third, if there is a pattern in behavior that risks the child's safety, we will ask a parent to stay with the child during the next class or multiple classes if necessary until the behavior is no longer an issue.
Fourth, should attending with your child not be an option, the child will be dismissed from the program for the year. Should the issue not resolve, the child will be dismissed from the program for the year. Children who are dismissed may reapply for the following year to try again in most circumstances.
Should you have a medical diagnosis for your child such as autism, ADHD, ODD, or other similar diagnosis, please do not withhold these diagnoses in your interview in order to be accepted. It does not necessarily mean your child cannot attend. It means we need to evaluate if our teachers have the ability to keep your child and their classmates safe at forest school. Our teachers are not trained or expected to work with children with high behavioral needs at this time.