Everwild Forest School opened in 2020 during the pandemic, but that ended up being a good thing as this outdoor school gave parents a different learning option for kids ages 18 months to 7th grade, this year they opened an all-day Kindergarten program.
This non-profit school has four different locations in the Treasure Valley and now helps 200 children in a unique way using the outdoors.
"We are a 100 percent outdoor education program using a play space, curriculum play and community engagement to educate kids from September through May," said Erica Hermsen, who founded the school. "We also do summer camps as well."
Forest school is an un-regulated term in education in the United States, but this school has six principals including unstructured free play, child led flow learning, risky play, small class size, environmental stewardship and community based learning.
"It’s so fun for the kids because they really get to engage with their senses, move their bodies, climb, build forts, be little scientists and experiment with nature," said Hermsen. "Which is a dying art these days with kids being more and more inside, in fact kids are spending seven more hours inside than their parents."
We visited a class at Veterans Memorial Park where the kids creating art while learning about the fall equinox and what the change in seasons mean, I asked one of the boys if he liked school, he told me he wished it was all day, every day.
"It’s still learning, but it is almost invisible learning where environment is the third teacher," said Hermsen. "We have their peer group, we have the curriculum and the teachers and then the environment."
The school features 20 certified teaches with graduate degrees, the classes have a ratio of seven students to every teacher and they also provide financial aid through a scholarship program for low income families.
The school has different programs including an early learning program for children ages four through six, they have a homeschool enrichment class for ages seven through twelve, a toddler program and this year they added all-day kindergarten.
"They learn everything from physics to science to art and history," said Hermsen. "All of that is incorporated into the curriculum."