Nature-Based Learning in Community Forest Reserves and Parks

With her experience with Forest School ethos and a passion for the outdoors, Jo Marsden has created Fantail Nature School based in Lower Hutt, New Zealand. She runs sessions outdoors in any weather so children can enjoy the outdoors including fires, bushcraft and adventures. She also has an online course aimed at early childhood teachers who can then use their training to set up their own local Forest Schools.

The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?

In 2017 I began to research and became interested in the Forest School ethos, travelling to England to train as a level 3 Forest School leader.

I wanted to provide children and their families with learning experiences for developing personal skills and a love of nature. I am an early childhood trained teacher, and after having spent many years in the sector, I wanted something more for children and myself as an educator.

The Launch: How did you start out in the beginning?

I created a pilot program called Daring Dads. Two fathers came into Rimutaka Forest with their children. We began to explore how to tie knots for a rope bridge, build nests for birds, erect shelters and found baby freshwater cray. Then other parents brought their children along.

 I founded Fantail Nature School to give places for creating life-long learners. Fostering the capacity of people to learn in the community within a mobile classroom model with the dream to one day own or rent land in 2 -5 years for a full-time Forest School.

The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?

One of the most significant breakthroughs is when people have heard of Fantail Nature School and want to know more. This has led to meeting some lovely people from my local community and interest in the business is growing as I share what Forest School ethos is.

Yin and Yang: How do you balance work and family?

Balance comes as I spend time with people. I am single so friends are there cheering me on. Also, I spend some time doing relieving in the meantime, as I am still building up the business.

Forest School has given me a new purpose as a conduit/way of investing in the future of children and their families through the business. As well as this, the sense of giving back to the local community in small ways is vital to me. I am building my networks and relationships with key people who I would like to work with in the future.

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