Antioch EE alum celebrates forest schools in new book

Since before she came to AUNE, Environmental Education alum Caylin Gans has been writing about forest schools. Built on the idea that experiences in nature are inherently challenging, humbling, and educational, forest schools allow children freedom to explore and play freely outdoors, to discover themselves and build connections with each other and with the natural world. Caylin brought this love of connecting with the outdoors and her blog to Antioch.

“I felt there was potential to turn [the blog] into a book.” Caylin says. “It was something I really wanted to do and it’s also hard to find the time and support to do something like that. When I found out about Antioch, I absolutely loved that there was flexibility with the capstone — which meant I wasn’t restricted to producing a thesis and instead could pursue my dream of writing a book!”

Forest Schooled Book

The book is a curated collection of Caylin’s best content from her blog; containing thoughtful reflections on forest schools and many beautiful photographs from her years of experience. Her creativity and love of the topic come through in the stories her photos and writings lay bare for the reader.

“I like to call the book my “heart-project” because I ultimately did it for me. In many ways, the book is like a diary documenting my learning journey.” Caylin recalls, reflecting on her years of content. “Putting it out in the world for people to buy and enjoy is just the acorn on the oak tree.”

Having the support and guidance of AUNE Environmental Education faculty Libby McCann and Jean Kayira was integral to Caylin getting the book published. She credits their mentorship and encouragement with helping her build the confidence to publish. “The biggest challenge for me was learning to cope with feeling vulnerable when putting your work out in the world. I’m not the same person now as I was when I started writing, because we are constantly evolving. Sometimes I would read back on things I’d written and roll my eyes or face-palm at myself. I dealt with those feelings in a couple of ways. One was to create footnotes on some parts to clarify my current perspective…the other was to give a little shrug and accept that when you write something down, you’re producing a snapshot of yourself at that moment in time, and even if your future self might disagree with you later in life, that’s ok.”

Caylin hopes that readers of Forest Schooled take away questions, thoughts, ideas, discussion, and perhaps disagreement. Through the book, she hopes that educators continue to question the status quo of education and experiment with different ways of engaging children with the natural world. She also feels it’s important to acknowledge that approaches used in forest school relate to Indigenous pedagogies that are intertwined with rich cultural and spiritual connections to the Land. Caylin invites others to join her in grappling with our role in acknowledging Indigenous ways of being and knowing in programs that aim to connect people to Land with a colonial history.

“I hope that people can relate to parts of it, I hope that it might help others feel more comfortable with being vulnerable too.”

Her biggest hope is that her book brings laughter. “I did a lot of that; at situations and at myself while stumbling through some of the experiences highlighted in the book.”

Caylin plans to continue to update her online blog with new ideas and develop more resources related to forest school education like workshops and speaking engagements.

She welcomes collaboration and conversation and can be reached through her blog.