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Welcome to Play-Based Learning in the Forest


At Nanaimo Innovation Academy, we are also lucky to be in a beautiful part of the world where we have easy access to nature's playground, as it is important for children to connect with their surroundings. 


We have two forest-based programs -our Forest School Program (for ages 4-5) and our Forest Explorers Program (for Kindergarten to Grade 3 from Pauline Haarer Elementary - License pending for Jan 1, 2024). CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO ON PROGRAMS


These programs focus on place-based learning in forest, lake, and/or beach settings. Forest sessions are held in local park locations—Westwood Lake, Bowen Park, Buttertubs Marsh, Departure Bay Beach and Colliery Dam. Parks may vary depending on various circumstances.  


We have a Forest Leaders that works with teachers to plan activities. On occasion, we may have additional adults in the program such as parent volunteers, practicum students, and guest presenters, but they will not replace the Forest Leader or teacher.


Environmental Sustainability​

At NIA we try very hard to minimize the impact we will inevitably have on the environment without limiting the children in their play and learning. We do this by conducting regular site impact surveys, documenting our use, communicating with City of Nanaimo Park staff, using biodegradable and organic materials and removing any garbage we see or create. All of our snacks are prepared in reusable containers.


We teach children to enter the forest respectfully. We explore, investigate, learn and play in a manner that will not damage our forest environment. Children learn to respect for the various ecosystems that we visit. We understand that we share the forest with the plants and animals.


Forest Activities


Our activities are designed to help with the social and emotional growth of your child while meeting the educational milestones needed to ensure a successful, life-long and fun-filled education. Learning happens in many ways. We strongly believe in play-based and child-led learning, as a way to engage your child’s interests, curiosity, and emerging passions. 

Activities include:


  • Using tools in nature

  • Playing with sticks and stones

  • Building shelters

  • Collecting natural materials

  • Collecting flowers and leaves

  • Making nature teas

  • Learning about edible/ non-edible plants and mushrooms

  • Tree climbing

  • Learning about water safety and water play

  • Learning fire safety and skills

Play, Play, and More Play!

Research indicates that children learn best in an environment which allows them to explore, discover, and play. Play, and especially free-play, is an important part of a developmentally appropriate educational program for children. 

Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development. It is through play that children at a very early age engage and interact in the world around them.

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