What is the difference between Athens Forest Kindergarten and AFK Playgroup?
Our forest kindergarten program is for children aged 3-6, who enroll in a yearlong drop-off experience. As a cooperative, parents contribute volunteer hours at a level of their choosing. Children spend much of their time immersed in play deepening their connections with nature and one another. The experience to develop social and emotional skills is enriched by the presence of peers they see regularly, and the guidance of our full faculty.
AFK Playgroup is our offering to Athens to try out what community-based forest play is like! It’s a lower cost option where families can experience a taste of early childhood education in nature. At our 2.5 hour playgroup an Educator leads an opening circle and then parents stand back and watch their children explore. The group stays together in the forest the whole time, and breaks midway through for snack and story time. The intended age range for Playgroup is 2-7. Siblings younger than 2 are welcome to attend for free and older siblings may also attend with approval by the Director or Educator.
Will my child learn wilderness skills in your program(s)?
In a sense, being comfortable in nature is a skill of its own! However, we will not regularly, or explicitly teach wilderness skills. Our programs prioritize skills best developed by relatively unstructured play experiences--social and emotional skills, risk-assessment abilities, and a mindful presence with oneself and the earth. Athens is lucky to have a vibrant nature education scene and we encourage AFK families to explore the other programs available in our community to further deepen their nature skills and relationships.
Do the forest kindergarteners really play outside in all weather at AFK?
Yes! We will be outside except in cases of dangerous weather extremes. We play in rain, cold, and heat! It’s important for parents to promote a positive and resilient attitude. We abide by the motto, "There is no bad weather, but merely bad clothing."
AFK Playgroup is sometimes cancelled due to the weather, as we understand that families have not always invested in outdoor gear and some of our park venues do not have adequate storm shelter for our group.
What does a typical day in the forest kindergarten program look like?
We follow a loose rhythm that prioritizes the children's needs over the clock. Generally, at drop off we have one Educator checking clothing and one Educator sharing an invitation or provocation with the children nearby. We open with a circle ritual that reinforce values of compassion toward self, others, and the Earth. Children will typically visit two different forest sites in a day and we make each site our home...a shared snack, stories, and a shared lunch of rice and beans, are all enjoyed right on the forest floor! Before the children go home, we reflect and share gratitude with a closing circle where we sometimes practice yoga, storytelling, or mindful breathing.