About Us

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.” – Rachel Carson


We are a community of committed parents and staff who recognize the importance of preserving the sense of wonder and reverence children experience in the natural world. In our increasingly technological and intellectual culture we see tremendous value in giving young children an experience outside of that momentum – one where they are free to play, be curious and follow their passions.


Orcas Island Forest School is dedicated to providing a play-based, all-weather, outdoor early childhood education program that fosters an intimate connection to the natural world and supports children as they develop physically, socially, and emotionally.


We envision an inclusive, nature-based, social learning environment where children discover their potential through exploration. As educators and families we aim to foster a lifelong love of learning by honoring the young child’s innate curiosity and abilities.


We believe that nature is an ideal classroom for cultivating the mind, body, emotions, and spirit of every child.

In Latin, the word educare means, “to draw out that which lies within.” We aim to preserve this idea of education using an emergent learning approach in which our teachers listen and observe children as they play, and discover their deep interests. At times, the teachers are “co-learners,” playing alongside the children, and at other times are guides, providing opportunities for growth based on their observations.

Through self-regulation and the social experience of group play, children expand their sense of community. We utilize moments that arise during play as well as group exercises to cultivate meaningful relationships between the children and their peers and teachers.

Our program is place-based; the children return week after week to the same forest classroom, observing the organic changes that occur with the seasons and impact that they have on the landscape.  It is rooted in what is local—the unique environment and culture of Orcas Island—and is the children’s own place. Philosophically, Orcas Island Forest School aligns with the Norwegian philosophy and way of life, Friluftsliv, meaning “free air life.”

The Forest School model gives young children an opportunity to develop a sense of wonder for the natural world.  When given the time and space to take intentional risks, children learn how to draw upon their own experiences to observe and make sense of their world, first physically and then intellectually. We call this “true independence” and believe that it builds a foundation for empathy, curiosity, confidence and problem-solving.

Core Values

value (noun); principles or standards of behavior

Organizational Values are values (using the above definition) that reach and inspire all levels of the organization: Board, Teachers, Families and Curriculum. These values serve as a foundation for our practices; they drive our culture and determine how we achieve our objectives.

Relationship with Nature

We value Nature as a critical influence and teacher in a healthy life. We believe it is the source of reverence, resilience and curiosity and allows one to have a true connection to place.


We believe that integrity is the cornerstone of any socially responsible organization. We strive to maintain respect and transparency in all we undertake, while maintaining a tone of honesty and sincerity.


We value input from all members of our community and believe that good communication and collaboration lead to strong ideas. Through involvement and contribution, we hope to create a place of belonging and connection.

Knowledge of Self

We believe that self-awareness and reflection bring meaning to our experiences. By valuing the deep sense of wonder that comes through direct experience, we hope to preserve this depth and reach our ideals.


We want learning to be life-long and joyful. Only then can we feel truly passionate about our endeavors and maintain a sense of motivation, risk-taking and creativity.