Outdoor Connections recently expanded their Forest School Program. Submitted photo

New yurt to serve as outdoor school

Erich Leidums Special to The Free Press

On Friday, May 26 Outdoor Connections began the construction of a yurt platform at Birch Meadows. With the help of volunteers the yurt was completed throughout the weekend. Located in an upper meadow surrounded by mountain views this 20-foot-wide structure will serve as an indoor warming space for the Outdoor Connections Forest School Program. This opportunity was only made possible with the support from Sonya and Marcel Erzinger – the owners of Birch Meadows.

Currently the Forest School Program takes place at Mt. Fernie Provincial Park for ages 3-5. The program happens twice a week and runs from 9 a.m.-noon. As the first year of this program comes to a close it is possible to see how the children have grown and evolved throughout the year. Parents and teachers discuss how participants have grown in resiliency, confidence and regularly display a curiosity for the natural world.

Outdoor Connections is an organization that provides affordable opportunities for children of all ages to be active and spend time in nature. The yurt allows the organization to become more self-sufficient and creates sense of place that will benefit Forest School and other future programs.

Starting Sept. 2017, Forest School will take place at Birch Meadows and is expanding to add an additional full day program for children ages 5-7. There will also be an additional half-day program that will take place in the afternoons for ages 3-5. The success of this year’s Forest School Program combined with how quickly enrollment for next years programs filled up demonstrates the demand for a program of this nature.

This yurt was only made possible thanks to the generous donations of individuals and businesses in the Elk Valley. A Gofundme account, The Fernie on Fire fundraising event and direct donations have come together to make this yurt a reality. A special mention goes to Carolyn Doyle of Big Bang Bagels, Home Hardware, Island Lake Lodge, Loralee Thomas of Fernie Real Estate and Morrissey Aggregates Ltd.

There is currently a wait list for next year’s programs. If you would like to learn more about the Forest School philosophy or details regarding the Beyond 4 Walls Program visit Connectoutdoors.ca.

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