Forest School Engages Young Students in Play-Based Literacy Learning

For Information Contact:                                                                                                  For Immediate Release:

Ellen Whiteman                                                                                                                   October 18, 2022

Manager, McDowell Foundation


Forest School Engages Young Students in Play-Based Literacy Learning

SASKATOON – During the COVID-19 pandemic, many teachers shifted to outdoor learning to provide safer learning environments for students. Researchers with the McDowell Foundation are finding play-based education in an outdoor environment, or Forest School, to be a powerful teaching tool for engaging kindergarten and Grade 1 students in literacy learning.     

Teachers Denise Heppner and Tirzah Reilkoff, from Prairie Spirit School Division, will be sharing their learnings as part of the McDowell Foundation’s next virtual Salon Series entitled Nurturing Emergent Literacy in Play-Based Outdoor Education: An Exploration of the Learning Journey of a Kindergarten/Grade 1 Class in Forest School. The Zoom webinar is on October 20 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. and will be moderated by Nicole Turcotte, Associate Director, STF Professional Learning. Panelist Jennifer Mason, also of Prairie Spirit School Division, will be joining to share students’ experiences with outdoor learning this past year. 

“Forest School is now a treasured part of our school day,” said Reilkoff. “It allows teachers to bring stories to life for students while allowing students to explore their natural creativity through play. The students are learning how print functions and how to use language to describe the world around them. They are learning to solve problems through teamwork and storytelling, but in fun and memorable ways.”

“All teachers can learn how to support emergent literacy learning in an outdoor space,” Heppner added. “It’s important for teachers to engage with students in play rather than imposing our adult version of play on them. Seeing kids reading and writing in the forest is an amazing experience, for the students and the teachers.”

The October 20 webinar is free and open to anyone interested in play-based literacy learning. Register on the Events Calendar to join. Check out the short video to see the Forest School in action. Media interested in interviewing the teacher researchers or McDowell Foundation can contact Ellen Whiteman.

The McDowell Foundation provides funding grants for teacher-led research in Saskatchewan. The Salon Series provides an opportunity for Saskatchewan teachers to directly share their research with the wider community. Visit to learn more about teacher-led research in the province or how you might become involved.

– 30 –