ADDRESSING DIVERSITY, EQUITY & INCLUSION AT OUR FOREST SCHOOL, IN OUR COMMUNITY & BEYOND
Updated: Jul 24
Growing Wild Forest School and the Forest School Foundation stand in solidarity with Black lives, and anyone facing oppression due to the color of their skin. We denounce racism in all its forms and support the right of every person and child to explore nature freely and learn actively in the outdoors without fear of profiling, harassment, or violence.
Until people of color feel safe in our communities, there cannot be equitable access to the benefits of nature, or nature-based education like forest schools. As educators we have a responsibility to teach our children to be compassionate and dutiful citizens. As an organization we value transparency and want to set an example for everyone in our community. And as passionate environmentalists we believe that the health of our planet depends on every person being able to contribute to saving it, not just a select few. Our Commitment
Our Mission is to promote nature education and connection to ALL, and our Vision is forest school access for EVERY neighborhood and community. While we have always valued diversity and equality in education and the outdoors, we are now even more aware of the urgency to change systems of inequality through intentional anti-racism work and life-impacting nature-based education.
We have a lot of work to do. To demonstrate our commitment to social justice we plan to form a dedicated D.E.I Committee as a branch of our board of directors. This task force of diverse community members and specialists will help us do our part to create real and lasting change in four distinct ways:
Giving a renewed focus to our need-based and equity-focused scholarship program, specifically seeking out families of color
Striving to hire and build a more diverse team of educators to include people of color, as well as board members and volunteers of color
Working with local businesses, community organizations and other non-profits who are lead by POC or who directly support POC through sponsorship and other partnerships.
Sharing resources on diversity education with families and the community
We invite YOU to hold us accountable in all of this! As an all-volunteer team with limited funds and resources our progress in making these steps will slower than we'd like, but we will get there eventually- especially with the support of our network and community.
Below are more of our thoughts on how to "be the change" that we wish to see in the world: how to create an immersive, inclusive and diverse culture for your family, tackle social justice in a holistic way, and model anti-racist behavior at home- and beyond.
Building the Whole Child
Each day we strive to provide programming that encourages children to be better inside and out, all in the quest for creating a better world. We can’t have a healthy environment unless we have healthy communities - and we can’t have healthy communities if everyone in the community doesn’t have access to clean water, clean air, health care, jobs, quality education, and nature. We want to help young learners learn about the natural world, but also their place in it. Critical thinking is paramount in today's society - seeking new information, analyzing, questioning, hypothesizing, assessing, activating and engaging. Our children need to understand the needs of our communities AND how to address them through their own leadership, civil engagement and teamwork. If our children can learn how to work together to protect the environment, increase equitable access to nature for all, AND help dismantle social injustices, then we have done our jobs as parents and educators.
Institutional racism has its roots spread across all facets of our society. Dismantling this complex systems will not be easy and it will not happen overnight. If we want to see real changes, we need to change ourselves first. Before we can have essential conversations about race with young children, we first need to educate as adults.
We must REFLECT on our own unconscious biases and the life experiences, values and people that shaped us.
We must LISTEN to people who are struggling and we need to lean into the discomfort and disequilibrium these conversations cause us to feel.
We must UNDERSTAND the history of racism, the civil rights movement and how to un-do the modern systems of oppression.
We must PRACTICE empathy- how to see and understand the complexities of what its like to have a skin color that is different from our own.
We must CREATE an environment that is inclusive and welcoming to all people, regardless of race, color, sex, gender, ethnicity, language, religion, political affiliation, place of residence, or economic, health or social status.
We must LEARN from each other, listening and observing to find understanding and common ground.
We must CONSUME media and books with people of color.
We must SUPPORT Black-owned businesses, non-profits and leaders.
We must ACT like compassionate allies and peaceful activists for social causes.
We must STAND UP to the injustices we witness in our families and communities, from the seemingly small yet harmful side-comments to the more overt examples of racism we observe at work or online.
We must HONOR each other's differences, which includes skin color, personal values, culture, history, language and identity.
We must LEAD others by example, modeling how to be consciously un-biased people, always open to learning and personal growth.
We must USE our privilege, platform and voice to raise up our brothers and sisters of color
For every point above, there is a corresponding way to teach the same lesson to our children, simply leading by example and being conscious and intentional in everything we do, say and consume (media, shopping, etc). Our kids are ALWAYS watching and learning from us, even when we think they're not paying attention.
It has been proven that being non-biased and non-racist is not enough. Even teaching only inclusion or "colorblindness" is not a solution to the problem. Today we need anti-racism education- teaching kids specifically how to be activists and allies for people of color. Because racist attitudes and behaviors are blatantly learned, we believe diversity education should start as young as possible at home, AND in the school yard. We are committed to doing our part- Will you join us?
We invite you on this journey with us as social justice warriors, anti-racist educators and families in raising the next generation of compassionate citizens. We must continue to engage in this process of discovery and learning together. This will be life-long work, but it is crucial, live-saving and planet-saving work. Together we can create a foundation for lasting global change and healing, one child at a time.
Want to join our Diversity Committee? Did we miss anything? Please let us know!