OUR STORY - HUMBLE BEGINNINGS
Imagine a forest where children run and play freely in the dappled sunlight beneath the forest canopy. Where the children climb trees; sing and shout at the tops of their voices; roll and jump in the mud and water; light fires and sit together to cook a meal over the open flames; laugh and tell stories that don’t need to make sense; use tools to make their own playthings; where the children care about themselves, others and the earth they live on.
This place is Tír na nÓg Forest School - the Land of the Young.
Tír na nÓg Forest School opened its invisible doors as a 2-day a week preschool program in September 2013. Our forest is a beautiful mature white spruce woodland located in Roachville, New Brunswick, Canada on the property owned by the school’s founder and director, Lisa Brown and her husband, Seamus Brown.
The dream of Tír na nÓg Forest School came from Lisa’s upbringing in rural New Brunswick where she was nurtured to appreciate and enjoy the simple things in life. Growing up, she spent much of her time with her mother caring for home and family and with her father to work and adventure in the forest.
Lisa has had a long-time interest in outdoor learning for young children. She strongly values the importance of the childhood years and the impact experiences during this period of development have on the way a person sees, understands and contributes to our world. She opened Lisa’s Playhouse Children’s Learning Centre in 2007 with the thoughts that one day she would open a forest school program based on the European model.
While dreaming about what her outdoor learning program would look like, Lisa discovered Marlene Power, the owner and director of Canada’s first forest school, Carp Ridge Forest Preschool and Kindegarden, located in Ottawa, Ontario. Lisa contacted Marlene and then travelled to visit her forest school. Lisa was inspired and her dreams began to take shape into a clearer form.
That summer, Lisa hosted one of two Canada-wide, pilot Forest School Practitioner courses through Forest School Canada. During this course Lisa, and fifteen other like-minded early childhood and youth educators from across Canada took their training with UK Forest School Trainer, Jon Cree, towards becoming Canada’s first cohort of Forest School Practitioners. With the practical, hands-on training and continuing coursework to work on to receive certification, Tír na nÓg Forest School launched its first, exclusively outdoor, forest preschool program in September 2013 on a 5 acre forested woodlot behind Lisa’s Playhouse.
The name of the forest school, “Tír na nÓg” was inspired by Lisa’s unique Irish connections and history. Lisa married Seamus Brown in Co. Down, Northern Ireland in 1993 and have a daughter Caragh who was born also in Northern Ireland in 1995. Seamus and Lisa work together in all areas of the businesses. Seamus is a brick mason by trade but also has a talent for carpentry and has built every building and almost everything in them for the playhouse and forest school. Because of their Irish background, an Irish name for their forest school seemed fitting. Tír na nÓg is an Old Irish word that means “the land of the young”.
The land around Lisa’s Playhouse and Tír na nÓg Forest School is very familiar to Lisa and holds a soft spot in her heart. The children who attend her programs visit the same special places she used to when she was their age. It is her hope and dream to be successful in reconnecting children to the natural world so that when they look back on their childhood, they will have happy memories as she did.
Tír na nÓg Saint John & Quispamsis
Tim Jones spent over 3 hours a day, twice a week driving his daughter, Jenah, to and from Tír na nÓg Forest School in Sussex in 2013. It was during those long drives back and forth that Tim began to truly understand the positive impact that this was having on his daughter’s life. In late fall, a few months into the program, he approached Lisa about opening a second location in Saint John to make the program more accessible to more families. Lisa was up for it, and they quickly got to work sorting out the details. The following year, the school in Quispamsis was established.
To learn more about the programs in Saint John and Quispamsis please visit www.tirnanogforestschool.com