The American Forest Kindergarten was founded by Erin Kenny.
Visionary. Pioneer. Inspiration. Passionate advocate for the environment. Fearless leader in the forest kindergarten movement. A “force of nature and a force for nature.” This was Erin, founder of the American Forest Kindergarten Association.
As founder of Cedarsong Nature School with Robin Rogers in 2007, she successfully established the first U.S. Forest Kindergarten, an entirely outdoor preschool based on the German Waldkindergarten model. Her school was different than any other around; they had no lesson plans or formal structure, and instead encouraged students to splash in mud puddles, climb trees and make art from rocks and leaves found on the forest floor. She also showed children how to forage for edible plants, inviting them to munch on what she called “forest candy” — the buds of Douglas fir trees — and drink warming tea made from plant material.
The innovative school garnered media attention from outlets including The Seattle Times, People magazine, ABC’s Nightline, Sierra Club magazine, Al Jazeera and the British television show Daybreak. News footage captured the tiny students, well bundled in rain gear, exuberantly exploring the forest.
Erin documented and soon started training teachers in her forest kindergarten teaching method known as The Cedarsong Way. This pedagogy encourages children’s natural love of science resulting in deep understanding and superior retention of natural science principles, while promoting advance social skills, teamwork and cooperation, and a high level of emotional intelligence.
Erin attended international study trips in the Netherlands, Iceland, Germany, and Scotland to further her own learning and was a keynote speaker at conferences in South Korea, Australia, Iceland, England, Canada, and the United States. Erin wrote the books Forest Kindergartens: The Cedarsong Way and Teaching The Cedarsong Way: Lessons From an Award-Winning Forest Kindergarten with Robin Rogers, as well as a chapter in David Sobel’s book Nature Pre-Schools and Forest Kindergartens.
Erin lost her battle with ovarian cancer in October 2018, taken much too early from her beloved earth. We are honored to continue moving forward with her ambitions and will forge ahead in the forest kindergarten movement with the same tenacity, integrity, and spirit demonstrated by our matriarch.
“Children cannot bounce off the walls if we take the walls away."— Erin Kenny, AFKA Founder