Wauhatchie Forest School, Tennessee’s first forest kindergarten program based in Chattanooga, Tenn., will expand its campus to include additional sites in 2019.

Beginning this fall, Wauhatchie School will continue to offer classes at its main campus at Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center in Chattanooga, Tenn., and Lookout Lake in Lookout Valley, and will expand to include sites at the Chattanooga Audubon Society and Ivy Academy in the Chattanooga area.

“It's been so much fun working with Wauhatchie School as they grow their presence across Chattanooga,” says Mark McKnight, President of Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center. “As we establish Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center as a hub for environmental education and conservation, we want to see these ideas spread. We want environmental education and access to the outdoors to be expected for all kids rather than some oddity. From our Forest Kindergarten workshop last year to hosting the students on a daily basis, the energy that Wauhatchie has brought to the property has been phenomenal.”

Forest Kindergarten is based on the German concept of waldkindergarten, meaning “forest nursery,” and it is gaining popularity in the United States. Typically serving children ages 3 to 6 years, Forest Kindergarten takes place entirely outdoors, rain or shine. Teachers supervise students in their explorations and play, but do not lead.

Wauhatchie School is a dream come true for the school’s founder, Jean Lomino, an educator of 40-plus years with a doctorate in leadership with an emphasis in environmental education. 

According to Lomino, “Research shows that long-term exposure to the outdoors-particularly in one place-is the most effective way to develop a strong connection to nature. Studies have also shown that this kind of experience for children provides many important physical, social, emotional and academic benefits as well.”

Since its beginnings in 2015, Wauhatchie School has become a leader in forest school education. Lomino has been consulting with teachers at Gilbert Elementary in Lafayette, Georgia, to start the first public school Forest Kindergarten program in the country. She has also worked with Red Bank Elementary School’s Forest Kindergarten and outdoor education programs.  Over the past four years, over 90 teachers have trained at Wauhatchie School, and most went on to establish new Forest Kindergarten programs throughout the southeast.

In 2017, Lomino spent two months working with Forest Kindergarten teachers and consulting in Guangzhou, China.  Last spring a group of Chinese teachers from Jinan, as well as a teacher from Cape Town, South Africa, came to Wauhatchie School for training.

Lomino has also collaborated on research with the vice-chair of the Korean Forest Kindergarten Association and university professor, Dr. Jiyoun Shin. They studied character strength development in Forest Kindergarten with four Forest Kindergarten programs in the Chattanooga area.  They are currently writing the results of their research which will be presented this summer and authoring a Forest Kindergarten guidebook.

Open House events for parents are being held at all four locations this winter. For more information, visit www.Wauhatchie.org.

Posted by Bess Turner  | Category: Forest School

Originally Published in the lookout mountain mirror

Do you know a woman who needs an outdoor adventure? Here’s an opportunity to nominate her for an exciting trip. Danielle Wolter Nolan and Kate Nolan of DNK Presents host an unprecedented event each year, the Live Adventurously, Women’s Adventure Giveaway. This event is a chance for people to nominate a woman in their lives who may win a customized extended backcountry adventure weekend guided by outdoor pros Danielle and Kate. 

This trip takes four women off the grid for four days. Cell phones are taken away! Danielle and Kate will select the adventure activities and may include backpacking, mountain biking, rappelling, bouldering, zip lining, paddling or another thrilling experience! 

When asked why they started this event, Danielle replied, “There are so many reasons! I didn’t notice until Kate and I began getting our wilderness and outdoor guiding certifications that we were definitely outnumbered being women and in the LGBTQ+ family. Fortunately, this number is increasing as well as people of color in the outdoors. Growing our company since 2014, we’ve focused on women’s empowerment and getting more women and girls in the outdoors. We on our women-only adventures saw that many women were having breakthrough moments and surprising themselves saying things such as, 'I never thought I could carry everything I needed for the weekend on my back, make fire, filter my own water and have a blast doing it!' We saw women go on to summit mountains, ask for raises at work and do other amazing things. We noticed these outdoor experiences weren't just fun and educational, but empowering, showing women they could do much more than they thought they could and they got to meet other amazing women who enjoyed the outdoors as well."

"We decided it would be cool to do a give back in some way for women in our community since their stories and experiences had greatly inspired so many. We knew many women ourselves we wanted to share an adventure with and every time we spoke about our adventures, women would mention, 'I know someone who should do this,' or 'so and so needs to do this but she can't because of X' (insert some excuse here). This is what brought the idea of a nomination based giveaway - we found everyone knows someone who could use an adventure in her life!"

"We also produced an award-winning documentary film, Live Adventurously that follows the four women who won our inaugural Women's Adventure Giveaway.” You can see the trailer (embedded here as well) and learn more about the event on the website.

Reflection Riding recently hosted an outdoor viewing of this film. Watching this film proved these women left empowered, excited and more knowledgeable of the outdoors and of themselves. There was lots of laughing, storytelling and camaraderie. It’s good to step outside your comfort zone and push yourself a little and these women definitely did that! 

In addition to a fantastic weekend, DNK Presents has approximately 20 local and corporate sponsors who provide the participating women with over $1,500.00 worth of free gear so they can keep on adventuring. 
For 2019, DNK Presents has opened the giveaway to women in and outside the Chattanooga area. Anyone in Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, and Alabama are welcome to nominate a woman they know who could use an adventure in her life. The winners of the giveaway will need to provide transportation to and from Chattanooga for the weekend of the trip May 16-19, 2019 and 1 or 2 dates prior to the weekend trip. 

Have someone in mind? From now until February 28, 2019, you can nominate a deserving woman. Danielle and Kate say they keep the nomination fairly general because any woman is deserving of the nomination! They recommend nominating a woman who could be overworked, a selfless individual, a busy parent, has overcome an obstacle in her life, has always wanted to try something new in the outdoors, etc. This adventure will provide women with self discovery, empowerment and confidence so they can see how truly amazing they are!

Requirements for nominees include: must be able to carry at least 35lbs on their back, can ride a bicycle (basic), be willing to give up their phone/technology for 4 days, open to living in the woods for 4 days with little to no modern amenities, have an adventurous spirit and willingness to try new things, open to video and photos taken, available May 16-19 for the adventure weekend and a few other dates beforehand. Click here share her story for a chance to win a life changing, wild, adventurous weekend!

You can also schedule your next great adventure with Danielle and Kate! Their trips range from guided hikes, paddling trips, to week long backpacking and yoga retreats in the Grand Canyon, mountain bike rides and clinics in Sedona, Utah, North Carolina, and so much more to come!

Danielle & Kate state,” We truly live our lives adventurously and know the benefits of unplugging from technology, trying something new and immersing yourself in nature. Our own adventures have increased our confidence, inspired us to start a business and boosted our mental, physical and spiritual health and wellness. Because of this we have made it our mission to facilitate these experiences for others."

Several DNK adventurers comment that their trip was no pressure. Their pace helped eliminate jitters and fears about trying new things and thrived in a environment of support, but also space for independence. 

Everyone needs to recharge and unplug from technology,  take adventures to help us know where we belong and to recognize your life should be your greatest adventure - step outside your comfort zone and gain confidence and empowerment through experiential learning.

Posted by Tish Gailmard  | Category: Recreation

As participants in Chattanooga's Day of Service honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., students from GPS and McCallie spent Monday morning volunteering with us. These young environmental stewards were passionate about their work of habitat restoration. Both groups brought a dedication and focus that impressed our team and gave us hope for the future of native plant advocacy.

After their day of service, the GPS students sent us this note, which they wrote to share their experiences with their school:

“Volunteering with Reflection Riding gave us an opportunity to expand our horizons and really help our community, as well as our ecosystem. We were taught the basics of privet: what it is, how it is damaging, and the proper removal techniques. Working for 2 hours, the thirteen of us were able to remove privet from an entire clearing of land, providing place for native species to flourish. This experience was not only educational, but also rewarding. We are grateful towards this amazing organization for providing us with this opportunity. Reflection Riding will definitely see GPS again!”

Posted by Martha Hunter

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