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Forest school coming to Rockingham County next year

Published: Jun. 17, 2022 at 6:13 PM EDT
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KEEZLETOWN, Va. (WHSV) - Forest schools focus on outdoor learning, and one Rockingham County native plans to bring a new one to the Valley.

Last week Rockingham County Board of Supervisors voted to approve a rezoning request to allow a forest school to operate on a property in Keezletown.

The Edson Forest School hopes to open in the fall of 2023. The private school will provide a unique learning experience for students.

“We’re going to be doing as much teaching outdoors as is practical given the weather. We do hope to build a pavilion but we have a decent canopy as well so there is no reason why we can’t just go outside and have the outdoors be our classroom,” said Eric McKee, the founder of the school.

McKee grew up in Rockingham County and now lives in Alexandria, Virginia but will be moving back to the Valley within the next year to open the school.

His son currently attends a forest school and his wife teaches at one. He says these types of schools have many benefits for students.

“We know that kids do better with their resilience and their wellbeing when they are exposed to more outdoor time. There’s also a link to academic performance and increased outdoor time,” said McKee.

The school will operate on a property at the corner of the intersection of Beulah Road and Mountain Valley Road in Keezletown near Beulah Church.

McKee hopes to build two playgrounds, a pavilion, and a garden on the property. He plans to create classrooms inside the house and eventually bring chickens and other animals to the property.

“We’re gonna be very adaptable. That’s part of the emergent curriculum idea is we’re flexible, we have a very low student-to-teacher ratio and so we can do what is of interest to the kids to kind of foster their learning,” said McKee.

Emergent curriculum is a teaching philosophy that focuses curriculum on being responsive to children’s interests.

McKee and his wife will be teachers at the school and they hope to hire one other full-time teacher. The plan is to have under 20 total students across grades K-8 in the school’s first year.

“We’ve got our eyes set on the December-January timeframe to start actually interviewing people who would be interested. We want to make sure that parents would be comfortable with us and that we feel comfortable that their kids would be a good fit with us,” said McKee.

The school will have open applications and a review process.

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