Learning is best when it’s relevant for students—when they see its connection to the world around them. And few opportunities offer the level of concrete relevance that a nature-based program does, besides dovetailing beautifully with HC’s mission and faith-formative focus—that the Lord cares deeply about the world He made, and we, as His followers, love the things He loves, including His creation. Research on outdoor education has shown that effective outdoor learning can improve students’ focus, cognitive function, test scores, social skills, wonder and creativity. Forest School students spend their days learning in the multi-acre wooded area nestled in the heart of our school’s property on Ottawa Avenue, with indoor classrooms for extreme weather nearby. Our Forest School classes are offered in partnership with the Outdoor Discovery Center, whose naturalists visit regularly and oversee our certification standards.

/ In the Media

This video documentary, “The Forest Kids regaining wonder,” was created by an HC alum, Ben Lemmen ’10, for a Hope College video project, and we loved it so much, we just had to share! It traces a day in the life of an active Forest School kindergartner, from getting ready in the morning, to collapsing into bed at night.


WZZM Channel 13 News and award-winning reporter Brent Ashcroft followed our 2018 Forest School kindergarten students for their very first week of learning to create this locally broadcasted news coverage of our students’ learning experiences. Besides short interviews with their teacher Ron Harig and principal Miska Rynsburger ’92, the video depicts a week of our nature-based kindergarten, including ant bites and finding frogs in the rain, as well as learning the alphabet!


Despite growing research showing benefits of getting kids outdoors, even for full school days, there still are the practical questions–how does this work in snowy Michigan winters? How do they read and take kindergarten naps without freezing? How are these kids doing academically? WZZM Channel 13 News and reporter Brent Ashcroft again followed our 2018-19 Forest School kindergarteners, this time in January, as a follow-up story to see how Forest School kids thrive and learn in the cold.

HC Medium Talk Podcast Episodes

Check out these two episodes from the HC Medium Talk Podcast featuring Forest School kindergarten teacher Ron Harig & our Forest School kids!

/ Forest School Blog

FS January Newsletter

It’s 2021! It’s been so wonderful to fill our Forest and learning spaces with the sights and sounds of our children learning, laughing and loving again. We have enjoyed hearing about the adventures your family embarked upon over Christmas break. As we stand together at the cusp of this new year, we together give God… Read More: FS January Newsletter

Forest School Newsletter – December

Our Forest typically bustles with the busyness and chatter of engaged learning and discovery. As we approach the advent season, however, there may be some unique morning routines. An observer might find moments when the classroom lights are turned off. The noise is stilled. The classroom or Forest takes on a special atmosphere. Something important… Read More: Forest School Newsletter – December

Forest School Newsletter – November 2020

Earlier this month I had the delightful experience of exploring the depth and relevance of the word “perspective” with a class of fourth graders. We used a book written by Chris VanAllsburg to guide our discussion. If you’re familiar with Mr. VanAllsburg’s work you know that he not only writes children’s books, he illustrates them… Read More: Forest School Newsletter – November 2020

/Further Research

The research even apart from our current global COVID-19 pandemic shows great promise with nature-based education, but even more so in the middle of this pandemic. Learning primarily outdoors allows for natural social distancing to happen, and provides fresh air and ventilation, making outdoor education a huge draw for many parents especially now. There are a few links below specifically addressing outdoor education in the midst of COVID-10, as well as other links about the benefits of outdoor education in general: 

“This program has been so influential in our son’s life and we couldn’t be happier and more excited for this program to continue to grow and evolve.”

-Stephanie Huizinga, Forest School Parent