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Creating independent children with Forest School Philippines

August 25, 2019

Creating independent children with Forest School Philippines 1

For a moment in her life, Shawi Cortez was stuck. For 20 years, she was helping out with the family business which was operating a cable TV system in Northern Luzon and Cavite.

In the midst of that Shawi constantly felt like she was in the wrong place.

“There were certain moments in my career that I felt like I wasn’t where I was supposed to be. The tasks became burdensome and there was no joy. I knew in my heart that if I did not do something I was passionate about then my life would be meaningless,” she said.

This was when Shawi realized that she needed to do something that she loved and was good at. Ironically enough, Shawi, who graduated with a degree in Business, has always been passionate about teaching.

“Teaching and training was kind of a God-given gift so I was naturally always geared toward Education. When I started the search for my calling, these were the themes that came to mind: education, children, nature, and outdoors.”

Just as the famous quote would say, once you have decided on something that you love, the Universe suddenly moves in your favor, it was during her search that Shawi stumbled upon a forest kindergarten on social media and something inside of her came alive, “Something just clicked and I knew this was something that I wanted to pursue.”

Shawi soon pursued her dream and lea

Creating independent children with Forest School Philippines 2
Shawi Cortez

Forest School Philippines aims to teach kids independence through its famed nature walks where kids go in nature to observe, meet new friends, and just be who they are. It provides an avenue for children to trust their instincts, ask important questions and discover the world in a unique and independent way.

“I was stuck for most of my career life and I do not want anyone to experience that. I am passionate about unlocking people’s geniuses so they live their lives doing what they are meant to be doing,” she related.

“The sessions are child-led. The students take charge of their own learning through unstructured play. The school leaders and coaches (we do not call ourselves teachers) are in the background and do not meddle with their learning. They are free to explore the forest and choose what activities they want to do for the day. Even our conversations are unstructured, we often ask them, ‘what do you think?’,” she explained what the aim of Forest School Philippines is.

The concept is to let the children be confident enough in their abilities by giving them the tools that they need to succeed.

“They need help getting dressed? We do not dress them up, we show them parts of the shirt. They need to cross the stream? We do not carry them, we show them where they step. These tiny opportunities of letting them think, letting them feel and letting them experience sets them up for the future,” she qualified how children are taught the ropes.

“When they are given the power to decide, they become responsible for that choice. They get to know themselves and know that they are capable of doing bigger tasks. That is how their confidence is built. And when they grow up confident, there is no limit to what they can do for themselves and the world,” Shawi emphasized.

She also said how this experience can help them face the challenges of life.

“A child who is confident and can speak up prepares him for the highs and lows of life. A confident and independent child can stand up to issues like bullying and peer pressures that children face when they grow older.”

Today, Forest School Philippines is thriving in Cavite and has seen many success stories from her students but Shawi wishes for more of the Philippines to experience this unconventional approach to learning.

“I know it’s a long way to go but we take it one child at a time,” she said.

When asked what keeps her going, she answered, “Aside from the assurance that this is what I have been called to do, it would be knowing that I am helping a child discover his capabilities. When a child knows what he wants and can think for himself then he won’t have to waste his adult years pleasing other people. He can live a life of his own and others through his unique gift and geniuses.”

It looks like now, with the vigor of a Forest School Leader, Shawi Cortez is charging on to the future.

And the best part about it? She is developing a whole new generation that is forging along with her.

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