Kickapoo Valley Forest School FAQs

Updated September 2020

What is a Forest School?  

Forest School education gives students an opportunity to grow and learn from hands-on experiences with nature. We understand that extended periods of time in nature are beneficial to children academically, physically and emotionally. In our Forest School we use experiences in nature to broaden and develop necessary life skills. For example, building shelters and forts uses a child’s cognitive and creative skills of attention, memory, observation and idea generation. Climbing, carrying logs, and hiking strengthen a child’s physical skills of balance, coordination, and endurance.  Learning to problem-solve with peers sharpens social and emotional skills. Offering the child daily opportunities to inquire about fascinating discoveries builds academic and cognitive skills such as inference and observation skills. Children gain an understanding of themselves and the world around them while exploring and making discoveries through play in nature, all the while building a lasting connection to and respect for the natural world.

Tell us about the partnership between the La Farge School District and the Kickapoo Valley Reserve.

The Kickapoo Valley Reserve (KVR) and the La Farge School District (LFSD) have a long-standing tradition of working together to offer students opportunities to engage with the land and community on the KVR through school-wide service learning days, summer camps, integration of the KVR property and history into curriculum and coursework, a pilot 4K Friday program and much more. The students and staff at the LFSD and KVR have worked together for many years.  When the idea emerged to write a charter school grant through the Department of Public Instruction, it was a natural fit for the LFSD to be intricately involved in the planning process.  In August of 2019 a Planning Committee was formed to begin work on writing and submitting the DPI charter school grant. The Planning Committee included members from the community (former school board members, KVR instructors, business owners, etc.), along with Jonel Kiesau (KVR Education Director), Meaghan Gustafson (La Farge School District Superintendent) and Robin Hosemann (KVR Assistant Education Coordinator).  The successful grant award for the Kickapoo Valley Forest School was received in June of 2020. The La Farge School Board and the KVR Management Board voted unanimously to support the Kickapoo Valley Forest School which will be held on the grounds of the KVR.

What is a charter school?

KVFS is a charter school that is an instrumentality of the La Farge School District (LFSD). This means that LFSD helps to operate the school in capacities such as employing KVFS teachers and staff, helping with school finances, and providing data for state reports. This also means that all federal and state funding go directly to LFSD and not some other outside entity. The LFSD is the Authorizer of KVFS. This means that LFSD ensures KVFS is accountable for the quality of education and safety of students. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction states that Charter schools are given “autonomy with increased accountability.” This means charter schools are able to teach an innovative curriculum as long as they can show that students are achieving at or above their peers in the district. All charter schools have a Governance Council (GC). We recommend you check out our Leadership page to learn more about our KVFS GC. Each month the GC meets in a public meeting. All are welcome to come and listen. Attending meetings is a great way to learn more about the operation of our school. All Minutes and Agendas for these GC meetings can be found on our KVFS website Leadership page. 

How do we enroll our child for the 2021-2022 school year? 

Applications will be accepted during the open enrollment time period which begins in February of 2021. 

All forms will be available at the La Farge School District office and on our website. If you reside in the La Farge School District there will be one enrollment form to fill out. If you live out of the district then you will also have to complete an open enrollment form.

It is very important to get your paperwork completed and turned into the La Farge Elementary School Office on time and within the enrollment period. 

Please note: if there are more applicants than student spaces available a lottery will be held. 

For the 2021/2022 school year KVFS will enroll 16 4K students and 16 Kindergarten students. 

How many classes and students will there be?

Our classes will be multi-aged 4K/ Kindergarten and 1st/2nd grade

By the fall of 2023 there  will be a total of 4 classes: 

  • 2 4K/K classrooms 

  • 2 1st/2nd grade classrooms

We are using a growth model to add students and a grade each year. 

The school will grow to a total enrollment of 64 students by 2023:

  • 2021/22 school year: 4K and Kindergarten  (2 classes) 

  • 2022/23 School year: Two 4K/Kindergarten & one 1st Grade (3 classes)

  • 2023/24 School year: Two 4K/K & Two 1st/2nd Grade (4 classes)

How many teachers will work in the school?

There will be one teacher and one teaching assistant for each class of 16 students. 

What will the class size be? Will classes be multi-age?

Each class will have a maximum of 16 students. The classes will be multi-age with 4K and Kindergarten together and First and Second grade together. This will allow teachers to develop deeper relationships and better understand their students. This will also foster a family of learners who help and inspire each other to be their best.

Will programming be available for full or half days?

We offer full-day programming. If you choose to send your child half-day, your child must be picked up from school. All students over the age of 6 must attend school full time.

How does enrollment work?

There will be a registration window annually during February, and a lottery will be put in place if more students apply than there is space for in each class.  We will be creating lottery guidelines prior to our first enrollment period.

Will preference be given to LFSD residents?

No. All applicants will be pooled.

What if my child has an IEP or 504 plan?

Students with an IEP or a 504 plan will receive services in accordance with their IEP and dependent upon each individual’s needs. The schedule to receive services will be dependent upon each individual student's needs.

Will the students make art and play music?

Yes! Art and singing will be part of each day. We will be working with a holistic and integrated curriculum. For example,  when we are studying water we will be singing about water, painting with watercolors, playing in water, observing water, sharing stories and reading books about water, etc. Our curriculum offers so many opportunities for children to have immersive experiences in art and music connected to their exploration of the natural world.

What can we do to support the school?

There are a few things you could help us with!

  1. Talk to your friends! 

  2. Direct your friends to our Facebook Page @kickapoovalleyforestschool

  3. Continue to look for updates on the Kickapoo Valley Forest School website.

  4. Get involved: We will begin to create a Family Circle starting in February 2021. This Spring we will need help with site preparations, installation of moveable structures, and  material and equipment organization. 

What will the Curriculum be?

Our Curriculum Team (Ximena Puig and Julia Buckingham) is developing a Place-Based Forest School model of learning that is directly tailored to the Kickapoo Valley Reserve, La Farge and the surrounding Driftless community. 

KVFS will be based on the Forest School model and other child-centered pedagogies. 

Our curriculum team is developing a Monthly Themes Guide, a Skills Booklet and a Staff Handbook to help guide best practices around forest schooling and ensuring that all of our children receive developmentally appropriate skill-building opportunities.

Our Monthly Themes Guide, along with our Skills Booklet and hands on materials, are all aligned to one or more of the following standards: Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards (WMELS), Next Generation Science Standards, Wisconsin Standards for Social Studies, Math, and English Language Arts. Additional standards for Art & Design, Music, and Physical Education will also be noted.  

See our Curriculum Summary for more detailed information. 

Upon completion and La Farge School Board approval (in April 2021) full copies of our Curriculum Documents will be made available. 

How will my child learn basic skills like reading, writing, and math?

Children will gain valuable academic skills from hands-on materials and daily experiences with nature. While playing and being outdoors for the majority of each day, children will be able to practice and reflect on their skills as they relate to the world around them. Students will be introduced to math and language concepts using hands-on materials and stories. Our teacher’s role is that of a guide to help children identify real life extensions of these concepts while out on daily adventures. Children will gain a rich vocabulary,  enhance reading and writing skills, and practice math skills as they discover natural treasures. Teachers will track student progress using our Skills Assessment checklist, which will correlate to our curriculum and also all standards met by LFSD students. 

What will the daily format/schedule be?

Our school day runs from: 8 AM - 3:00 PM Monday through Friday

*note times are subject to change and the schedule might be 8 AM until 2:30 PM for the 2021-2022 school year.

4K and 5K multi-age classrooms will have full day programming.

All school closures and holidays will follow the La Farge School District schedule.

Our sample Daily Schedule will fit the needs of each individual classroom and is subject to change.

Example Daily Schedule for 4K-5K multi-age classrooms:

8:00 Student Drop Off in loop of KVR Visitor Center

  • Teachers and Assistant Teachers greet children and families. 

  • Children transition into morning play space.

8:15 Morning Circle (seasonal songs, poems, group games)

  • (The classes may come together or each individual class may have their own circle.)

8:25 Morning Walk

  • What is new today? What does the air feel like? Who did we see on our walk?

  • Opportunity to tune into the environment, bodies, peer interactions, and for teachers to check in with individual students.      

8:45 Arrive at outdoor classroom space

  • Morning Meeting - opportunity for writing/reading and other mini-lessons

9:00 Transition into Work Time 

  • Student-directed time in which forest play, mud-kitchen, sensory materials for math,

    drawing materials, literacy materials, cooking, books, skills materials (carving, sawing, 

    fire building, knot tying, digging, raking, shoveling), climbing, etc. are available.

  • All four teachers are present (two leads, two assistants).

  • Mini lessons will be offered and conscious careful supervision and mentoring of children will take place during play.

  • Snack will be available during this time. 

10:30  Storytelling;  seasonal, cultural and relevant 

11:00 Class Lunch (possibly inside during very cold months)

11:30 Free Play or Group Games 

12:00 Rest Time in hammocks outside during warm weather or inside when windy, raining, or temps below 40 degrees. Students may read/look at books. 

1:00 Snack

1:30 Afternoon Adventure to play destination on KVR

2:45 Closing Circle

  • notes about the day; phenology calendar

  • circle of love: Sharing appreciation: What do we love about ____? (student)

  • ending song 

3:00 Departing Procedures 

Will there be indoor classroom/learning spaces and how often will they be used?

Our indoor spaces will be our hubs. We call them Homerooms. These Homerooms are where supplies are kept, attendance is taken, gear is stored and certain activities like rest time and lunch on really cold days take place. During our Homeroom time students will have the choice to work indoors or out of doors on a variety of activities. Our Homeroom space will be used daily, though we will do most of our learning and playing outside.

What is the long-term vision for the school? Could KVFS be extended past 2nd grade?

Currently we are planning to use the growth model to add a new grade on each year through 2nd grade. We will assess the needs and success of our school after our first year.  There may be a consideration of extending the grades after looking at the needs, space and interest at that time.

What is the integration/transition plan for students “graduating” out of the Forest School and into another educational setting?

Children who spend time in nature gain a strong sense of self-confidence, awareness of the world, and integration of physical and intellectual development. This allows children to excel in academic environments. The La Farge School District has many opportunities for students in the older grades to experience programs at the KVR and through other means, thus continuing their engagement in nature and inquiry-based learning.

Who will the teachers be?

We currently have a Lead Teacher, Julia Buckingham. Julia is working on the Leadership/Development team during our planning year and will move into a teaching role next school year. Please check out her bio on the Leadership page on our website. We will hire an additional teacher and assistants (based on enrollment) in the spring/summer of 2021. We are fortunate to live in an area which is home to many qualified applicants. If you are interested in working for KVFS please keep an eye out on the La Farge School District employment page. 

Are there concerns about drawing enrollment from La Farge Elementary?

We are excited to offer an opportunity to draw students into the La Farge School District. The Kickapoo Valley Forest School will be a great fit for many children and their families. We anticipate drawing in students who otherwise may have chosen other routes of education other than the La Farge School District. Charter Schools have shown to be a positive presence to rural districts as a whole.

Please let us know if you have any more questions. You can email KVFS@lafarge.k12.wi.us and ask away!