Y Forest School

Are your kids ready to get hands-on with the natural environment? Welcome to Y Forest School at our Camp Otonabee site in Dunrobin!

Just a ten minute drive from Kanata, Camp Otonabee is the ideal location for our students to connect with nature, develop new skills, and engage in environmental learning in a safe and supportive environment.  With over 40 acres of treed forest, open fields, and access to the Ottawa River, Y Forest School  incorporates outdoor, nature-based learning that focuses on the organic development of each child. Our goal is to provide life lessons and new experiences through play and organized classes in the outdoors as often as possible. At Y Forest School, the classroom changes often, and can be anywhere - giving students spectacular learning opportunities!

Participation in our programs require your child(ren) to be currently registered with a school program, be it in-person or online. Each parent will need to ask for an exemption from their board/school program and provide a plan for submitting their child’s assigned work. They will also be required to inform their board/school program that their child(ren) will be participating in a recreational learning program. With a certified teacher onsite, we will work through assignments with children to make it easy for families to submit their children’s work for evaluation.

What and how will kids learn?

  • Play based learning and unstructured play
  • Physical education, history, geography, science, etc.
  • Critical thinking
  • Social and emotional growth
  • Environmental education and awareness

The structure of each day will vary, but you can expect some of the following activities and lessons: Arts focused activities based on outdoor inspiration, outdoor exploration, nature hikes, fire building pond studies, and readings specific to the natural world. We will also take part in traditional camp activities like high/low ropes and water based experiences like canoeing and swimming. While some of these programs may seem advanced, helping children engage in safe learning around outdoor experiences helps them understand how to mitigate risk better as they grow and helps inspire them as they take part in risky play.

  • Y Forest School is for students aged 4Y - 7Y.
  • Full-time program will run Monday to Thursday, from 8:30AM-4:00PM each day. 
  • Part-time program will run 2 days a week on  Monday/Tuesday or Wednesday/Thursday from 8:30AM-4:00PM each day.
  • If you would prefer a Tuesday/Wednesday option or are interested in half-day programs, please contact the camp office at (613)-832-1234 or email day.camps@ymcaywca.ca.
  • Registration is on a month by month basis.
  • Ontario Certified Teachers on site managing curriculum and guiding outcomes.
  • All campers will be expected to be prepared for a full day of activities, for all weather, and with their own snacks and lunches packed.
  • Full-time cost per month:$820
  • Part-time cost per month: $410

“I registered my child in the YMCA Forest school when I was looking for an alternative to in-school learning during Covid. My child is very active and as an educator, I knew being in a seat all day in school and following strict protocols would not best meet my child’s social and emotional needs. The YMCA staff have been so welcoming and accommodating since day 1. They were very quick to get to know my child‘s individual personality as well as their strengths and needs. The daily and weekly updates on progress and goals really help guide our family discussions around what we are working on and what we are learning. For the first time since starting school, my grade one child comes home happy and excited to talk about their day. I feel good knowing my child has spent the day being active, engaged in learning and able to interact, play and learn with peers in a natural environment. The staff is phenomenal!!"  - Y Forest School Parent


"We have been so pleased with our daughter's experience at Forest School. We went into it with very few expectations, and have been beyond impressed. The staff are warm, caring, and fun and the activities they do are varied, interesting, and educational. Our daughter's confidence has grown significantly. She is fostering a great love for the outdoors and is now completely happy to spend hours outside regardless of the weather. She is so happy every day when we pick her up, and she eats and sleeps so well at home now. I could not recommend the experience enough." - Y Forest School Parent


“Forest School has been such a wonderful experience for our five and a half year old. He is always eager to go each morning and comes home happy every evening. We know this is because the instructors are caring, the activities are engaging, and the outdoors offers him a wealth of playful learning experiences. We are so grateful to have found this space for him during COVID-19, at a time when our kids need the outdoors more than ever.” - Y Forest School Parent

We are thrilled that you are considering our school programs as a place for your child(ren) to learn
and grow! We recognize that this is a complicated decision to make based on the restrictions and concerns surrounding COVID-19. We have put together a list of commonly asked questions to give you an idea of what to expect from our programs, as well as the safe guards we have in place for COVID-19. We appreciate the trust and confidence that you have in our programs, and we must remind everyone of the inherent risks of taking part in any public program while there is still no vaccine available for the novel coronavirus.

1. Will before and after school care be offered for programs?
Our programs will not be running with extended care hours in an effort to reduce the amount of
children that are coming in contact with each other from different groups.

2. Will busses be running to and from Camp Otonabee?
It is not financially feasible for us to provide bussing at this time due to the significant decrease in the
amount of children we are allowing into our programs. Parents will be responsible for arranging
transportation to and from all of our programs. It is our preference to have the same people picking up
and dropping off as often as possible.

3. Will there be certified teachers on site?
We will have a certified teacher on site supervising all of our programs. They will be present in
each of the programs once per day to ensure that the learning outcomes are being met for our Forest
School. Additionally, 1.5 hours will be set aside each day for the teacher to work with students on any school work from home or online lessons to assist and provide some one-on-one tutoring. 

4. What certifications do your staff hold for safety?
Our on site staff possess many certifications that relate directly to the outdoor recreation programs we run. All of our staff are first aid certified, and many have certifications in life guarding and running our high ropes climbing elements. They are also WHMIS certified and will be maintaining our process of equipment sanitization.

5. What will my child be doing all day?
Your child(ren) will be engaging in a variety of activities throughout the day. Y Forest School provides lots of time to work with children over the course of the month. They will be participating in traditional recreation programs, and there will also be time spent deeply immersing themselves in the wonders of nature on our 40+ acre property.

6. What will my child be doing if there is bad weather?
As this is an outdoor program, we will be continuing to program outside as often as possible, which
includes rainy and snowy weather. This is a great lesson in perseverance for children of all ages. There will be an indoor space with a set of washrooms assigned to each group while they are on site. This will be used to provide breaks from weather when needed, and for any formal lesson areas with tables and chairs. This space will be used exclusively by each group and will have implemented cleaning protocols for sanitizing.

7. Will my child(ren) be required to get tested for COVID prior to their first day at their program?
Children will not require testing prior to coming into the program. All individuals who enter our
programs (staff and children) will engage in a daily screening process during drop-off time. The
screening process includes questions regarding health as well as a thermal radar thermometer
temperature check. If there is a child or staff with suspected symptoms, they will be required to leave
the program to be tested and may only return if the test has returned negative as well as 24 hrs free of
symptoms. For any positive tests, a family could expect that their child will be unable to attend camp for 14 days and only be able to return when Public Health allows us to welcome them back to the program after a negative re-testing. If this is the case, you can expect a refund for the missed time at camp.

8. How will social distancing be implemented?
Since all of our children will be assigned to groups with staggered start times, their schedules will be
created with social distancing in mind. We will be building schedules that will help us ensure that
children will have no need to bump into other groups within our buildings, and our Camp staff will be equipped with radios to communicate with others groups throughout the day. This will provide clear communication to ensure spaces have been cleaned and vacated prior to moving from various program areas. When physical distancing is not possible with another group, children and staff in both groups will be provided with personal protective gear by the YMCA-YWCA. Each group will also have their own “home base” location that will be a room specifically used just by them.

9. Will my children be required to wear masks?
Children will not be required to wear masks when they are at our program unless there is a situation
where they are unable to be physically distanced from another group for any unexpected reason. Our Y Camp program will provide PPE at no cost to everyone on site, however it is our preference that children come with their own mask from home that they are comfortable with. For any masks that become soiled or wet, we will provide a new mask. Children and staff will not be required to wear a mask within their group for the majority of time while they remain outside and in well ventilated areas. The make-up of each group will remain the same for every day of the program – the same staff person and the same 9-10 children.

10. How many children will be in each ‘classroom’?
Each of our programs will have a maximum of 10 children with 1 assigned staff person. Any additional
staff that enters a bubble to assist with program or study support will be required to wear PPE and will
be socially distanced from the group.

11. Is this programming a recognized and accredited substitute for school board curriculum?
Our school programs are not affiliated with any Ontario school board and are not a substitution for the Ontario Curriculum. While many of our programs have direct links to the Ontario Curriculum, your children will not be assessed or evaluated on their work. These programs are aimed at supplementing opportunities for students not currently enrolled in full-time, in-person school programs. Our programs are geared to encourage physical activity, positive social interactions in smaller groups with trusted adults, as well as providing additional support with school work in a tutoring capacity. With that in mind, it’s important that your children are still registered for a school program, whether it’s in an in-person capacity or online. Each parent must reach out to their board directly to ask for an exemption when planning for adaptions from the usual board schedule. This means you will need to arrange with the school how work will be submitted to be evaluated by the assigned teacher, as well as ensuring your
student(s) will not be marked consistently as “absent”. Feel free to send students to camp with their school assignments and we’ll support and help them work through any challenges.


Winter Session: January 5 - April 22, 2021 

Full-time (4 days/week) cost per month: $820
Part-time (2 days/week) cost per month: $410

Spring Session: April 26 - June 17, 2021 

Full-time (4 days/week) cost per month: $820
Part-time (2 days/week) cost per month: $410

Register Now

For more information, please contact us directly. Phone: 613-832-1234, email: day.camps@ymcaywca.ca