Y Forest School

Winter 2022 Registration Now Open

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

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. 

Participation in our programs requires your child(ren) to be currently registered with a school program, be it in-person or online. Each parent will need to get in touch with their child's educator (teacher or principal) to inform them of their weekly absence. 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.
  • 2 Day program will run Wednesday-Thursday, from 8:15AM-4:15PM each day.
  • 1 Day programs will run on Tuesdays and Fridays, from 8:15AM-4:15PM each day.
  • Registration is on a month by month basis.
  • An Ontario Certified Teacher is on-site to help manage learning outcomes.
  • All campers will be expected to arrive prepared for a full day of activities and for all weather.
  • Campers must either bring their own snacks and lunches, or sign up for the hot lunch and snack option (additional cost). Please contact the camp office to register for lunch/snack service (dietary restrictions can be accommodated).
  • 2-Day program cost per month:$410
  • 1 Day program cost per month: $205
  • 4 day options are available, please contact the camp office for more information.

“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 Forest School program 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 program, as well as the safeguards we have in place for COVID-19.

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 number of
children that are coming in contact with each other from different groups.

2. Will busses be running to and from Camp Otonabee?
There will not be busses running for our Forest School programs. Parents will be responsible for arranging transportation to and from our camp each day their child is attending our program. It is our preference to have the same people picking up and dropping off as often as possible. You will be required to show proof of ID each day at pick up before we release your children back to your care.

3. What certifications do your staff hold for safety?
Our on-site staff possesses 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 lifeguarding and running our high ropes climbing elements. Each staff member is WHMIS certified and will be maintaining our process of equipment sanitization. We also have an Ontario Certified Teacher onsite helping build program schedules with educational outcomes in mind for K-Grade 2 Level.

4. What will my child be doing all day?
Your child(ren) will be engaging in a variety of activities throughout the day. They will be participating in traditional recreation programs, such as canoeing, high ropes, low ropes, nature hikes, nature craft, and much more. They will also get to spend time exploring different environments and immersing themselves in the wonders of nature on our 40+ acre property. 

5. 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 the weather when needed. This space will be used exclusively by each group and will have cleaning protocols in place for sanitization.

6. 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 an online questionnaire to be completed daily from home 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 and they have been free of symptoms for 24 hours. 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.

7. 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 build schedules to help ensure that children will not come in contact with 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 (PPE) by the YMCA-YWCA. Each group will also have their own “home base” location that will be a room specifically used just by them. Children will not be required to social distance while they are within their assigned group, but we will continue to encourage distancing and will build program options that encourage this as well.

8. 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 or when they are indoors. 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 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.

9. 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.

10. 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 to engage in an enriching outdoor experience to complement their traditional school lessons. Our programs are geared to encourage physical activity, positive social interactions in smaller groups with trusted adults, as well as a meaningful connection to the natural world. 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 child's teacher directly to discuss their weekly absence so that their teacher is aware they are attending another educational program when they are not present at their usual school location.


Fall Session: September 7 - December 10, 2021

2 days/week cost per month: $410
1 day per/week cost per month: $205

Winter Session: January 5 - April 22, 2022
2 days/week cost per month: $410
1 day per/week cost per month: $205

Spring Session: April 26 - June 17, 2022
2 days/week cost per month: $410
1 day per/week cost per month: $205

Register Now

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