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What Is Forest School? 

Forest school is a global movement focused on holistic learning through immersion in nature. The long-term, sustained approach to learning in the outdoors creates a safe, supported environment for whole child development. The Forest School model embraces the living context of the natural world as the basis for creative learning and the development of "21st Century Skills" such as problem-solving, communication & resilience. Perhaps most importantly, Forest School is a philosophy, but not an ideology. Our program is adaptable and child-centered, placing the individual needs, interests and goals of each child at the forefront. 

Our Approach 

Place Based Learning

Place-Based Learning (PBL) is a educational framework that utilizes the specific geographical and regional environment to as a tool for deep learning. PBL is an effective and meaningful way for children to learn about concepts such as natural resources, life cycles, diversity and sustainability. 

Emergent Curriculum 

Emergent Curriculum is a method  and practice of teaching in which the course of study emerges in real time based on teacher observation of each child's unique learning needs and interests. Emergent learning in Forest School is focused on development of the whole child through play, exploration and discovery in the natural world.  

Supported Risk Taking

Immersion in nature provides ongoing opportunities to experience age appropriate risk through the challenges and elements inherent to the natural environment.  In Forest School, these risks are both individual and collaborative and help childrent to develop confidence, resilience and teamwork skills. 

Meet the Teachers


Shannon Hodges, BSW 
Director & Pre-K through Early Elementary Lead Teacher 

Hello & welcome,  I am so glad that you are here! Growing up,  I was a curious, creative child. I LOVED reading, and I had a gift for imaginative play.  However, traditional school was difficult for me. I felt misunderstood and often unhappy at school and had trouble focusing. As I grew older my grades suffered and I did not have confidence in my abilities. It was only as an adult that I began to learn about the Theory of Multiple Intelligences that my school experience began to have context. When my own children became school age I volunteered frequently in their classrooms and saw that many children struggle as I did to have their gifts celebrated in that environment. 

Then, 2020 arrived and brought the pandemic with it. Virtual learning was not for us, so I took on the new role of a homeschooling mom. Immediately, it was clear that the more I pushed my learning agenda, the more that they resisted. However, when they led with their own interests and aspirations, the more they thrived. As a long-distance runner, I found that the stress of the pandemic and parenting/homeschooling was alleviated when I spent long hours running on trails and rural gravel roads. Being in the natural world felt free and joyful. When I learned about Forest School and the emergent learning philosophy, I was hooked! It was as if the past two years had been leading me to this point in subtle yet profound ways. I learned all that I could about the model and began my training.

I completed my education in early 2022 with the Forest School Teacher Institute, earning my Forest School Teacher & Director Certifications, both endorsed by Southern Adventist University in Chattanooga, TN. I have training in early childhood education, a bachelor's degree in Social Welfare from the University of Kansas, and I have many years of experience working with children and families. Thank you for your interest in Morning Song School,  I cannot wait to share this adventure with children and families in our community! 


Shannon Hodges, BSW (She/Her/Hers) 


Amanda Painter-Ingham, MS.ED Upper Elementary & Middle School 
Lead Teacher 

Hello! I am so excited to have joined Morning Song Forest School as a lead teacher. Nature has always been where I have turned to find calmness, clarity, and hope throughout my life and while raising my children. I learned with my firstborn that it was much more effective and enjoyable to hike with him and allow the sounds and sensations of nature to lull him to sleep rather than struggle to to get him to nap in his bed. With my middle child, I learned that the tactile stimulation of nature calmed a meltdown much faster than any words that I could say.  My youngest has taught me that no marketed toy compares to a really cool stick, treasured rock, or the companisionship of her beloved pets. 

I met my husband, David, 16 years ago while he and I were both working for the Nevada Outdoor School, and organization that, "inspires exploration of the natural world, responsible stewardship of our habitat and dedication to community", an ethos that has set the tone for our family and the way that we interact with the world. I began homeschooling my children in 2020 while I was still teaching and I needed to balance their needs with the needs of my students. My kids began spending copius amounts of time outdoors as part of our homeschool method. I was in awe of how much they learned through an outdoor, play-based approach. More than that, they became more relaxed, joyful and engaged with learning new things and exploring their environment.   

I lived and worked for 5 years in my husband's hometown of Leeds, in the UK, where I worked in a non-profit as a Youth Development Worker, a Family Support Worker and a Mediator. Upon returning to the US, I transitioned into teaching. I have been a public school teacher for the past 10 years, with the past 6 years spent teaching in the Lawrence Public Schools. I have taught 2nd grade, K-3 Special Education, and recently served as an interventionist for middle and high school students. I love teaching, my colleagues, my students and their families. I have felt privileged to always be part of the communities that I have taught in. 

I am currently certified in the state of Kansas to teach Early Childhood and Elementary Education, Special Education Pre-K - 12th grade, and English Language Arts 6-12th grade. I recieved my bachelor's degree in English (Creative Writing) from the University of Kansas in 2004, and my master's degree in Elementary Education from John's Hopkins University in 2015. I will complete my Forest School Teacher Certification from the Forest School Teacher Institute in August, 2022.  I look forward to having my students at Morning Song experience the joy of learning in nature! 


Amanda Painter-Ingham, MS.Ed. 

Meet Our Team 

Photo Credit: Allie Clark Photography


Our Learning Site

Our program is located on a private, 40-acre woodland in the heart of Lawrence, Kansas. The property includes hiking trails, abundant wildlife, a winding creek, and even a treehouse! The site is fully equipped with restroom facilities and appropriate shelter in the event of severe weather conditions. To learn more about the program and our learning site, please schedule a tour - we would love to show you around! 

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