The Affirmation of the Working Forum

by Cory Kibler, Communications Specialist for the Nature Explore Program

WFF2Fantastic memories. New friends. Jetlag. Design possibilities. All these and more were things that resulted from the World Forum Foundation’s Working Forum on Design and Nature that took place March 11-14 in Rotorua, New Zealand.

At the Conference, there were:

115 attendees from many countries

3 full days of design and presentations

5 design possibilities each for

3 different sites in Ghana, Australia, and Cambodia

Finally, there were four Universal Principles that were discussed throughout the conference:

1. The power and importance of collaboration.

2. The importance of respecting the context of space and place.

3. The importance of the connection between inside and outside spaces.

4. The importance of the intention for the space.

Bonnie Neugebauer, Cofounder of the World Forum, said this of the process:

It was hard work. People didn’t sleep well, some didn’t sleep. They worked alone in the middle of the night and got up early to work together. There was a lot of struggling with different ways of thinking, and there were egos. Many got very frustrated. But each person stuck with it and at the end, every group had a detailed plan for a space for children that honored those particular children and as much as they were able to, this particular culture.

This process will sound familiar to anyone who works in early education and/or outdoor classroom design. Creating effective, amazing outdoor spaces for children is rewarding and spiritually recharging, but it’s far from easy; in fact, it’s often physically exhausting. Sometimes, it can feel like you’re rowing against the current. There can be conflict. It can be easy to take this frustration as a sign of inefficiency or incompetence.

WFF1Eventually, though, we see it for what it truly is: a sign that we care deeply about our children. People tend to have strong opinions about things they really care about, and at the end of the Working Forum, attendees were able to take a step back and realize that we are all working toward the same goal—even if we have different ideas on how to get there.

The Working Forum was both daunting and affirming. When we agree that every child deserves meaningful education and connections with nature, we take on a great responsibility to do everything in our power to make this a reality. However, in interacting with such brilliant and compassionate minds at just one conference, we are assured that the world’s children are in very capable hands.