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About the Toronto Nature School

Children playing in a forest under trees with yellow leaves

The mental, physical, social and developmental benefits of learning in nature are well-researched.

Our mission is to connect children (and their families) with these benefits while instilling an appreciation for the natural world and lifelong love of the great outdoors.

Our programs include Nature School (for Grades 1-4 and Kindergarten), camps and recreational programs, all of which are designed to foster creativity, curiosity and teamwork through exploration. Based in the heart of the Beach neighbourhood in Toronto, we have the wonderful benefit of being able to use both the waterfront and Glen Stewart Ravine as our classrooms, with our Queen Street headquarters acting as our home base and pit stop.

Toronto Nature School is based on the Forest School movement, which is based on the Scandinavian education system where students are brought outside to learn, explore and work together. All of our programs are led by qualified educators, including OCTs, ECEs, Forest School Practitioners and Child and Youth Workers.

A Closer Look at the Benefits of Outdoor Education

Nature-specific outdoor learning can have measurable socio-emotional, academic and well-being benefits. Research shows that it promotes teamwork, sharing and collaboration and can improve:

  • Attention
  • Self-regulation
  • Motivation
  • Confidence
  • Curiosity
  • Independence
  • Self-sufficiency
  • Empathy
  • Overall mood
  • Decision-making
  • Problem-solving
  • Resilience

Meet our Founder:
Julia Donnelly O’Neill

Julia is an Ontario Certified Elementary Teacher with over 10 years of experience teaching Kindergarten to Grade 3 in the Toronto District School Board. In 2014, she was selected to be part of a collaborative project led by the David Suzuki Foundation to develop outdoor curriculum units.

It was during this time that Julia began to understand the importance of outdoor learning for children.

Julia became certified in Outdoor Learning and Play through Evergreen and went on to teach an Outdoor Kindergarten program in downtown Toronto. There, she created emergent and engaging units and saw first-hand the positive impact of outdoor learning on the students.

As a resident of the Beach, Julia would often walk on the waterfront and in the ravine, thinking to herself, “kids should be learning here” – and in 2020 she decided to make it happen. The Toronto Nature School began with one small kindergarten class (taught by Julia) and has since grown into a thriving alternative education option staffed by a team of wonderful, enthusiastic teachers.

Julia is the mother of three young kids whom she loves to explore the great outdoors with when not teaching at TNS!

Toronto Nature School founder Julia Donnelly-O'Neill sitting on stairs with a hand rested under her chin

A Closer Look at our Location

Queen St. East

Toronto Nature School is situated in the heart of the Beaches neighborhood in Toronto. Our indoor space is located at 2245 Queen Street East, on the lower level.

Interested in renting our indoor space? Send us an email for more info & rates.

Glen Steward Ravine

We’re located within walking distance to the Glen Stewart Ravine, home to many beautiful plants and animals, where we go to learn throughout the seasons.

The Beach

Walking south from Queen Street, we get to the shores of Lake Ontario and frequently spend time learning at the Beach! The proximity to both the beach and the forest allows for a very unique Beach and Forest School experience.

Our relationship with the land is central to Toronto Nature School.
We are committed to learning about and respectfully honouring the history of this place.

Land Acknowledgement

This land is the traditional territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat peoples, and is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.

Interested in joining our team?

All of our jobs are posted on Indeed, and we welcome resumes from qualified individuals to hello@torontonatureschool.ca.