Frequently Asked Questions
Does my child need to be of age by the beginning of the program?
In Cumberland, Comox and Courtenay, children need to be of age by December 31st of their enrolment year, and in Campbell River, children must be of age on thier first day of the program.
Can my child start part way through the school year?
Yes! Providing there is an open spot, we are happy to welcome children part way through the year, with our last intake day being April 1st. To ensure the utmost success, safety and comfort of everyone in the program, any child beginning after our September start date requires a caring adult to accompany them for their full first day and everyday until they are comfortable enough to say goodbye.
Is there a foul weather plan?
In regards to rainy and snowy conditions, there’s a motto in the Forest and Nature School community that says, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing!” On many days where adults might prefer to stay indoors, we will be out enjoying nature in all her glory. As long as children are dressed appropriately, there is little that can deter them from having fun outdoors, and these more difficult weather days are the days that build resilience, perseverance, a sense of accomplishment, help our group bonds grow stronger through a shared experience and help us appreciate milder weather days that much more! Having said that, if Environment Canada issues a “Wind Warning” for our operating day, our Location Managers will send out an email, text and/or phone call by 8am for our Early Years Programs and 12pm for Forest Buds to notify about an alternate location. Depending on the temperature and severity of the storm, programs may relocate to an open field where there isn’t a risk of falling trees and limbs, or to a nearby indoor location. In either case, educators will continue with appropriate activities (nature-inspired crafts, activities, songs, stories, games, etc.) for the session. On occasion, our Early Years Program’s day will be shortened (with an 11am pick up) so children leave the morning with a positive experience of playing outside no matter the weather. Before our Early Years Program begins for the school year, we hold a Parent/Guardian Information Session that will discuss appropriate clothing, wind warning and severe weather practices, as well as other relevant information.
How is wildlife safety handled?
Every morning before the program starts, the Program Director logs onto Wildlife Alert Reporting Program (W.A.R.P) to investigate the most recent reported wildlife activity. If there has been a sighting, the Location Manager will be notified, and if an alternate location is necessary all families will be alerted by 8am for our Early Years Program and 12pm for Forest Buds. While we are in the forest and/or on the beach it is very unlikely that we will encounter a bear and/or cougar. However, our Nature Educators are trained in Bear and Cougar Aware Training by Conservation Officers and carry the supplies needed in the case of an encounter. All children are taught our number one rule (“Stay Together!”) and our Early Years forest friends will receive age-appropriate bear/cougar awareness training from a conservation officer at the beginning of the school year. Our Nature Educators will practice the safety protocols with the children regularly.
Are washrooms available?
Yes. We carry a small, self contained portable camping toilet that is cleaned and sanitized off-site at the end of each day. Our “forest toilet” features high-density construction making it strong and durable enough to handle the requirements of our program. It has a 12-Litre freshwater capacity that provides 50-flushes without recirculating – more than enough for up to 16 forest friends in a 3-hour time frame. Due to its compact size, it is ideal for children aged 2-9 years old and easily fits inside our wagon that we trail along with us each day, so the toilet goes where we go! The porta-potty is only used by the participants of our program, and have hand sanitizer as well as a hand washing station for after use. In our Comox location, we are able to use the bathrooms at the Filberg Park if/when we are close by, and in our Campbell River location, we can use the bathrooms at the Sportsplex if/when we are close by.
How do you handle food allergies/sensitivities?
Our online Enrolment Form includes a section to list your child’s food allergies/sensitivities. If there is an allergy, Hand-In-Hand Nature Education will email a list of the food allergies to all of the parents/guardians in the group, and request that those foods not be sent with their child at snack time. Sensitivities are noted and on occasions when we share food together (potlucks or celebrations), we inform the whole group about those sensitivities. As our forest friends do not share snacks brought from home, we do allow families to send snacks that another child may be sensitive to (such as gluten or dairy).
What kind of gear does my child need to participate?
Due to the environments that HIH operates in, with consideration for the safety, comfort and enjoyment of our forest friends, we require the following personal gear for each child:
- Waterproof, breathable rain gear (2 piece jacket and pants (ideally without shoulder straps), please no one-piece “Muddy Buddy” style rain gear because it creates challenges when toileting outside.)
- Insulated winter jacket and snowpants
- Insulated water proof boots (neoprene style or rubber boot with wool/felt liner)
- Thermal clothing (layers of multiple thickness in wool, fleece or polypropylene) close to skin for wicking away moisture to prevent overheating/cooling – no cotton
- Hats for sun and toques for cold
- Multiple pairs of mittens/gloves: waterproof mittens, “toaster mittens” (snow/ski mittens), thin “magic” gloves, etc.
- Resealable bag (such as Ziploc) with extra underwear, thermal socks, long sleeved shirt and pants suitable for the season
- Backpack of sufficient quality and comfort that your child can carry for distances of up to 500 metres at a time, and walks of up to 30 minutes long (must include a chest strap)
- Whistle, attached to the outermost layer of clothing
- RED is the preferred colour choice for outwear, for it provides the greatest contrast with the surrounding green forest.
For those with children registered in our Early Years Program, please note that Gear is discussed in length at our Parent/Guardian Information Session that is held before the start of the school year.
Do I have to register for the entire session?
Yes. Our Early Years and Curious Bees Programs are offered as a school year program, and our Nestlings, Forest Buds and After School Adventures Programs are offered in seasonal sessions varying from 8-12 weeks long. If these commitments are too long, you may be interested in our Spring Break and/or Summer Camp Programs instead.
What is your withdrawal policy?
Early Years Program: We require written notice of withdrawal.
– Withdraw 2 years ahead of time: Refund = registration minus $50
– Withdraw 1 year ahead of time: Refund = 50% of registration
– Withdraw from January to June of the same start year: Refund = 25% of registration
– Withdraw from June onwards of the same start year: No refund
Forest Buds, Nestlings, Spring Break & Summer Camp Programs: Registration for these programs are within a few months of our start dates, and the fee pays for the entire program. If cancellation is more than 2 weeks before the session begins, we will refund 50% of the fee. If cancellation is 2 weeks or less from the session start date, or on the first day of the session (for our week-long Spring Break and/or Summer Camp Programs) or during the first week (for our longer seasonal sessions – Forest Buds and Nestlings Programs), you will receive a 25% refund. Written notice of withdrawal is required.
Curious Bees and After School Adventures: As registration for these programs are within a few months of their start dates and tuition is paid monthly, registration fees are non-refundable. Written notice of withdrawal is required 1 month in advance.
How frequently are payments made?
Early Years, After School Adventures & Curious Bees Programs: Payments may be paid monthly, in full for the entire school year or any other arrangement in between those two options that is most convenient for you.
Forest Buds, Nestlings, Spring Break & Summer Camp Programs: Full payment is made upon registration for our seasonal sessions.
To register, I’m asked to send an e-transfer. If there are no spaces available, do I get this payment back?
Yes, in fact if there are no longer spaces available in the program you are registering for, your e-transfer will not be deposited and you will be contacted to see if you would like to put your child on our wait-list.
Why is the Early Years Program’s monthly tuition the same each month, but the number of program days varies per month through the year?
Although the number of program days per month vary through the school year (September – June), our monthly tuition is the same price every month, because our program fees are calculated by taking the cost of the entire year (number of program days x daily fee) then divided by 10 to create a standard cost for each month.
Do you offer a sibling discount?
Yes, we offer a 10% discount for siblings registered in any of our simultaneously run programs.