About Banyan Forest Kindergarten
Banyan Forest Kindergarten was started in 2021 by Monica Martinez. In a forest kindergarten, most of what the children do—their quiet time, their social time, their play—is in nature. Preschool and kindergarten education is when youngsters enjoy stories and songs and poetry. It’s also when they most benefit from periods of uninterrupted free play. It’s a time for them to develop their gross motor skills by running and climbing trees and also their fine motor skills by painting and finger-knitting and playing in the mud.
Nature offers endless opportunities for playful learning. Children who are allowed to move freely in nature’s playground learn quickly to gauge their own abilities. They learn cause and effect in the most practical ways. They climb trees, jump over logs, run downhill, slip in the mud, navigate rocks, and constantly test their physical limits—all of which is crucial for developing balance and coordination. This kind of deep, interior learning provides a strong foundation for later academic and artistic achievement in elementary school and beyond.
With all the movement and with so many diverse sensory experiences, these children are constantly engaged, and their brains are developing continuously. It’s the observation of educators who work with forest kindergartens that learning around nature fosters happy, laughing, fulfilled, and extremely well-integrated children.
As a symbol for her school, she took the image of the massive banyan—a sacred tree whose aerial roots give it phenomenal stability and a breadth that allows it to offer universal shelter.
About Monica Martinez
Monica Martinez’s interest in finding pathways for healthy child development was sparked more than two decades ago by the birth of her two sons. The joy she experienced being with children and her keen interest in supporting their learning inspired her to train and become certified as a Waldorf early childhood teacher and in RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers), which follows the methodology of the groundbreaking Emmi Pikler. In her training, Monica perceived the importance of rhythm in the life of a child, especially when it’s with an adult who is a worthy role model.
In 1998, Monica opened a Waldorf kindergarten in Guadalajara, Mexico, where she was living at the time. The following year, in Cuernavaca, she opened her first Waldorf inspired kindergarten with an outdoor education approach to learning.
Beginning in 2012, Monica co-directed a Waldorf inspired preschool/kindergarten program for seven years in Mexico City, where she was in charge of the adult education program, both training and mentoring teachers in forms of instruction. In addition, over the years, she has given a number of workshops on early childhood development for parents and educators.
In her professional and personal journey with children, Monica has seen the benefits of assisting the very young to learn in the beneficent setting of the natural world. As the founder of Banyan Forest Kindergarten, Monica invites young students and their parents to walk with her along the “forest” path toward a new way.