Sometimes our little princesses just need to get muddy. To throw off that tutu and get some well-earned dirt under their nails and to kick off their heels and run barefoot through a creek. In this world, the frogs are for studying, not kissing. And a canopy of sun-kissed leaves stands in for castle turrets.
In Forest Hymn for Little Girls, a new documentary to be filmed in St. Louis, Italian filmmaker Sara Bonaventura will show the magic that awaits when a group of girls are able to explore Missouri’s forests on their own (with adult supervision, but without intervention). Through their eyes, we’ll be able to see the natural beauty we too often take for granted, and through their young voices, become empowered ourselves to protect the wild spaces for them.
But to bring Forest Hymn to the masses, it will take us fellow St. Louisans to make it happen.
Telling a child’s story
Forest Hymn is a collaboration between the Reggio-guided Raintree School, the first and only forest school in Missouri, and Bonaventura, an atelierista (or visual arts specialist) at the Loris Malaguzzi International Center in Reggio Emilia, Italy.
Inspired by Last Child in the Woods author Richard Louv and his claim of the “nature deficit disorder” in children, Bonaventura began exploring the effects a lack of outdoor exploration has on our kids. Through her research, she soon discovered how Raintree and its forest campus were combatting this deficit by combining sustainability, ecological awareness, social responsibility, and diversity into an early education format.
It was right here in the Midwest that Bonaventura knew she found the stars for her dream film. “Outdoor learning is a broad concept that has no rigid boundary,” she remarked. “Its core is inquiry-based and cooperative, active and experiential learning – that’s what I find interesting. The child leads the process with no prescribed goal, hierarchically set by adults. And I see a lot of affinities with the idea of a documentary as an experimental, evolving and cross-boundary process.”
With Forest Hymn, Bonaventura will follow girls, ages two to six, through the woods surrounding Raintree. The little ones will lead the telling of their adventures, without adults adding their own spin to their stories.
The film will be shot from their eye level, and according to Bonaventura, highlights through their voices, nonverbal expressions and micro gestures, the little epiphanies and moments of wonder they discover among the insects, vegetation and wildlife that call the forest home. In addition, the girls will create artwork about their journeys that will be transformed into animations by an international team of female artists who share the girls’ vision of natural beauty.
For Brandi Cartwright, co-owner of Raintree, Forest Hymn stresses the importance of wild spaces on a child’s academic, personal and social development in the early years of life.
“Kids have the right to be outdoors,” said Cartwright. “Research shows that children who explore the wild outdoors are more self-confident, more independent, cooperate better, and are more considerate of others’ perspectives. Their math, science and language skills also develop faster than those of kids who don’t get outside. And when they do become adults, they remember their times in the prairies, meadows and forests in a positive way and are more apt to protect them.”
To get Forest Hymn off the ground and on to film, a Kickstarter campaign launched this week. While documentary filmmaking can be an expensive endeavor, the team is looking to raise just $21,000 thanks to effort of countless creatives who are giving their time and talents to make sure the girls’ voices are heard here in Missouri and around the world.
Said Bonaventura, “The film is not just a hymn to the forest, but a forest hymn to childhood. That is to say, if we really care about our environment and we want to take action in favor of its preservation, we always have to keep in mind that the future belongs to today’s children and tomorrow’s citizens. If they grow up intimately with nature and take care of it, they will probably keep doing it for the rest of their lives!”
Photo courtesy of Raintree School
Metro East mom Nicole Plegge has written for STL Parent for more than 12 years. Besides working as a freelance writer & public relations specialist, and raising two daughters and a husband, Nicole's greatest achievements are finding her misplaced car keys each day and managing to leave the house in a stain-free shirt. Her biggest regret is never being accepted to the Eastland School for Girls. Follow Nicole on Twitter @STLWriterinIL
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