The High Park Nature Centre is a non-profit organization that was established in 1999. We promote awareness and respect for nature through year-round, hands-on outdoor nature education and park stewardship. Nature Centre programs inspire a sense of wonder, knowledge and respect for High Park’s natural systems; restore human connections to local plants and animals; and engage visitors in ecological restoration activities to ensure a sustainable future for High Park for generations to come.
The High Park Nature Centre serves a diverse audience of almost 16,000 people from across the Greater Toronto Area, including children, adults, seniors, families, elementary and secondary school students and teachers, ESL schools, Girl Guides and Boy Scouts, community centres and recreational programs. Through the Nature Centre’s programs, over 80,000 participants of all ages have been able to “give back” to High Park through park stewardship activities like planting native grasses, wildflowers and sedges or removing invasive plant species.
The High Park Forest School – Our New Headquarters!
High Park Forest School opened on July 15, 1914 with an attendance of 115 students. For the school’s first 18 years in operation, it was housed in three outdoor tents and a set of wooden platforms fitted with desks, benches and blackboards.
Students who were malnourished, had mild cardiac conditions or had been in contact with persons with tuberculosis or cholera attended the school to derive health benefits from time in the outdoor environment of High Park. The Forest School program operated from May 1 to October 31. At the beginning of November, students returned to their neighbourhood schools to participate in regular classes.
By the early 1930’s, enrollment in the High Park Forest School had grown to 264 students and it was decided that the school should have a permanent building. Constructed in 1932, the Forest School was designed as a pavilion with a large central classroom surrounded on three sides by offices, meeting rooms and a large kitchen.
By the early 1960’s, significant improvements in medicine and sanitation resulted in the decreased incidence of tuberculosis and cholera. As a result, the Department of Public Health decided that the Forest School program was no longer needed. The Board of Education closed the doors in 1964 and returned the remaining students to their regular schools.
Around 1975, the Ontario Foundation for Visually Impaired Children (OFVIC) moved into the building and provided educational services to blind or low-vision pre-school children. During the summer months, the Forest School also housed summer day camp programs run either by the City of Toronto or the Toronto Board of Education. In 2014, OFVIC found a new home and the Forest School became vacant again.
Thanks to our partners, the City of Toronto, and funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the High Park Nature Centre moved from our previous headquarters in the Lawn Bowling Club House on Parkside Drive to the Forest School in June 2015! We couldn’t be more thrilled to become an integral part of the history of this fascinating building. The Forest School building was designed with the belief that spending time outdoors would benefit children’s health and well-being. We are excited to bring the Forest School back to its roots!