Monday, May 17, 2010

Forest Kindergarten

A friend told me about Forest Kindergarten this weekend. Apparently this idea originated in Scandinavia and is now popular also in Germany and Austria. The concept is simple, preschool kids in the age of 6 to 10 years are picked up in the morning by a bus and brought to a "forest kindergarten", i.e. to the woods. There they play and learn - 4 hours a day usually - in the outdoor in the midst of the forest under professional adult supervision. They are there all-year round, rain or snow. There is no class room and no building. In the particular example that a friend worked in, there is a shipping container that acts as an emergency shelter and storage room, but is never used by kids under normal circumstances. There is a part in the woods where the trees are younger and denser and offer a natural shelter against rain. In addition there is a large tarp tied between the trees to provide additional protection. This is where the kids and teachers go when it rains heavily. The kids play and learn by climbing the trees, picking up and throwing pine cones, make toys from fallen branches with simple tools like a knife, swinging on ropes hanging off some bigger branches, forming pieces of art similar to spiderwebs with ropes or cords and so forth. The key is that they are always outdoors, always in tune with nature and get to appreciate the many wonders and offerings of a forest. And it is very ecological too: no heating, no building to maintain. What a great concept and what a marvelous way to teach kids about nature and the environment. Here some links: Forest Kindergarten (English), Waldkindergarten (German).

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