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Forest Kindergarten

publié le 10 juil. 2016 à 15:37 par Jerome Angles
The concept of Forest Schools first started in Wisconsin, USA, in 1927. Later in the 1950's the idea was introduced in Sweden, Denmark and other countries of Europe. In Denmark it became an embedded part of the curriculum for pre-school children stemming from their 'Early Childhood Education'. Children attending Forest Kindergartens were arriving at school with strong social skills, the ability to work in groups effectively and generally children had high self-esteem and confidence in their own capabilities.

This ethos was introduced to the UK during the 1990's and the growth of Forest Schools has been unprecedented throughout the UK

Forest kindergartens have existed in Germany since 1968 but were first officially recognized as a form of daycare in 1993, Since then, the forest kindergartens have become increasingly popular. As of 2005 there were approximately 450 forest kindergartens in Germany, some of which offer a mix of forest kindergarten and traditional daycare, spending their mornings in the forest and afternoons inside. By late 2012, the number of forest kindergartens in Germany surpassed 1000.

In 1996, the first forest kindergarten (as far as is known) was founded in North America. Tender Tracks, in the bay area of California was founded by Wendolyn Bird, and is still in operation.

In France, there are fews centres moving to a "nature oriented" pedagogy, still years behind what is common practice in anglosaxon countries. Few academic tracks directly relate nowadays to nature and environmental education, progress is on its way.

UK Definition for a Forest school

"An inspirational process that offers children, young people and adults regular opportunities to achieve, develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a local woodland environment.'"

- UK Forest School Committee 2011

La Tour de Babille goes wild...

As the project of the creche develops, we decided to start welcoming every week a "animateur nature" to reinforce our connection with surrounding landscape and natural settings. Rémi is visiting every Wednesday taking the little crowd to the meadows around the creche (including our caravan at the back) as well as to the grounds around the nearby monastery Abbaye Sainte Marie du Désert. Kids just love it with some surprising soothing effect and long lasting naps. 

Nap under the old oak

Nap under the old oak

what does Nature education involve?

Nature is a vast subject. Any approach will bring its own bias, but failure to attempt answering this question is likely going to loosen this unique chance to connect kids with nature. We decided to develop four main strands:
  • Nature as a science: observation is a required step before any attempt to understand the world around us and is, as such, the first step along any scientific rationale. Outdoor settings are  ideal to developing observation skills.
  • Nature as the ultimate playground: no need of toys when we are surrounded by such a diverse and stimulating environment! Shelters, wooden stick, stones, water puddles, ... Handsome materials for our little storytellers!
  • Nature as an adventure: the first task our ancestors achieved day after day surrounded by nature was to take decisions in the face of the risks incurred. Nature education helps children to understand better the risks surrounding then and how to mitigate them. In so doing, Nature education is an extremely powerful tool for building self esteem. Team work is as well encouraged as a tool to achieve more and mitigate the risks.
  • Nature as our future: environmental education starts from birth; some authors criticize indoor education as disconnecting our children from their natural environment,  hence paving the path for little or no respect for surrounding nature. Respecting nature (planting flowers, nurturing our garden, recycling, ...) lays down the foundation for later mindful behaviours. 

Check for yourself, come and visit us!