Kindergarten in the forest
Text: Anna Plaszczyk, photos: Dzika Osada
4 October 2020
Almost 60 years of experience in forest kindergartens in Scandinavia proves that it is absolutely a great idea. Today the kindergartens in nature are conquering the world - the centres of this type are being opened in the United States, Australia or in Poland. There is only one principle - a free exploration of the world in which teachers are to help, setting only the limits of safety. Besides, “there is no bad weather, but improper clothes only”.
Forest kindergartens, though it may seem shocking, do not have buildings where children can spend their time. Their kindergarten is a forest or a meadow, regardless of the weather. And although some of them will get a headache - the children during classes climb the slopes of the mountains, climb the trees or learn to use their knives. The lessons are not stopped even if the temperature outside is 5°C. The teachers do not intervene too, when children are playing in the mud.
10% of all kindergartens in Denmark - about 500 are organized this way. In Germany, there are now more than 1000. In the Czech Republic over the last five years, more than 120 forest kindergartens have come into being there. After 60 years of the existence of such kindergartens in Denmark, one thing is certain - there are no more accidents there than in traditional ones. Besides, in Norwegian "classical" kindergartens, children obligatorily spend about 5 hours a day outdoor, regardless of weather conditions, that is why forest kindergartens are nothing special in Norway.
During their classes, the youngest get to know the animals in the wild, they run, learn how to tie a rope or build a shelter. They don’t have plastic, noisy toys with certificates or computers and tablets. They make their own decisions how to play and what they will play with - it all depends only on their creativity and imagination. They can use stones, sticks, pine cones, a whole forest can be their playground. Most importantly - in the forest kindergartens, there are no buildings, where classes can be moved to in case of bad weather. Kids can use buildings provided to kindergartens by the forest rangers, hide under the forest shelters or in kindergarten .... tents. During extreme weather events such as storms or severe frosts, the children stay at home or meet their teachers in the library or museum.
The basis of this education is Waldorf’s, Montessori’s pedagogy or Joseph Cornell’s flow learning. Thanks to these systems, children are brave, confident, and first of all - healthy. Hardly ever they have problems with their eyesight because they use computers and tablets less often. They do not have bad posture, they are not obese and they are ill less often than their peers. Children from forest kindergartens respect nature, because they know it inside out. First of all - they are not afraid of it. They do not panic when they see insects or animals, do not feel unwell when they get dirty.
One of such kindergartens, Dzika Osada, was founded in Konary, near Kraków. Classes for children of all ages are held on the area of 50 ares, which partly is a meadow and partly a grove full of recesses and places for creative play. There, at Dzika Osada, a natural house made of clay is to be built, which will be a shelter from the rain and a resting place for kids from forest kindergarten. At present, in case of very bad weather conditions, children have a wooden cottage and a tepee at their disposal. Justyna Romaniak, the owner of Dzika osada emphasises that children are driven to move forward, to learn and create, to explore and experience the world. At the same time, I am aware of the fact that we- adults bear the responsibility for not suppressing and extinguishing of this great force of nature.
- Dzika Osada has been established as a result of my desire to create ideal conditions for sustainable physical, emotional and spiritual development of children - as Justyna Romaniak writes on Dzika Osada website - I am deeply convinced that growing up in the open can provide such conditions, together with an atmosphere of acceptance and a focus on free play and intuitive discovery of the world. The task of an adult spending time with the children in Dzika Osada is to accompany them and follow them.