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Why a Nature Kindergarten?

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Originally appears in the Spring 2014 issue

THE TIME IS RIGHT to start to talk about naturalised outdoor learning but with that increased interest comes the wide variance in terminology and approach. As a nature kindergarten founder, a Forest School leader, a consultant and as a parent, I am hugely committed to taking children to nature outside – in whatever guise that may be, but also bringing nature to them, both in school grounds and inside their space. Children have always been connected to nature. It is so often the adults around them who have lost the link.

There are existing educational models that have common threads running through them, some examples would be Ich ur o skur from Sweden translated to rain-or-shine nurseries; Skogsmulle are run in Scandinavia, similar to our Forest School but can also be delivered by scout groups. Mestämörri are Finland’s own version of Skogsmulle, and Udeskile are Denmark’s version of forest schools for 7-16 years olds. Each variation has differences in terms of time spent outside, the structure afforded to the session and the age focus. All these models have to be set within the cultural framework from which it has formed. The Scandinavian approach to the outdoors, referred to as friluftsliv, encompasses a cultural way of life and would warrant further reading to fully understand it. It is certainly seen as deep rooted and connected to a cultural norm.

Our decision was linked to the vision of a natural children’s garden with all the aspects that it encompasses; from the landscape, to the food, the materials and resources used and the sense of community within it, but also the natural desire to have ones voice heard and valued from a very early stage.

So why nature? Well, the research is wide ranging and from all parts of the globe, to support its use on multiple levels. Here is a summary of some of the research and their
findings that have affirmed our values.

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Claire Warden is one of the world’s leading consultants and writers on the use of consultative methods in education. She is an Honorary Research Fellow at Ballarat University in Australia and is currently engaged in her PhD exploring ‘Ways of Knowing.’

This text has been adapted from the second chapter of her book Nature Kindergartens and Forest Schools which is currently in its second edition and available from Mind-stretchers Publishing. For more information, visit mindstetchers.co.uk or claire-warden.com