Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Into the woods

Oh, my, I found something new and I have fallen down an internet rabbit hole, going from one site to another to learn about it.

Have you heard of a Waldkindergarten?

If you are European, I'm sure you have, as they are well-established there, especially in Denmark, Germany, and Great Britain.

Here's the concept: the children and staff work and play outdoors. They never go indoors. There is no indoors at their preschool. Whatever the weather, they are part of it. There are no toys or art supplies in the traditional sense. They use what they find in nature to build, create, and learn. They climb. They hike. When the snow is deep, they dig and sculpt. Apparently they occasionally fall into the stream while they are playing, and they are fished out, and then they carry on. By the way, the stress levels, noise levels, and illness rates are reportedly dramatically lower.

This school in Scotland is literally outdoors, always. Some schools in Germany mix it up a little--outdoors all morning, then indoors for the afternoon. A school in Brussels where this amazing blogger teaches, is more or less indoors, but they go frolicking in the woods abutting their back door every chance they get. They have, I read, a secret playground in the woods. I would lose my mind as a child--as a parent--as a teacher--to find a secret playground on my jaunts through enchanted woods.

I'm reading about these preschools after my children spent weeks indoors at their elementary school. Ice? inside. Dusting of snow? inside. Under 32 F? inside. They may not pick up a stick on their playground. They may not rearrange the mulch. There are no trees.

Maybe we are missing something essential.

Maybe there is a golden mean?

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