"I’m a mature student who only returned to education in 2010 with the intention of training to become a teacher. I won’t bore you with the details but I graduated from Edge Hill University with a First Class Degree in ‘Children & Young People’s Learning and Development’. You need a degree just to recall the title!! Anyhow, throughout my studies, I had become increasingly interested in the use of the outdoors in young children’s learning and development. I realised that there seemed to be a great deal of literature espousing the benefits of outdoor teaching and learning. However, what I was seeing in practice, was very little use of the outdoors to promote children’s learning and development. On the very first day of my Early Years PGCE, one of our tutors explained that we had to arrange 10 days of voluntary placement. They explained that the 10 days should be somewhere different. Not a mainstream primary school. Perhaps a special needs school, children’s centre, library or museum. I immediately thought of Norway. I had heard lots of different things about how they approach early years teaching in Scandinavia and set about arranging a trip!
The outdoor area, still with some areas covered by snow and ice, but I could see seating areas, sand pits, a slide, wooden horse and lots of storage areas.
|The area which is set aside for the children to sleep in their prams as and when required.|
One staff member explained how the children enjoy sleeping in the fresh air and don’t feel the cold as they are kept warm and dry by the appropriate equipment and blankets. Therein lies the real secret to their philosophy as I see it……the children will be given every opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, whilst also being safe and protected by appropriate clothing and equipment but more importantly they are supported and encouraged to spend time outdoors, taking risks that are developmentally appropriate for the individual.
The children arrived up to 9.30am and casually go about their routines. I noticed that they were all very calm and behaviour management was not an issue. Everybody seemed very aware of the routine and the children are really relaxed. In the other room there were three members of staff and everybody was taking part in a circle time activity. It was very lighthearted and I suspect that everybody is sharing their ‘news’. It was noticeable that all the children were very comfortable with male staff (there were 3 men in the room). I guess I only made this initial observation because it is unusual in England.
The children spend the day at the Lavo which is essentially a wooden wigwam in a nearby forest. I was intrigued to see the children getting themselves changed into lots of winter clothing. They’re clearly used to dressing themselves in waterproof trousers, coats and boots etc. The overall atmosphere was one of calm. There was no rush or panic to be anywhere and this seems to help everybody to stay relaxed. I couldn't help but imagine a similar situation in a Reception class at home where staff would be helping children, rushing them to get changed and then asking them to ‘LINE UP’.
Once we walked into the forest it was clear that the children were right at home. It was beautiful. I lasted about five minutes before falling over !! In all I fell about 4 times. The children were free to choose their play and went off in different directions, without ever being out of sight. A member of staff generally accompanied the children to observe what they were doing / learning. They take every opportunity to point out birds/insects etc. to the children. Lots of the activities in the forest have been ‘built’ by staff and parents and they generally consist of climbing, swinging, balancing and sitting upon wooden/rope equipment. The children did fall and slip but were unfazed and they jumped up to repeat/continue with whatever they’d been doing.
Some were sawing, axing, climbing, den building, role playing, swinging and some were casually sitting in the snow, chatting. The whole environment was very sociable and the children were all very happy.
Another day was filled with the children playing around the barnehage. Whether it was bikes, in the sand (with water) or inventing games using all sorts of things, then the children were happy to go from place to place as they so wished. Just occasionally, staff, and I, would go and play alongside certain children to see what they were doing and to help I, but only if invited or needed.
Some of the children encouraged me to try some of the equipment that they use in the snow. You didn’t need to understand Norwegian to know that they were having a good laugh at my incompetence!
I hope that the reader can see the type of approach taken in this particular kindergarten and that my thoughts and ramblings make some sense. I hadn’t approached the trip with the idea of sharing all my experiences but I fell in love with the philosophy and way of life in Lillehammer. The cost of a pint of beer may well be off the scale but they certainly know how to provide children with the opportunity to develop as young people before burdening them with concepts that are beyond their understanding. They let their children be children and allow them to develop physically, socially and emotionally in beautiful natural surroundings."
Thanks to all those who took the time to link up in the last Outdoor Play Party, my featured post from the last round up was from Still Playing School with their brilliant outdoor water feature from cooler bottles.