18.09.2017, Elina Harju
Learning goes forest
Sometimes we are asked “how many forest do you have?” Well, one. A bit exaggerated the whole Finland is actually one big forest with lakes and some houses here and there. Even in cities, forest and nature are normally not that far away. So, it is no wonder that our schools and day-care centres have developed different kind of models for nature-, environment- and outdoor pedagogies and activities. That is nowadays a normal part of Early Childhood Education and Care in Finland.
We have day-care and pre-primary groups that spend all days in forest. There are also groups that spend some days of the week in the forest, some might stay overnight in the forest, too. All day-care centres, pre-schools and schools go out-door everyday many times. That is part of the normal school life as the forest pedagogy takes children out more. In the sample of 800 day-care centres 16% told that they have groups that are fulltime out-door and 24% of centres told that they go out and spend time in forest more than in “normal” day-care schedule.
Our core curriculum give framework for learning and it also offers a lot of pedagogical possibilities. It can be fit into forest as well. In the forest, children learn easily the basic goals of the curriculum and much more, say the teachers. “It is never boring in the forest. There is so much to do and all kind of places to play”, say children.
Physical skills develop in climbing and on uneven terrain. Adventures, excitement and use of imagination is always present out-door. Co-operation is a natural part of the forest life. How many cones are you tall? How wide is a tree that I reach to hug around? The circumference of the tree is the size of my lap. That is mathematic, isn´t it? Animal traces, seasons, snow, water, plants.. the sources of knowledge are available in the woods.
What does it require? Staff, that get excited and want to develop out-door activities. Good clothing for every weather and forest to go. Some of the groups have a hut or a lean for dining and warming.
What does forest do? Children are more peaceful and able to concentrate once they have possibility to be active all day. They eat well and sleep well. They are less sick than other children. There are some research results that out-door life decreases the number of asthma and allergies as well. The good bacteria of the dirt increase resistance.
The forest day-care and preschool in Finland is to stay and grow. Forest does good for everyone!