June 2, 2008

On Waldkindergarten


I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach...
- Henry David Thoreau

I'd say I must have been living in a cave the last few weeks, but then, if I'd been living in a cave, I probably would have known about the German outdoor kindergarten concept called Waldkinder [wild child. seriously.] [forest, seriously, I need to stop getting my info online.] or Nokken [presumably no relation to the early 80's heavy metal band Dokken, though the lyrics of "Breaking the Chains" make me wonder.]

Allison Arieff mentioned Waldkindergartens on her NY Times design blog, and while the US translation so far sounds a little hippie dippie, in its natural habitat of Europe, it sounds kind of awesome. Since 1993 when they were accredited to receive state childcare subsidies, over 450 outdoor preschools and kindergartens have opened in Germany. [The concept was first developed in Denmark in the late 1960's.]

Basically, kids spend all day outside, poking around the forest, rain or shine. The curriculum's all nature-based. The class goes inside, too, when necessary, but mostly, it's all sticks and mud and animals and whatnot. They're also called forest kindergartens.

There's at least one Waldkind inspired school in the US now, which is run by a Waldorf school in Lake Oswego, Oregon. They have kindergarten and pre-school on a farm. I'd be interested to see a city version of this, which would still have the benefit of letting kids be outdoors most of the time, but which would probably sound like heresy to the stream-fording crowd.

update from the comments on just what I was wondering about: "The daughter of a friend [who is in waldkindergarten] now refuses to use the toilet at home and goes out in the family's garden whenever necessary...."

Here are some links, mostly from the Mothering.com thread Arieff quoted:
Waldkindergarten: Outdoor preschool/ wood kindergarten [mothering.com]
Wood Kindergarten [wikipedia]
"organic porridge" snacks: Kids can be kids at Mother Earth Kindergarten [lakeoswegoreview]
Mother Earth is run by Shining Star School [shiningstarschool.com]
image above of the little arctic explorers from Waldkinder Ilmenau [waldkinder-ilmenau.de]


"German outdoor kindergarten concept called Waldkinder [wild child. seriously.]"

No, forest child. Seriously. Wild in German is still "wild" (but pronounced more like "wilt").

[oh well, that's what I thought at first, but then I read "wild" somewhere. thanks.]

Some practical experiences from Stuttgart
(Home not only of Mercedes and Porsche; but of several Waldkindergärten)
If your kid visits a Waldkindergarten (Forest Kindergarten is the literal translation) you should consider that they are out in the woods all day long and take a leak just behind the next tree available.
The daughter of a friend now refuses to use the toilet at home and goes out in the family's garden whenever necessary....
Problem starts when they visit someone living in a city flat.
Good thing is the kids are rarely ill. (Only sometimes a snotty nose.)

Here is something close to that in MN


The sad irony of this place is that it has become so damn trendy that all the preschoolers are arriving there in Hummers and Escalades every morning.

We're planning the 5-year birthday today, and while discussing activities for the party-goers my husband cracked "Well, they're all Montessori kids - we could just have them clean the house."

Greetings from Ilmenau! I recognize the kids in that picture (but
don't see mine) but they surely aren't arctic explorers, they've
all just got rain gear on. :-)

I'm working on finally translating the website listed above for
Waldkindergarten Ilmenau, so if anyone is interested (and doesn't
mind a bit of work in progress):

Kindergarten Ilmenau, Germany

I am so pleased to see that the idea of Forest Kindergartens and Outdoor Preschools are finally starting to catch on here in the U.S. Our non-profit nature school is the only school offering this option in Washington state at the moment. We welcome others to explore this wonderful way to teach our young children!

Erin Kenny
Executive Director
Cedarsong Nature School

Yes, there is so much to learn and experience from Ranginui (sky father), and Papatuanuku (mother nature) as we say here in Aotearoa (New Zealand). I have been reading your article in the 'Space' magazine issue 18, Summer 2009/10 with must interest and I'm thinking it would be great to take advantage of our existing outdoor area and giving it a more nature feel. Thanks for the great read.

Ngaa mihi nui
The staff of Matariki Early Childhood Centre.

I am looking to possibly start something like this in Ontario,

where abouts in Ontario?

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