collection of relevant articles based on research into
the forest school approach. In addition, we set up
an online forum, designed specifi cally for the visit.
Viborg, here we come
Once established in the lakeside hotel and
refreshed after a good sleep, we were excited and
ready for the fi rst day of the programme – a visit
to the university and then oﬀ to a forest school,
and a nature school, on the outskirts of Viborg.
Th ose waterproofs proved their worth straight away
because the rain proved relentless – the children,
dressed to be warm and dry were still out playing!
Th is was quite an experience because we had the
advantage of seeing the children spend all day playing
outside, in the natural forest environment with a few
resources to enhance their, mostly, physical play. Th e
other areas of learning and development happened as
a result of the children exploring their environment
(which constantly changed due to the weather) and
pedagogues supporting their learning by following
the child’s lead.
Waterproofs are essential for forest school, because children will be out in all weathers
The theoretical perspective
Our second day was spent at a seminar given by children in trees, making dens, negotiating with
Ophelia Achton (professor and biologist) at Viborg each another during games and, in the majority of
University. It was both challenging and very refreshing kindergartens, a fi re with seating around it. Th ese
to be given an expert view, the history of the Danish were not always alight but, importantly, they were
outdoor philosophy and an opportunity to begin to not considered a health and safety risk.
better understand Danish culture, family life and their Th e kindergartens were not all set in, or near, a
approach to the care and education of young children. forest, which meant that the EYPs could identify
‘Ophelia further convinced us [of their approach simple changes that they could make to their own
to play and nature] with her articulate, quietly outdoor environment at a fairly limited cost. Some
impassioned lecture. Unnatural, unchallenging, of the kindergartens transport their children out to
un-fantastic “psychosis hen” (that rocks children the forest by bus each week, something that many
manically back and forth on springs!) packed EYPs would love to do in and around Dorset.
environments do children no good. Th e indoor environment proved inspirational for
‘Instead, we must enable children to tap deeply some, but less so for others – this reassured us that
and directly into nature in a natural environment, their kindergartens are not perfect and encouraged
oﬀ ering real climbing opportunities, natural the EYPs to feel proud of their own achievements.
diversity, excitement and challenge. After some debate we agreed that while we can
‘Outdoor play in all weathers, with space and time, learn from their outdoor play, we can also share
stimulates brain neurons through sunlight and leads extensive knowledge about supporting the next
to real language development, creativity, cooperation, steps for each child.
imagination and 80 percent fewer contagious In Denmark, play is sometimes left so much in
illnesses. We didn’t need much convincing!’ the hands of the child that, without a little adult
[Sarah Hake and Louise Leah, EYPs at Baby help, they may miss opportunities to extend their
Grows Nursery] play. Equally, as advisers we noticed that perhaps
we (as carers, parents and childcare workers) do
Extended involvement in a too much for children, particularly in terms of risk
range of settings management, and not allowing children to take risks.
Each EYP and LA adviser spent a two-day Th e children in Denmark had no fear of
placement in a local kindergarten. Th ey were able climbing, falling, exploring or attempting anything
to explore the whole approach to childcare at a they wanted to do. Th ey knew what they were
deep level and work closely alongside the Danish capable of, and knew how to use their bodies so
pedagogues. Th e kindergartens diﬀ ered in design, that accidents were limited.
location, resources and social diversity. Th ey also
diﬀ ered greatly from our settings here in the UK. A culture of trust
Children spent most of the day outside (in all Th e most important infl uence we observed during
weathers). A walk around the playground revealed our visit was the culture of trust evident in Denmark:
Originally published in eye Volume 11 No 6 October 2009 15
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