Thursday, May 19, 2011

Norway, a powerful place to learn in the outdoors, including magical snowflakes!!

Magical snowflakes, each one unique!

What an amazing experience, and opportunity to join a ‘MindStretchers’ Study Tour. I felt very privileged to be invited by Claire Warden to join their tour of Nature Kindergartens and various outdoor settings in Norway. We visited kindergartens for children aged from 1 to 6 years as well as a preschool. Children in Norway go to preschool the year they turn 6. We also visited a school setting in the district as well.
I have visited a number of outdoor settings/forest kindergartens in Europe but never before had the opportunity to visit these settings in the winter. I met Claire Warden and Niki Buchan at Heathrow and we set off to Norway together.
Niki Buchan, Claire Warden and me leaving Heathrow.
Imagine my excitement when I realised that I was arriving in Norway in temperatures of minus 25!!! On arrival the landscape was covered in deep snow and had been for some months. I was well rugged up in my NZ possum merino, along with my blue puffy jacket, in fact it looked quite a lot like the ‘Michelin Man’ marching into the snowy landscape! It was such a joyful experience, there were opportunities to walk across a frozen fiord, to witness a frozen waterfall and to join in a variety of outdoor experiences, for example sledging and skiing in the snow. 
Niki, number one photographer capturing magical moments!
The week was filled with opportunities to visit a variety of settings. I was particularly excited to be in settings where children spend the entire year in the outdoors. No weather was a deterent. Rain, hail, sleet, wind and snow. All were viewed as further opportunities to learn. Opportunities to build strong and resilient learners ready to take on the world. As I joined in the activities, 

I too experienced the joy of being at one with nature. To fully play and to be deeply involved in the environment. The week was filled with both joy and magic. The joy of being in a playful environment, the wonder of seeing beautiful snowflakes in their beautiful forms for the first time. I think the following images will tell you more than my words. Interesting to note as well, that at no time did I feel cold in this environment. In the words of so many Europeans, there is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing!!

Niki was the number one photographer and a number of the photos I am sharing with you were taken by her! She captured many very lovely moments on this fabulous trip. 
I will also add a few more photos of this trip to my personal blog -

The depth of snow across the country was extraordinary

Nature Kindergarten buildings

Shelter for the full time nature kindergarteners
A space with fire, could provide protection from a blizzard

Lunch is well underway

These blocks of snow and ice create amazing learning spaces

Children head off on an adventure through the forest
This space is a warm retreat
A place to be

These snow shoes provide some advantages in the snow

I have a deep interest in ensuring that children of all ages are exposed to risk and challenge. Our country has, I believe, an outdoor environment that is second to none. I am very interested in how we prepare children to take full advantage of such a fabulous environment not only today but also in the years ahead. In recent years, we have, as a society, become risk averse. This has in many early childhood settings undermined the provision of challenging and interesting programmes for children. We do have an important role in advocacy to protect our children’s futures by advocating for risky and challenging environments for all children from birth.

So ponder the thought. Do you ensure that children have access to indoors and outdoors at all times? Or have you institutionalised your setting and the children within it and created and indoor prison! If this is so, is this the childhood that you experienced? How can you justify this position? It cannot be because of the weather. Children can wear appropriate clothing! 


Laurie said...

How wonderful! I'd love to join in on such an amazing experience. Will share this post with others, Wendy. Thanks.

Niki said...

Oh Wendy - that snow was just the most magical wonder of nature! Such great memories....

Anonymous said...

Hi there, fellow snow lover. Possom gloves stuck to trees, and a great many laughs. It was wonderful to have you there. hugs Claire

Wendy said...

Hope we can catch up soon Claire, Norway was such a brilliant experience - you will have seen that NZ has recently experienced significant snow in all sorts of unexpected places!! It was so wonderful to see the responses of so many, the sheer pleasure of experiencing the wonder of nature was so visible in places that had not experienced snow in many many years!!! Love Wendy