Do you remember a time when recess meant a pocket of time spent outdoors on the playground? Or when science class took you out to the garden to smell the flowers? Lately, the emphasis on subject mastery relegated kids to an almost whole day of all work and no play.
But children learn best through play. Play allows them to use all their senses. It has been proven that when kids learn through play, they’re happy and are more able to absorb and retain more information. Children also develop a natural love for learning because they’ve come to associate it with having fun.
Several studies have also shown that kids perform better in school when they are engaged in physical activity. That's better than sitting the whole day and listening to teachers.
In Denmark, they have what they call forest kindergartens. These preschools take learning back to its roots—and take back our kids ‘childhood with it.
Forest kindergartens are located right in the middle of nature—yes, even if their weather is sometimes freezing, the kids don’t mind at all—and use their surroundings as a starting point for the majority of the educational work. Ultimately, the teachers ensure that kids get the best start in life outside the walls, and thus, stay true to the school’s vision: "We see the joy in children's eyes."
The director of the Stockholmsgave Centrum forest kindergarten in Kongens Lyngby, a city just north of Copenhagen, Søren Markeprand, says in an article for Upworthy that the idea behind forest kindergartens are borne out of the people’s “fundamental belief that nature and outdoor life is healthy and good for the children." “Children should have the freedom to be children -- have fun, joy, and a great environment to explore and experience the world," he adds.
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A typical day in a life of a preschooler in a forest kindergarten could involve watching a hen hatch an egg, climbing trees, collecting firewood, examining earth worms, and attending to a garden, to name a few. If you’re thinking about safety and security, accidents rarely happen, Markeprand assures. Every cut or bruise, on the rare occasion that they occur, is attended to, of course, and then the kids chock it up to experience.
In the vast nature and the freedom to explore, preschoolers get to develop their creativity, boost their confidence, learn to be independent, and improve their social skills. Aside from the well-known fact that Danish people are one of the happiest in the world, their kids also get sick less and perform better in math and science than American kids, according to a recent report.
Maybe it is indeed a better way to educate the next generation?
Until we get our own forest kindergartens here in the Philippines, there are other ways grownups can provide kids the same learning experience. Marielle Labayen, program director of Action Kidz Child Center, suggests to “provide your kids with rich learning experiences by exposing them to different challenges and first-hand learning.” Take them to a museums, concerts, to a zoo or a basketball game. Expose them to music, art, human culture, and nature. Let them go out, have fun, and learn.
Sources: October 15, 2015. “Ever Heard Of 'Forest Kindergarten'? It's A Fresh Approach To Early Education.” (upworthy.com) "Early Nature Lessons In Denmark's Forest Preschools." (denmark.dk)