Norwegians appreciate being outdoors. Friluftsiv is a unique Norwegian culture heritage, which is believed to be of great importance of modern society. It becomes meaningful in relation to the main challenges in different periods. Traditional Norwegian friluftsliv consists of a simple outdoor-oriented lifestyle based on enjoying nature, health, and fellowship. It originated from the 18th-century protest movement against modernity. The influence of the international youth leisure culture has caused some „sportification“ of friluftsliv, but its patterns remain stable because tthe age groups before and after adolescence are decisive in friluftsliv. Nowadays outdoor life is a part of education, rehabilitation and public sector. According to that we, international friluftsliv students, visited few kindergartens, school and hospital of rehabilitation due to get an impression how Norwegian friluftsliv is implemented into ordinary work of these institutions and what benefit it could create. We had to observe area, the role of teachers (leaders) and children (participants), also give our personal comments of the dday and compare to our home country.
Kindergarten in Bragdøya
Skårungen kindergarten was one of the first outdoor kindergartens in Norway (since 1996). This kindergarten is in island called Bragdøya. Each day children with their teachers take small boat to the iisland. They usually spend here 6 hours a day with the exception of Mondays and Fridays.
Kindergarten is in a small valley with natural barriers. These barriers are really good for supervising kids. They are like natural fence which delineator terrain where children are allowed to go and play. But these barriers are not only the fence but also a playground for kids. For example rocks help to develop climbing skills. In winter time they are also suitable for sliding down or skiing. One of favorite children playing space is trees. They enjoy playing with prepared ropes in them or just climbing as high as they can. A stream is crossing this kindergarten playscape. It is too small for fishing but ffor this activity they can use sea in spring or summer time. The camp has two shelters and one shed for rabbits. Each shelter has a fire place and benches.
In one kindergarten group of 18 kids are tree teachers. They are used to observe kids (knows who can be alone with knife), analyze and evaluate children behaviour, solve problems, develop practical skills and give feedbacks for parent. So these teachers we can be certainly called leaders.
The main oorganizing of day is a trip to and from the island. This trip requires a lot of consideration and carefulness. During day time teachers are making fireplace, warm lunch (soup) and cutting fruits. And of course all day long keep an eye on kids how they are playing, play together with them. If kid needs help or advice how to do one or another thing teachers are always ready to assist him.
Outdoor kindergarten is based on learning by doing. But I observed some special methods how kids are being tough – even if they have no special classes. Firstly, they are used to counting: they count each other at least ten times a day. This is really important before and after bout trip to island in case one of kids gets lost. Secondly, children are used to their names. Names of kids are written on their lunch packages, porringers, bags, live saving vast so they can recognize their names even if they are not able to read. Moreover, children are able to find out then they are hungry. Either kid has his own lunch package with sandwiches from home. And they can eat it whenever they want to do tthat. Another method of learning which I observed was books. Kids are not able to read books yet but they can have a look at pictures and for example find the same mushroom in the forest (most of books were about mushrooms). Also this kindergarten has tree rabbits. They are good “learning equipment” to know how to feed, take care of animals and also play with them. Sometimes you can meet sheep or ducks in the playscape of kindergarten. As well children are teaching safety – they know the importance of life saving vest, how to use knives properly. And also they are tough to keep things like for example songs it their memory. Before going back to bout they sing songs together with teachers and also have some special movements according singing.
Children spend daytime outside in the island all year long with some exception during Christmas and Easter time. At that time they spend more time inside the main kindergarten fence but still outdoor and take a part in free playing. I noticed that in the end of the day kids prefer activities inside shelter – “reading” books, talking with teachers. Although by day they are vvery active and find lots of activities what to do outside. As I mentioned before children enjoy playing in the trees. They like to climb high into them, playing on the prepared ropes, swings or just sitting and chatting with each other into them. Another big section of activities takes pace on the rocks. Kids like climbing, sliding down on toboggans, skiing. Also children are fond of helping teachers in cooking. They fill a bowl with water, mix soup, etc. As you can see these activities do not require a huge amount of equipment. Kids enjoy nature by free play and can organize activities by themselves. As an instance we played with them with wooden sticks as court swards.
It’s not easy to find out all activities what they are doing by spending just one afternoon with them. The nature itself represents an environment for playing and learning. From our lections we know that outdoor activities, free play has a huge contribution to developing children motor skills, especially coordination and balance. And it’s easy to start developing these things then you are young so then you are going motor skills are going better and better. Moreover, kids are
experiencing close relationship between human and nature from childhood. They can see what equipment, suitable clothes they need. So it’s huge expectation that children will continue this relationship in their future.
First impression of outdoor kindergarten was that it’s not so safe and quite dangerous to leave kids playing alone in nature, climbing in trees, on the rocks and etc. Moreover, they are aloud to use knives! Then I was a child I was aloud to use knife then II was at school and just with adult person together. It looks like children should have lots of serious injuries on Norway. But surprisingly they have no injuries at all just small ones but this happens everywhere.
After spending some time in this kindergarten I started really enjoy time in it. First of all kids do not have a nap in the afternoon. The nap was the worst thing ever in kindergarten then I was a kid. I have aalready mentioned another good example in kindergarten – eating then you are hungry. Moreover, each kindergarten and school has free fruits from government every day. So children have vitamins and are accustom to eat more fruits.
Children motor skills aare really good. Then we were playing with kids we climbed on rocks. It wasn’t so easy to do because rocks was slippery, wet and with snow. Also I was wearing sneakers so kids were faster then me. It seems that they are climbing as good as walking.
And of course nature – it is the best thing of outdoor kindergarten. Children are free in the nature to play and discover new things every day.
Hence, I would like to have such kindergartens in Lithuania too.
Sjøstrand kindergarten started up in 2003. This kindergarten has a nature group which are going out in the forest four times a week and one day a week they are spending iin the kindergartens area. Kindergarten has made few places with fireplace in the forest near by. We visited one of these places. It’s a pity that snow has destroyed shelter in this place. According to teachers in other places they have another shelter. The terrain is a bit hilly but children now an invisible fence where they can go. Then kids start to go to kindergarten they are familiarized with this territory and they never have problems about that. In aarea is made some play-apparatus with ropes, swings, bird houses. And it doesn’t have any other toys then what they can find in the nature. Children get time to play and decided what they want to do (free play). But they also have some organized activities and a small section for about 20-30 minutes every day where they talk and learn about special subjects. They have activity connected to the subject they are learning about. Environment is a subject they decided to focus on more than the others. It’s very important that children can be mush outside and move their bodies in open space and at the same time get fresh air.
The group we visited has 24 kids with age 3 to 6. The group are led with four adults. But one of them is the main teacher (leader) and others are assistants. The main teacher has the responsibility for the group of children and adults. Also she spent most time with children while assistants are cooking lunch or doing other things. Kids have two meals every day. They bring the food for one meal and assistants prepare one other meal (easy made) in outdoors.
While children aare going to outdoor area they have running competition. But just these who want to do that. Others just walk with teachers and help them by pushing a buggy together. In outdoor area kids have some organized activities – games which develop their motor skills. Children climbed on a rope net, went up and down small stairs between two trees, balanced on a log, went into a tunnel between boxes, climbed on little hill by holding a rope, swing on the ladder. It was surprising that teachers did all activities together with kids. We plaid tug-a-war with children. Of course we let them win. But that was really good motivation for kids that they are stronger then students.
I was absolutely surprised how patient all kids are. After all activities they can just stand and wait for other kids who haven’t finished yet. They respect each other and do not require a lot of attention from teachers when they are helping to kids.
Comparing to Lithuania
An important aspect is to understand Lithuanian situation, with the school system in its present form being only 17 years old, following independence in 1991. A lot of the present education professionals had experience oof the previous Soviet system so first of all they needed to reorganise all system, change their curriculum, and focus on children and families.
Lithuanian children stay with the same teachers and group of children for up to four years. One kindergarten group has a teacher and an assistant for a maximum of 20 children.
Lithuanian kindergartens use a variety of curricula: groups following, Steiner, Montessori, ‘Step by Step’ as well as some Lithuanian programmes. Kindergartens do not teach reading or writing (the same in Norway), but have a focus on personal and social development: music, drama, oral and story telling skills, physical development, and motor skills developed through a wide range of art and craft activities.
Each class group had a cloakroom with seats and lockers, a large bright teaching room and a room with beds. All kindergartens have a hall, for music and physical education and extensive grounds with fixed outdoor equipment. Kindergartens have a specialist music teacher, with children having 2 lessons a week. The extended time spent on learning through play and on developing personal social and emotional skills seems to equip the children more suitably for a formal education