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Running Free in Germany’s Outdoor Preschools - The New York Times
"Robin Hood Waldkindergarten, which opened in 2005, is one of more than 1,500 waldkitas, or “forest kindergartens,” in Germany; Berlin alone has about 20. Most have opened in the last 15 years and are usually located in the city’s parks, with a bare-bones structure serving as a sort of home base, but others, like Robin Hood, rely on public transportation to shuttle their charges daily out into the wilderness, where they spend most of the day, regardless of weather. Toys, typically disparaged at waldkitas, are replaced by the imaginative use of sticks, rocks and leaves. A 2003 Ph.D. dissertation by Peter Häfner at Heidelberg University showed that graduates of German forest kindergartens had a “clear advantage” over the graduates of regular kindergartens, performing better in cognitive and physical ability, as well as in creativity and social development.

The American journalist Richard Louv, who coined the term “nature-deficit disorder” in his 2005 book, “Last Child in the Woods,” is cited often by Robin Hood staff, as is “Coyote’s Guide to Connecting With Nature,” by Jon Young, Ellen Haas and Evan McGown. (“Savage Park,” by Amy Fusselman, is another book that chronicles uninhibited play and was inspired by a visit to an adventure playground in Tokyo.) The pedagogical philosophy of waldkitas, which privileges outdoor play and hands-on environmental learning, comes originally from Scandinavia, but, as one teacher put it to me, “they don’t make a big fuss about it like they do here.” The trend’s non-Teutonic origins are somewhat surprising: There might be nothing “more German” than a state-funded preschool based primarily in a forest.

Germany has nearly three times as much protected land as the U.S., proportionate to the countries’ sizes, a nontrivial fact that highlights the way much of the country thinks about nature and its role in the emotional health of its citizens. “It’s terrible that kids today know all about technology but nothing about the little bird outside their window,” Peters said, gesturing out toward the woods and sounding like any number of quotable Germans, from Goethe to Beethoven to Bismarck, all of whom have rhapsodized on the psychic benefits of spending time in the forest. He continued: “In life, bad things happen — you lose your job or your partner or everyone just hates you — but you’ll always have this.”"



"THERE ARE SCATTERINGS of forest kindergartens in the U.S. as well as in the U.K. Even in Japan and South Korea, where education is famously strict, waldkitas are becoming increasingly popular. They have spread mostly through word-of-mouth among parents. And in Germany, it’s not just the wealthy — or the eccentric — who send their children. Like all other preschools in Berlin, tuition at Robin Hood is covered by the government for kids aged 2 through 6 (apart from a 100 euro per month fee because it’s a private school). New York City preschools can cost upward of $40,000 per year."
forestschools  preschool  schools  education  learning  children  germany  parenting  2017  nature  richardlouv  sfsh  amyfusselman  peterhäfner  outdoors  nyc  southkorea  japan  uk  berlin 
may 2017 by robertogreco

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