Tony blog post #8- 8.04.13:
I can remember the exact day that I was inspired to learn about Scandinavian attitudes towards children and outdoor play. On 17th September 2005 I attended a Children’s Services Conference in Coffs Harbour and heard a lady from the Mia Mia Early Childhood Centre at Macquarie University speak about her recent study trip to Norway. The images that stuck in my mind include children playing in the forests, climbing trees, making cubby houses and infants sleeping outside in prams in the snow! I told my mum right then that I wanted to go there and see it for myself. It took almost exactly 7 years but on the 17th of August 2012 I arrived in Oslo, Norway with my wife on our honeymoon and my Scandinavian adventure!
Alana and I spent three weeks travelling and exploring in the Netherlands and Scandinavia. From Australia there are probably not many further places you could go for a honeymoon but it was one of the highlights of my life! The people, the settings and the outdoor preschools were amazing. Being a last minute holiday I didn’t have time to organize any planned nature preschool training but I was lucky enough to ‘wing it’ and have a chance to see a couple of different outdoor preschools in Denmark and in Norway.
“Ok, so we just got back from a nature kindergarten, Burlunden in Dragor, a state/city run kindergarten on at least 3 acre block.
Flat, green and shady/sunny. 60 year old centre catering for 100 children daily from 7am-5pm. Bus pick up available. Small town area out of Copenhagen city (20 minutes away).
Run by Arme, we were welcomed by Tanya who guided us around and showed us the extensive grounds (where the pool used to be, younger children’s areas). Preschool for 2 years 9 months to 6 years.
When we walked around there were children and staff setting up tents, feeding rabbits, chickens and small goats, using bike tracks, forts, climbing frames and trees. There was a large soccer pitch, seats/tables, swings, a flying fox, a fallen tree, fire places, small huts and houses, forest areas inside yard.
Children eat meals provided (inside). Staff follow children’s interests, talk to parents, fill out daily journal of activities.
Great fun to see another centre (in another country!).
Taxi ride to preschool. Card payment not accepted. Had to borrow 290 danish kroners (cash) from a staff member! (Note: we paid them back the following day!)
On arrival a boy asked, “Are you from England?” (Note: Most Scandinavian countries are bi or multi- lingual including English and their home language, this was the only boy who spoke or understood my Australian English well enough to converse with me!)
Showing Tanya and children Australia on the map and kangaroos on our school oval (via images on my phone)
The highlight of the day was starting a game of soccer with three boys without using English. They could not understand me and I could not understand them but the game started and we played for about 15 minutes. More children arrived and we laughed about counting goals (as we could not agree to count in English or Danish) and the only English we shared was ‘red card!”
An English speaking parent gave us a lift to metro station (during which we briefly discussed childcare in Denmark) and then we caught city rail to the station near our hotel and walked back.”
20th August 2012 (In Norway):
“Have a window of opportunity to visit a Norwegian nature kindergarten (“friluftsbarnehage”) at Voksenkollen this morning. Left at 8:30am, 35 minute train ride to Voksenkollen. Kindergarten is across the road from train station. Trains leave Oslo every 15 minutes.
Departure time will be very important if I want to make it back in time and not stress Alana out. Tour train to Voss leaves at 10:30am. I wonder what the alternative is. I hope we don’t have to find out!
Already the train is filling with preschool children (and I can’t spot their parents/carers). Everyone is keeping an eye out for them but it is very unusual.
I wonder if they are headed to voksenkollen? They seem well equipped, most with boots, all with bags and jackets.
As we have got further out of town, adults have reduced in number. More children are getting on at every stop and being handed to what appears to be carers. Is this the train pick up service? No sign in.
(End of note-taking: I struck up conversation with a carer and then found the nature kindergarten and spoke with the director, Roni Storli for about an hour)
“Wow, what an opportunity and experience. Firstly on the train! Four different groups collecting children for kindergarten.
Welcomed into a kindergarten with many men. 60:40 ration men:women carers. Had to laugh at myself being called a ‘pioneer’ for men in childcare in Australia when there are so many men working in Norwegian childcare! (Note: 2% of Australian childcare workers are male, 20% of Norwegian childcare workers are male!)
Roni spending time with me showing me his centre and program. Tours, learning outcomes and documentation, parent newsletters.
Just the concepts and photos! Key concept is that the parents (and country) value being outdoors. That is the difference.”
(Note: I made it back to the station and Alana JUST in time!)
These experiences were amazing and deeply inspiring. We had already visited a lot of the playgrounds and areas for children in the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway (and later Sweden). I read all the English notes and resources I was given and spoke about my experience and visions for childcare with Alana for the following 7 hour train ride (sorry babe!). The only thing that impressed me more than the nature preschools in Scandinavia was the breath-taking beauty of Norway’s countryside. The fjord tour was awesome and I am glad we travelled halfway around the world to be there!
Tony Kee. 2012. Journal notes
Mia Mia Early learning Centre. http://www.miamia.mq.edu.au/index.htm