Wednesday 15th October 2014
Today we were warned to wear good walking shoes/ boots as our day begun with a bus journey and 15 minutes walk to Haikasen Nature barnehage (Childcare facility) - a one year old building set in beautiful forest surroundings with a forest school philosophy of valuing nature and being in the outdoors.
Facilities for children and staff were impressive with lots of space, shower areas and equipment to protect staff from repetitive injuries. The sun was shining and the sky a clear blue and I felt really fortunate to have such a fantastic learning opportunity. The male principal/ leader discussed his ethos and shared a motto he uses to motivate his staff "If it's to be then it's up to me." Again another common sense mentality - of course staff need to take the responsibility for the quality of their interactions!
Clothing is important in the forest school set up and wet rooms where the children change from outdoor clothing are provided. Outdoor clothing was provided by parents and included boots, waterproof jackets and trousers, hat, gloves etc. Lidl and Aldi often supply similar outfits in Ireland!
I wandered around the building struck by the similarities to the Reggio Emilia approach inside. The setting was beautiful and different rooms offered small groups of children different experiences including art, nature projects, dance, drama, rest and even a meditation room for staff which the principal affectionately called the panic room. A sense of calm, quiet, respect and mindfulness for children and staff seemed highly valued.
Contents of the room change daily and included tepees, dens and other constructions made from natural materials. Project work was displayed throughout the rooms.
As we proceeded through to the outdoor playground area 3 children were climbing and descending a steep slope with a long rope trailing behind them. We explored the play area consisting of swings, planks and cylinders and even made our own see saw and experienced the much reported scary/ fun moment so highly valued in Norway.
Then for the hike. We ventured away from the playground into the forest. The principal openly laughed at our tendency to walk one behind the other. He explained that children were encouraged to find their own paths and to make their own way at their own pace, waiting at pre-determined meeting points. We crossed a small stream using planks and were suddenly transported into a sense of anticipation, fear and motivation.
We caught up to a group of children who had also ventured into the forest with their teachers as they were eating lunch. A lively discussion took place over the discovery of a den like hole over what animal lived within. I didn't spot any sign of a moose but apparently the area is also known for this large animal.
We stopped for our own lunch at a beautiful lake and the sense of being at one with nature was high.
We went on from this spot to visit another barnehage set close to an open museum which the children often visit. The building was not as modern or as aesthetically pleasing as the previous barnehage but the value of the outdoors and project work was highly evident alongside a high level respect for the individual child.
Children seem very agile in Norway and I am in awe at how rare their feet are actually on the floor. Climbing is encouraged. I watched enthralled at the capability of one child who climbed a branch structure to whittle the bark away from the smooth branch wood using a large metal tool as he straddled the branch in mid air.
Cooperation between children in the outdoors was highly evident in bike play where older children towed the younger children something I have often seen at Crawford Childcare in Glanmire also. Respect and learning how to act in social relationships being so key here.
Both barnehage support that it is up to the practitioner to know the child to provide the best experiences for them. Difficulties of hikes, sledding, cross country skiing and so much more needs to be assessed according to the child's abilities. Going with the flow means not allowing something to be so difficult that it results in anxiety nor to easy to result in boredom.
Wednesday 15th October 2014