Red Lake Nation News - Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

Kindergarten, Naturally


“To the brook! To the brook!” the three girls chanted in Finnish as they skipped through the forest. Within a few minutes, the other kindergartners had joined them in the fern-covered gully. As their teacher Kaija Pelo and I stood on a hill observing the children at play below us, two boys in baseball caps poked sticks into the brook (Pelo said they were “fishing”) while other children teetered across a fallen pine tree, which served as a natural bridge over the running water. Most kindergartners, though, appeared to be doing nothing except wandering along the length of the brook.

For these 5- and 6-year-olds, this forest is their kindergarten classroom—nearly 80 percent of the time.

Four days a week, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (Finland’s required amount of daily kindergarten instruction), this group of 14 children is outside with their veteran teacher and two classroom aides. In Finland, this is not a typical kindergarten setting (only a handful of forest kindergartens exist in this Nordic country), but in Europe, such places have been popular for decades.


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