Forest kindergarten, forest school

Sixty percent of Slovenia is covered with forests, which are undoubtedly healthy living environments. Nature is everywhere around us. In the Slovenian landscape the forest carries out a number of functions: it preserves biodiversity, mitigates climate change, is important for the retention of water, is a place for relaxation and recreation, and much more. In addition to all of these tasks, in recent years the forest area is becoming interesting also to schools and kindergartens. The schools and kindergartens that are regularly carrying out the education/learning process in the forest are noticing significant progress in some areas of child development.

Most schools and kindergartens in Slovenia have access to the forest without the use of a means of transport. But in the past, and probably in much of today's education, the school is still focused on the classroom, the text in the form of transferable knowledge and on the teacher as an expert. The curriculum consists of selected academic knowledge. In our country education outside the classroom is not a legal requisite, so the decision to leave the classroom is in the hands of individual teachers, kindergartens or schools.

Teaching in natural areas near kindergartens and schools is more than suitable for the holistic development of children, schools and kindergartens, and also of the local communities. Forest classrooms and outdoor teaching provide enough space for academic skills, for developing social skills, experiences, participation and personal commitment, curiosity, imagination, and a spontaneous individual initiative. Our natural surroundings are a place where we can develop identity and a sense of space, while enjoying the space and, of course, always returning to it.

So, what is it in Slovenia that can transform an "ordinary kindergarten or school" into a forest kindergarten or school?

  • The use of the nearby forest or natural environment, which is selected on the basis of criteria such as accessibility, health, and safety;
  • Regular, frequent visits to the forest (natural environment) weekly or fortnightly for kindergartens and monthly for the schools, all-year-round;
  • The activities take into account the abilities of the children and their individual characteristics;
  • Exploring and learning has the characteristics of open learning;
  • Everybody feels good in a natural environment, including the teaching staff.

What does a forest kindergarten or forest school mean in practice?

  • It means quite simple actions:
  • Moving the class outside,
  • Learning songs on the meadow,
  • Repeating multiplication under a tree,
  • Taking a group of children out of the kindergarten to the forest and creating a forest playground,
  • Teaching them the ABCs - of nature,
  • Helping children achieve their goals,
  • Using the forest as a learning tool,
  • Creating a network of local natural environments for learning.