Saturday, May 8, 2010

Nature's Role in Swedish Schools and
More Great Play and Public Spaces

I have discovered there are all kinds of people thinking outside of the square lines of the sandbox.

I was just discussing that it is not only the Waldorf schools in Sweden that have great play spaces and a focus on outdoor education, it is all the schools. Then while looking over the community website for Lund, I found some really great resources for teachers (and parents) to use in outdoor education. I realized part of why the play spaces are so inviting here and that teachers actually use them is that the Swedish teachers are educated to do so. Attention follows focus, and Swedes have consciously chosen to prioritize exposing children to the natural world.
This link to Lund Nature Schools can be translated with from Swedish if you want to read what type of (tax funded) education the teachers get to include nature in their classroom activities. There are courses for teachers on using technology outside, identifying butterflies, climate, and growing food. There is a specific intentional focus from the highest levels of the Swedish education system to get children outside, learn about nature, sustainabilty, and climate. The seventh link down on the menu translates to Nature Leaf School, and has some nice curriculum plans on ecology, mushrooms, bugs, astronomy, leaves, storms, and all kinds of things. Very helpful for me who is new to this climate and ecosystem!

There is also a resource list with a book about inviting outdoor play spaces that mentions the Coombes school outside London. I did a quick google search on the Coombes school and found the FreePlay Network and their Places for Play: The Exhibition that showcases creative play spaces. It makes me sad to think of all the money spent a few years ago on the fun, but predictable big metal play ground equipment in my old town in Florida. For all the money that was spent, they could have engaged some creative people to make neat natural forts of shell, sand, boulders, and logs....
That link shows the play spaces of the city of Freiburg Germany and says every play ground in Freiburg has a water pump so kids can make mud. How fun is that!? There are so many ways to make public space inviting and fun. I am glad to know creative people are imagining and building places for people to BE.
Malmö has some great public spaces in the Vastra Hamnen. This blog by someone studying public space had some interesting reviews of public spaces around the world, including the parks in Malmö. If the Vitsippia helped romance me into thinking the nature in Sweden was cool, it was the public space of the Vastra Hamnen- West Harbor that convinced me Sweden is a modern wonder.

Malmö has inviting and useful public space, and it was created with great intention. They even call that part of Malmö 'the city of the future'. It is better than Florida's Epcot center, which was Walt Disney's vision of a city of the future, an E.xperimental P.rototypical C.ity O.f T.omorrow made into an amusement park. Disney Inc. went onto create a real Disney city called 'Celebration', but it is just American tract housing with front porches, a throwback to 1950's ideals that never were, not a real vision of the future.

There is a guy in Florida now, Jacque Fresco, who built demos of his dream futuristic cities called The Venus Project in the middle of some cheap swamp land. These videos showcase is his vision of what cities of the future should be like. If you live in Florida, you can go tour his home and research center.

Where do the children play?
Where do you play?

I think the whole point in fostering a connection to nature in children is to preserve their creativity and connection to the natural world and their wildish wonderings, so they can use their whole self to imagine what kind of world they wish to have and be free to use their life energy to make that world a reality.


Andy said...

So much to get from all that, Heidi! I know for us, the big stumps left from the rotting trees we took down a couple yrs ago are the best play equipment we have (and the trampoline, and the zipline/giant swing, which all the kids love, because they defy gravity). It is safety, fort, table, boat, desk, bed, on and on! There is a ton of great literature out there about how important this all is, and about what losing this connection has done to us, for us. It's wonderful to see progress in action in Sweden - may it cross borders, and oceans, soon!

kollene carlsson said...

I couldn't agree more Heidi! I just love how nature focused the beautiful Swedes are! and how child friendly EVERYTHING is!!! I love that the kids can play everywhere and they learn while doing so! We looooove Vastra Hamnen in Malmo! I could just move there yesterday!!! It's so amazing... and while it's so posh and sexy it's totally down to nature and simplicity and that to me is Sweden... we are visiting this summer... July 6- Aug. 11... we'll see you guys k! xoxoxoxoox Happy Mother's Day! kram!

SwedeLife said...

Oh good, glad you are coming soon because I was just up in the cherry valley for a lovely solo mothers day hike and scampered up that incline we scaled together, it is the same time of year we had our picnic up there....the cherry valley wondered where your family is and told me to tell you hej....

Jen Hancock - A Happy Humanist said...

So cool that there is so much to do there and that you have settled in and are really enjoying yourself there.

I couldn't agree more. Kids need outside time to play and explore and look for bugs and make mud (which is super fun) and such. We just don't have enough wanderable spaces anymore where families can naturally congregate and the kids can explore the space together.

I think the other thing that happens is parents are afraid to let their kids get bored. But boredom foreces the kids to make something up to do so that they can in fact explore the details of the backyard.

One of my friends in scotland takes his grandkids to the forest near their home with magnifying glasses and then they trace out a footprint sized area and turn the kids loose.