Outdoor day-care centres - a culturalization of nature: how do children relate to nature as educational practice?

  • Cathrine Melhuus E
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Abstract

This article will discuss how children and adults experience a certain outdoor environment as part of an educational practice, through the activities the adults and children have. It will further discuss how these activities realize cultural values through the educators' and children's activities. In Norway the use of outdoor environments has become increasingly central as part of the pedagogical/educational practice (in both schools and kindergartens). The outdoor kindergartens in Norway are organized in different ways, the common feature being that the educationist and the children are outdoors the most of the day, every day, in all sorts of weather. The outdoor kindergartens leave traces in natural environments surrounding rural and urban districts that signify educational practice that can seem as opposed to ordinary kindergartens. This article is based on fieldwork in a Norwegian outdoor kindergarten. Room and place are crucial to people who inhabit them. Gagen (2000, 213) says the following: Learning environments, then, are often places through which children become aware of, and begin reproducing, social identities that circulate through broader social space. Natural environments can be thought of as places free of defined structures that dictates how the place is used. But as soon as a place is populated certain structures will be established. My study of an outdoor kindergarten shows that children structured the place and the artefacts so that they became part of the children's understanding of the social life they were a part of. Through play children make connections between the forest space and 'the modern world', building bridges between different contexts, or one could say recontextualize the given space. At the same time as children were seen to cross boarders, they also seemed to hold on to other social contexts, gender being one of them. So nature can constrain given notions instead of freeing them, maybe because nature as such has a conservative influence, by not having any structures that provoke common thinking? The last sentences omitted. © 2012 Copyright EECERA.

Author-supplied keywords

  • artefacts
  • contextualisation
  • nature and childhood
  • outdoor environments
  • place
  • space

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Authors

  • E. Cathrine Melhuus

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