Monday, April 14, 2008

Nature's call

No, no, this isn't about potty training. It's about kindergarten in Germany - a new (old for some) custom is spreading of having school in the woods. Not only does this result in fewer sicknesses in the kiddies, but (theoretically) it makes them more relaxed in the long run. As my microbiology teacher used to say, if your children eat a teaspoon of dirt every day, they will be healthier.

Of course, the parents aren't always thrilled about these Waldkindergรคrten - the theme of rolling in mud occurs no fewer than four times in the article. Some other fun activities these kids do:
  • "Another [girl] made "chocolate-vanilla-strawberry-herbal pudding" by stirring mud with a twig." The "herbal" part is something I would expect to be in Germany.
  • "A boy named Ben wanted to know whether a North American visitor accompanying them was "a cowboy or an Indian.""
  • In an American version, things are quite similar. "Among the nature-based activities, children learn how to handle a real saw." Contrast this with a mother I knew who wouldn't let even her 12-year-old use a butter knife alone.
The principal of the U.S. Waldkindergarten has sharp words for today's school system:
Marsha Johnson launched Mother Earth kindergarten last fall to combat what she calls "early academic fatigue syndrome....We have 5-year-olds who are tired of going to school."
Now, tell me, could this have any connection with our schoolchildren peaking in science (or math, or...) in 4th grade, dropping to the middle in 8th, and not being able to get through college without remedial courses? At what age do they enter school? Three years old? What if we moved the school entry date ahead four to eight years (and yes, I have read research demonstrating that a great number of children are not ready for school-style work until that 7-11 year window)? Could that shift the "peak" grade ahead by that much? More on that, hopefully, in the future.

3 comments:

WomanHonorThyself said...

interesting piece Hannah!...I used to teach in another lifetime..heh :)

MK said...

Another thing parents don't always consider is that school is not always for everyone, some children hate school but can do so much better out by themselves. I know i hated school but had to make it through, didn't have a choice. Sometimes i wonder if i should go back to school/college to learn something i like, but i can't do it. The thought of being trapped there again is just too much.

elephantschild said...

Oh, this is just precious. Now we need professional educators to tell us that children need to be able to...

wait for it...

just be children?

Oy vey.