Promoting Professional Development and Best Practice in EE
What are the characteristics of nature preschools in Norway, and how do they organize their daily activities?
Nature preschools in Norway spend a large amount of time in nature and allow the children a significant amount of freedom and trust
Two questions were addressed in this exploratory study: (1) how do nature preschools in Norway differ from other Norwegian preschools? and (2) how do the nature preschools organize their activities so that they are able to spend time in nature? Fifty-six nature preschools and fifty-two other preschools participated in the study.
A questionnaire was used to collect data about the respondents, the characteristics of the preschool, the characteristics of the outdoor activities, and curricular content. A total of 106 headmasters and 98 pedagogical leaders from both nature preschools and other preschools completed the questionnaire. Interviews were conducted with six educators from different nature preschools (two public and four private) and focused on the process of organizing a nature preschool.
Findings indicated that most nature preschools in Norway are private and have less children and staff than other preschools. Nature preschools also have more “reference areas” in nature and visit these areas more frequently than other preschools. Reference areas are places outside of the centers’ boundaries and serve as regular destinations for outdoor activities. Overall, 43% of the nature preschools use the areas outside the preschool on a daily basis, and 76% of the nature preschools spend at least every second day away from the preschool. Only 15% of the comparison preschools do the same. Additionally, nature preschools spend significantly more time away from the preschool when visiting a reference area than the comparison preschools. Four hours away is typical for the nature preschools, while less than three hours is more typical of the other preschools.
Nature preschools tend to be smaller than other preschools – that is, having fewer children and staff. Groups in nature preschools are also often smaller than groups in other preschools. In nature preschools, groups often consist of two adults and 12 children (aged 3-6 years); other preschools typically have three adults and approximately 18–20 children.
Not only do nature preschools spend a large amount of time in nature, they also have routines and rules that allow the children a significant amount of freedom and trust. Teachers in nature preschools also enjoy a great deal of freedom and flexibility in how they organize such routines as meals and snacks and how they spend their time with the children.
This study differs from some of the other studies focusing on the background and growth of nature preschools in Norway by investigating the practices in place in nature preschools and comparing them with other types of preschools in Norway.