In October 2018 the Green School of Cluj-Napoca invited to a conference in its premises. The theme of the event was “Grammar in nature”, the aim was to exchange passionately about education and learning in nature. Four experts from the field of education in nature were invited to the event:
Anca Stan Education coordinator of the association Helia in Romania. Karen MacLean, founder of Dem Gronn Friskó (Green Free School) in Copenhagen, Denmark. Petra Jäger, founder of the first recognised forest kindergarten in Germany in 1993, has been working for 25 years to spread the forest kindergarten movement first nationally and then internationally. Sonia Bercuci, founding member of the green school in Romania.
After Petra Jäger’s return she had time for an interview with us.
Infothek Waldkinder: Dear Petra, in October you travelled to Romania for a conference. What was the theme of the conference?
Petra Jäger: The “Green School” in Cluj-Napoco had invited to a weekend seminar where they introduced themselves with their concept and also presented the forest kindergarten on site. In addition, Karen Mac Lean from Denmark was invited by the FreeSchool Copenhagen and I as speaker. We were allowed to talk about growing up and learning in nature. Both of us also gave a little insight into our concept.
What impressed you the most there?
The warm welcome from our hosts overwhelmed us and the weekend there in Romania carried us for days after our return with a warm feeling. I am impressed by the passion and courage of Sonia, Nadia and Anca from green school. The first part of the seminar took place in an alternative cafe where normally many students showed up.
Cluj-Napoco has a university with a lot of students, so the cityscape is often dominated by young people. In the cafe there were delicious organic smoothies and people took a seat on pressed cardboard chairs and tables. A great idea for sustainability and modern design.
The young forest children movement in Romania initiates new projects in Romania. What kind of committed people did you meet there?
It is impressive with how much commitment and passion they put into their work. Anca the teacher and founder of the first forest kindergarten in Romania, we already met at a European meeting in Prague, showed at her presentation how many hurdles she had to overcome to get started, and what has already emerged from it. Sonia, the founder of the first nature school, convinced us of her work during her lecture and showed us with how little means it is possible to start such a school.
What did they say about their visions?
A vision that gives us an idea that Romania is certainly facing a small change with this pedagogical concept, more and more people are interested in this path. However, in this country it is still very difficult to name it economically, but that doesn’t prevent them from continuing on their path and living their dream. They want to support change in their country in order to stay and build a meaningful future.
Further forest kindergartens and forest schools are to be founded in the country. By further seminars and contacts to universities, by a network and exchange this group of interested paedagogues is to grow. There are already many interested parents and they assume that also here the numbers will rise considerably. The generation of the present parents has still true childhood memory of their time in nature, one had to live in and of it completely practically. Many families were able or even had to provide for themselves through agriculture and vegetable cultivation. In the big city you can buy fresh vegetables at the roadside, not only when it is market day. Unfortunately, young Romanians often want to go abroad to earn better money. But Sonia and Anca want to stay and set an example.
Which forest kindergarten projects are already active there? Could you also visit an institution?
We were allowed to visit the green school and the forest kindergarten of CLUJ Napoco on the two afternoons. Although it was a weekend and the children were of course at home,
it was still easy to see that a place was created here for children that offers great adventures and meaningful development spaces, where children feel safe and are lovingly and authentically accompanied by the teachers.
It takes a lot of courage, passion and enthusiasm for their goals. What convinced you about their ideas?
It was simply said, the charisma of the two educators Anca and Sonia and the fact that they are pursuing their plans in an economically so difficult country and continue to hold on to their idea.
They have thought through their concept well and reflect constantly, we are open to new thoughts and enter into real relationships with the parents, which carry the child and give them the necessary freedom for their development.
The movement in Romania is still young. What are the next steps to establish the concept of forest kindergartens there?
Seminars, creating networks, approaching universities and technical schools, informing parents and exchanging ideas with other countries. They are already very much looking forward to the International conference in Zurich 2019. They appreciate the time they will have together there at the event to make contact with many different countries. There in Zurich the same emotions and attitudes come together and all have a common goal: to accompany children into their home, namely into nature.
Editorial management: Christoph Lang, Nadja Hillgruber
Editorial design and implementation: Nadja Hillgruber, www.infothek-waldkinder.org
Picture credits: Photography & Video © Petra Jäger
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