Infothek Waldkinder: Can you explain to us what kind of a nature education institution “L’asilo nel bosco” is?
L’Asilo nel Bosco: “L’Asilo nel Bosco” is a kindergarten (kindergarten/pre-school 2-6 years) to which, this year, the primary school (6-10 years) “Piccola Polis” is attached. This project was inspired by the pedagogy of education in nature coming from the north of Europe (Germany and Scandinavia), together with emotional teaching.
What exactly do you do?
A typical day starts with the decision of the activities, that is done all together. The activities start after a short snack at 10 o’clock (there is no strict time for entrance, so as to give kids time to sleep or stay with their parents a little bit more, if possible). After the activities are over, the kids have lunch all together in the big open space used for eating.
The afternoon is the “leisure time” and it is time for each kid to do whatever they please: running, playing, sleeping, spending time on their own or in company, everyone is free to choose a playmate and an activity. It is a really usefull and important moment for teachers to observe the children. Kids go back home in the afternoon with their parents.
How long ago did your forest kindergarten open?
The “L’asilo nel Bosco” kindergarden opened since 2013.
Are you a publicly recognised institution?
We are a “private” structure as we have no economical support by the local or central government and the only funds we obtain come to us from the kindergarten and the fees that we receive from parents. At the same time though, we are a “public” structure as no kid was ever rejected because of economical issues. At the moment, only 60% of families pay the entire fee, to support those who cannot afford it. those who are not in the conditions to pay with money offer some of their time to help (cleaning, preparing meals, maintenance, etc. ...). We consider this a beautiful action towards the comunity.
How many children do you travel with? What are their different ages?
We manage 70 children totally. Ages from 2-3 to 5-6 year for the kindergarten (about 45 children). Ages from 6 to 7-8 for the primary school (“Piccola Polis” with 25 children).
How many educators look after the children?
In Italy the regulation requests 1 educator looks after 25 children. We consider this number absolutely crazy. You cannot get a good education level with a similar span of control. So we have 6 educators for the children of kindergarten and 4 for the primary school. Our span of control is 1 educator max 7-8 children.
What are your educators’ teaching qualifications?
They are educators following the recognised italian paths, they are requested by law. At the same time we have educators coming with different professions and/or different competencies and skills. We have musician, artists, carpenter and other professionals. Often, some students come to us to help and to run “training on the job”.
In Switzerland, our Dusse Verusse forest playgroups (3–5-year-olds) go out and about in the forests. A forest sofa (circular bench out of branches) provides the group with protection. They hang up a tarpaulin to make a roof when it rains. Depending on location, we are outdoors for 5 hours, 1–3 times per week, in a group size of 10–12 children with 2 nature educators. We cook lunch on the fire with the children. Do you cook on the fire with the children too?
It is not so common to have a fire in the pinewood, for different reasons but the first: it is not allowed by the italian laws. In Italy you cannot make fires in the wood and on the beaches. We often make fire, but only in our ground, close to the building we use, it is the only place where it is allowed.
What is your children’s favourite meal in the forest?
What a funny questions! Our children loves pasta with pumpkin. Anyway they eat pasta, meat, fish and vegetables, mainly vegetables coming from the near farms. Coming back to the food: we often eat out in the nature, but in that case we bring with us lunch or breaks that we can eat without warming them.
Are you exclusively outdoors with the children or do you also have an inside space available?
We are outdoor 95% of the time and the activities. Anyway, we have a space inside. Is up to the children decide if stay inside or outside, generally they prefer to go out because their curiosity.
What varied places do you have available outdoors, which you can visit with the children?
We have a pinewood all around us, with a river (Tiber) not far and some open grounds where some farms are producing vegetables. All these spaces are free to us. Very close, on the other side of a country road, there is a horse riding camp and a medieval small town opened to visit and forbidden to the cars.
What forest and nature education methods do you use?
We are not so “pure” on a specific pedagogic method. We strongly believe in unique of the child and the differences of the territories and of the communities living there. We are inspired mainly by the Scandinavian and Germany’s forest kindergarten and at the same time we follow the methods of the latin-american schools (free education), but we have some inspiration from other pedagogic methods too: Montessori, Rousseau, Steiner. Nature is the teacher for us, because nature provides with materials and drives the imagination.
Your photos on your homepage express lots of closeness to nature in your work with the children. What is special about your institution?
I think we have a lot of “special” things in our institution, but if I should mention one is: we have 70 families and they are a community taking care each other, giving each others and cooperating to allow to this wonderful small world to grow up.
“Less is more” is the motto when you are out and about outdoors with children. Playing with what nature gives us and Free Play are at the forefront. What are your experiences with this?
Our tools and toys are provided from the nature. We follow the path of animals, we discover the new vegetables, we collect leefs or pines from the forest. Then we build stories about these “gifts” and we use emotions to explain what the nature offered to us.
We also think it is very important to get parents excited about nature and entice them outdoors with special offers. What special offers do you have for parents and their children?
Parents are involved in the education path, we share with them the activities, the plans, the problems and the successes of their children. We try to address together problems, if any, or to develop exciting plans for the education. On daily bases they are involved in activities,
if their job allow them to be part of them, and sometimes we organise the “family weekends in nature”, to share all the family this educational approach. At the same time, we organise workshops and seminars for adults where all the parents are invited to share arguments regarding specific education method or related arguments.
46 places in Italy are illustrated on the map on your homepage, “Mappa delle Esperienze Educative in Natura”. How are we to interpret this map information?
At the moment we know there are about 60 kindergarten following the “nature education” style. They are “our friends”: together we can do more.
Some people are just starting with this kind of education method and they have start-up problems that others solved. So we create a network of competencies and mutual help and support. All together we can organize courses or workshop, and so on.
Do all the forest kindergartens work according to the same concept?
No. We are not a “franchisee”, we are all separated activities and experiences. Anyone uses her/his personal skills to provide what she/he thinks is the best for their kindergarten.
More over we have a very huge and different landscape, not all the people have a pinewood, some people are working in nature on mountains or others close to the sea. Italy offers tens of different landscape and any landscape can provide different input to educate. The key point is to be “part of the nature” and allow the “nature to educate”, but anyone of us use the method she/he prefer to be driven by the nature.
How do you network with one another / exchange information?
We are the first experience of “Asilo nel bosco”, so we were the point where all the informations were connected, but now the network is increased and became more indipendent. New places born, new activities make experiences and so the team is growing up without our control. It is a great, great and deep satisfactory experience. Our
project was a baby, now it is a children and is growing up again till to be a great mature adult! Our next objective is to convince the government to have a clear regulation (laws) to manage this kind of schools to became really “public” in any city in Italy. At the moment the law didn’t reflect this kind of education, we are working with “standard” regulation of the kindergarten that consider the building only! We are working all together to have this sorted out.
Editorial staff management: Christoph Lang, Nadja Hillgruber
Editorial creation and conversion: Nadja Hillgruber, www.infothek-waldkinder.org
photo credits: Fotografie © L’asilo nel Bosco/ Infothek Waldkinder
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