The Canadian Record (Canadian, Tex.), Vol. 118, No. 16, Ed. 1 Thursday, April 17, 2008 Page: 19 of 36
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THE CANADIAN RECORD
THURSDAY 1 "7 APRIL ZOOS
Mary Jane McKinney
INTO THE WDDDS may be where future kindergartners go instead of into a classroom—
in Scandinavia, Switzerland, Austria, and Germany, that is. While the U.S. has decided
to speed up learning at the kindergarten level, some European countries have been
slowing down the learning and concentrating on emotional and physical development.
For the past 10 years, Germany has offered parents an option to the traditional class-
room. "Forest" kindergarten is conducted entirely outdoors where 3-6-year-olds spend
their school day in the forest, the countryside, or on the beach.
Forest kindergartens started in Denmark in the 1950s and spread to other Scan-
dinavian countries. The concept has influenced the kindergarten movement much like
Montessori and Waldorf school philosophies have had an impact on pre-school education
The basic idea is to prepare children for a rigorous curriculum by developing their in-
dependence, self-confidence, and resourcefulness. The outdoor environment stimulates
their senses and imaginations. They learn through discovery, independent exploration,
and both unstructured and structured play. Forest children do not play with toys, and
there are no blackboards or computers in the woods. Children improvise playthings by
using sticks, rocks, moss, shells, and anything else they find in the natural setting.
Kindergarten is not mandatory in Germany where children are required to attend
school at age 7. There is also no national curriculum for kindergarten. A typical forest
kindergarten class has 15 students supervised by two professional teachers. Children
in cities are bussed to the forest, countryside, or coast and stay outdoors from 8:00 a.m.
to 12:30 p.m. If the weather is bad, they can seek shelter in a heated trailer. Otherwise,
they are free to engage in unstructured play and teacher-led activities.
Today there are 700 forest kindergartens in Germany. The first 10-year studies of the
effects of outdoor schooling have recently been published. Here are some of the findings:
•Forest students do not get sick as often as classroom students.
•Forest students are behind classroom students in writing skills.
•Forest students are behind classroom students in identifying colors, forms, and
•Forest students develop concentration skills superior to classroom students.
•Forest students develop communication skills superior to classroom students.
The forest schools present "an unlimited range of questioning possibilities," says
Gerd Schafer, a University of Cologne authority on pre-school education. "In an indoor
classroom... the questions kids ask are often those that adults want them to ask." Out-
doors, he adds, "the likelihood of asking 'What is this?' or 'Where does this come from?'
becomes much greater." Natacha Lautenschlager, a forest teacher, points out that "a
playground doesn't change. A slide remains a slide. But nature evolves and lives."
One of the many negative results of No Child Left Behind is that 5-year-olds don't
like school. NCLB's philosophy is to cram as much knowledge and skills into children as
early as possible from kindergarten on in order to prepare them for competition in the
global economy. Contradicting this "education assembly line" approach is the belief that
the edge in competing globally belongs to countries that produce innovators—people
with highly developed imaginations who solve problems and invent new technologies.
Studies show that open-ended learning and unstructured play develop thinking and
imagination in all children.
The education debate will get into full swing after the November election. Lucrative
government contracts are at stake under NCLB's test-based approach to learning. As
the education lobbyists circle Capitol Hill, will it occur to anyone in Congress that we are
on the wrong track? That other countries whose students outperform ours are going n
a totally different direction? NCLB's worst legacy may be that our children, beginning
with kindergarten, have come to dread going to school.
E[ FDR'S Nl Mary Jane McKinney is the founder and CEOofGrammardog.com LLC,
a publisher of grammar exercises. She has used her English degree as a teacher, editor,
reporter, and marketing executive. Readers who have questions or comments on this col-
umn are welcome to write to the author in care of The Canadian Record, PO Box 898,
Canadian, TX 79014, or by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Aunt'5 UTTLE H005E
SING MONEY FDR THE LITTLE HOUSE: Rachel's Little House is raffling a utility trailer as a
springfundraiser. The winner's name will be drawn on June 13. The trailer was built in six weeks
last fall by the students in Ag Science teacher Tonny Hornby's Metal Fabrication class. Tickets
for the raffle are $5 each and $20 for 5 tickets. To purchase tickets, call the Little House Execu-
tive Director Dana Koch at 323-6261 or contact a board member: Jan Mathews, Robert Ez-
zell, Sam Hancock, Alice Bentley, Rosemary Koetting, Kelley Cameron, Penny Clark or Lauren
Haley. Pictured in the photo are Ag students: (front row, l-r) Ryan Spence, Jordan Ries, Dustin
Cagle, Ashleigh Demeritt; (back) Emmett Webb, Andy Ford, Will Schafer, John Haley and Jacob
KIDS G TTING HEALTHY: The Canadian Area Family YMCA's 2nd Annual "YMCA Healthy Kids
Day" was held on Saturday, April 12. The event was a free day for the community designed to
promote healthy kids and families. YMCA Instructor Lydia Nix (in center of photo) demonstrated
an aerobics class and showed the children proper techniques to lifting weights and using cardio
equipment. Activities included an obstacle course and a 1-mile fun run/walk. The children also
made a Bubbling Lava Lamp and finished the day with a nice refreshing snack of fresh fruits
and vegetables. YMCA Healthy Kids Day was locally sponsored by: Alco Discount Store, Dairy
Queen, Pizza Hut, and Lowe's and nationally by Disney Channel, Lilly, Northwestern Mutual
Foundation and Tropicana.
TOP CDDKIE SELLER: Brianna Coombs earned the title of Top
Cookie Seller for Girl Scout Troop #371 during the 2008 Cookie
Drive. She sold 430 boxes. Altogether, Brianna and the other
18 girls in the Troop sold more than 3,900 boxes of cookies this
year. A portion of the profits from the cookie sales provides the
Troop with funds to take special trips throughout the year as well
as Christmas gifts for children who would not have had presents.
"The Girl Scouts of Canadian want to thank the many people of
this community who purchased cookies for the annual fundrais-
er,"said Troop leader Julie Cooke.
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Brown, Laurie Ezzell. The Canadian Record (Canadian, Tex.), Vol. 118, No. 16, Ed. 1 Thursday, April 17, 2008, newspaper, April 17, 2008; Canadian, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth252700/m1/19/: accessed October 20, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Hemphill County Library.