Nature kindergartens: a space for children’s participation
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionAlme, H., & Reime, M. A. (2021). Nature kindergartens: a space for children’s participation. Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education, 24(2), 113-131. 10.1007/s42322-021-00081-y
Children’s right to participate has become internationally recognised and the early years are a pivotal phase for realising children’s rights. Knowledge of how young children can enact their right to participation in different environmental and educational contexts is important for improving and facilitating pedagogical practices around the world. The use of the natural environment for educational purposes has become increasingly popular in the Nordic countries, the UK, Australia and in the United States. In this article, we explore how children and staff experience children’s participation through play and everyday life in kindergartens that organise most of the days outside. In Norway they are referred to as nature kindergartens. The primary data sources are focus group interviews with 30 children and 20 staff members from six nature kindergartens in Norway. The results show that the open and fluid character of nature creates a dynamic space for children’s play, stimulates creativity and social inclusion, promotes responsibility, and facilitates generational interdependency. Staff promote and participate in children’s initiatives but refrain from introducing and controlling activities. We conclude that the environmental and educational contexts in nature-kindergartens offer a range of participative situations while questioning whether all children have the capabilities for required active engagement.