Connecting with Nature, Early Childhood Care and Education in Norway
The overall aim of the study visit was to allow trainers, early childhood specialists, siolta co-ordinators and providers to experience the approach to ECCE in another European country, through structured learning, lectures, seminars, discussion and on site visits to childcare settings and ECCE colleges.
The study visit was funded under EU Leargas Leonardo Da Vinci Mobility Programme.
- Summary of the Study Visit
- The experience of a participant on the Study Visit
- Future Study Visits
The objectives of the programme were that on completion the participants would be able to:
Use the learning gained on the study trip in the delivery of ECCE childcare training to students/practitioners nationally, who will use the knowledge to implement and improve quality practice in childcare settings
Connect theory to practice through their participation in onsite visits and observation on how policy is implemented in practice
Demonstrate how to document this approach by using photographs audio recordings and reflective notes
Support the acquisition of knowledge of the childcare practitioner thereby up skilling practitioners in the work environment
Describe the Norwegian approach to childcare both indoors and outdoors
Articulate how this study trip has enhanced and increased their childcare knowledge and their own professional learning share their knowledge with a wide range of stakeholders e.g. students /practitioners/parents/policy makers/county childcare committees/ pre-school inspectorate
The group took a very focused approach to the visit, investigating different aspects of practice on the site visits and through the lectures attended. This was then explored further in reflective discussion groups at the end of each day, outlining what had been observed and what the implications of this would be for policy, practice and training in Ireland.
The 1st day of the trip started with a visit to one of the oldest kindergartens in Norway, situated in the centre of Trondheim. This involved observing children engaging in the outdoors with a range of natural equipment from sand to blocks, tricycles, slides etc. The most notable observations were how the children moved between the outdoors and indoors and the lack of interference from adults who were always in the background, available but trusting the children in their play.
This was followed by a tour of Queen Maud University by the international co coordinator and a lecture on qualifications in Norway (all preschool leaders/teachers have a 3 year bachelor degree and assistants do not have to be qualified.)
Next on the agenda was a visit to Trondheim Municipality and a lecture from Rognhild Granskogen, Advisor Section Education and Early Development, City Hall on policy and about how kindergartens are inspected and monitored. (50% of kindergartens and community based and the other 50% private but they all follow the same framework in terms of curriculum.) Unlike Ireland inspections are undertaken every 3 years and are carried out using a variety of methodologies, for example they may come to look at a specific area only; such as the outdoor/the home corner etc. This provides a more focussed approach. If problems are reported they will carry out a full inspection.
On the 2nd day participants attended lectures on the history of kindergartens, the influence of various people, such as Maria Montessori and the way in which the kindergarten developed alongside policy. This led to discussions on policy in Ireland and its development compared to what happens in Norway.
On the 3rd day the group visited an outdoor kindergarten outside the city. The children were outside from as young as a year old, busily playing in the forest with water sand stones sticks all form the environment. It was notable that there were a high number of men working in the kindergarten and this led to a discussion about the advantages of having men in childcare. In general parents provide the food and extra clothing, however, the kindergarten provides a hot meal 3 times a week which is sometimes cooked in the outdoors and the children are able to participate and help in the preparation.
This was followed by a visit to Moholt kindergarten, Sit Barn. The principal provided a lecture on her kindergarten which essentially provides childcare for students at the university close by. Again the children are provided with large outdoor spaces and lots of natural materials in the environment. A lot of emphasis is put on providing facilities for the students’ specific needs for example when students have exams the kindergarten provides extra times for their children so that they can study or do exams. They also provide language programmes for parents who do not have Norwegian as their first language. In addition to this cultural days are held on Saturda where the focus is on supporting children whose first language is not Norwegian.
On the 4th day the group attended Queen Maud University and heard a lecture on the Norwegian Framework Plan for the Content and tasks of Norwegian Kindergartens. This was followed by a lecture on Risky Play which provided an opportunity to explore the different categories of risky play and how it is supported in Norwegian kindergartens.
The group then visited the outdoor section of Fjaeraskogen Kindergarten where they were able to observe first-hand the children interacting with the environment in many different ways. Children climbed trees to the level that they felt comfortable with which was sometimes extremely high. The adults were always nearby but never in the children’s actual space, except when necessary.
On the final day the group again attended Queen Maud University and received lectures on a range of topics including; physical and outdoor activities and information about a mentoring programme being introduced in Norway for initial preschool teachers. The group also attended a lecture on Outdoor and Nature Kindergartens which was particularly interesting as the lecturer had just returned from Ireland, where he had spent a number of weeks in childcare centres in Donegal. This resulted in a discussion of the similarities and differences between Norway and Ireland.
The final event was a visit to the Queen Maud University Kindergarten. This kindergarten represents the Irish model of service in terms of its layout inside and outdoors. The principal described the service its staffing qualifications. How they support Additional needs quality, parent’s diversity and provided a very comprehensive overview of the childcare sector in Norway.
The following were outlined by one of the participants on the study visit, as the most striking observations and highlights from the visit:
The freedom and space that the children have, even in urban areas.
The completely different cultural attitude to the outdoors, which is a very important part of every Norwegian’s daily life.
Children attend kindergartens until they are around 6 years old.
Children are given the opportunity to play independently a their competencies are built on by the face that they are provided with opportunities for challenging and risk assessment.
Some services would allow the children to be outside for most of the day, in spite of the their weather being much colder in Ireland – demonstrating that the weather need not be an excuse for keeping the children indoors.
The children are always dressed for the weather – outdoor clothing and haversacks are part of every child’s school equipment.
The city of Trondheim allows free travel for children from 9am to 2pm every day and this allows them to go on frequent outings to the city, sea and forests.
In general the children are given the space, freedom and scope to use their imaginations, in nature, surrounded by natural materials.
Early Childhood Ireland leads the sector in facilitating these visits and has secured funding for 4 further study visits to the following countries:
from June 2012 to December 2013.
Application forms and further details will be advertised on our website over the coming months.