Mojca NASTRAN and Aleš GOLOB
Institution: University of Ljubljana – Slovenia
Keywords: Forest Pedagogy, Kindergarten Teachers, Urban Forest Preferences, Educational Forest Function
Trends in children education which attribute less importance to direct experience in nature, the structure of cities and the time pressure on parents and educators have a significant impact on reducing the time a child spends in nature. Outdoor education and forest pedagogy developed in Slovenia relatively late in relation to other European countries. Urban forests play in forest pedagogy an extremely important role, since they are usually the closest natural environment for many children involved in child care programs. Institutions such as kindergartens are important in the life of children in the pre-school age, as they spend there a considerable part of their time. For children to spend more time in nature, one of the useful alternatives is visiting the forest with the kindergarten through its programs.
In the last decade, forest pedagogy has been introduced into the annual plans of schools and kindergartens in Slovenia, primarily through the project work. In 2010, the Institute for Forest Pedagogics has been established, who initiated the Network of Forest Kindergartens and Schools of Slovenia in 2014 (Network). A great factor determining the frequency, the way and the reason for visiting the forest with the kindergarten groups is the preferences and perceptions of the kindergarten teachers. With the survey, we determine which factors influence the visit of forests within the kindergartens’ programs and how kindergarten teachers perceive the forest as an environment for learning and play. We compare the views of public kindergartens’ teachers, which are included in the Network and the ones not included. There are some differences in perceptions, which probably have occurred through the education of teachers about forest pedagogy and with the more frequent practice of visiting the forest.
The survey also observed what kind of forest seems to be the most appropriate to teachers for a visit with a group of children. On the basis of these findings we propose areas of urban forest with an emphasized educational function on the case study of The city of Ljubljana, which should be one of the basis for planning and managing urban forests.