Is the space a part of nature?
Experience (space) nature
"Nature is not a place to be visited, it is home." Gary Snyder
If we travel back in our thoughts to happy childhood days, to the most beautiful memories, to our inner home, we inevitably end up in nature. The self-built dam on the brook, the new "home" for the millipede, the self-built hut in the forest ... There is no doubt that nature has an almost magical attraction for children. So it is not the newly created adventure playground, but the forest behind it that invites the children to play. But what is the reason for this attraction? Why are children drawn to nature?
Nature as a space for development
For us adults, nature is usually a place to relax, slow down and relax. For children, however, it is much more than that, it is a space for development. Herbert Renz-Polster and Gerald Hüther describe this as follows: “For children, nature is as essential as good nutrition. It is your ancestral development space. Here the children come across four non-negotiable sources for their development: freedom, immediacy, resilience, relatedness "(Renz-Polster / Hüther 2019, p.9)
We spent most of human history outdoors. The children also had their essential life experiences there. And today? Today children no longer grow up in nature. Rather, it hardly finds a place in our modern, structured world. And yet it is there in the children's games - when building caves and huts, collecting chestnuts or with original motifs in children's games, such as hunting. The four elements are also recurring, popular game motifs - fire and water in particular have an incredibly powerful effect on children. Just think of a toddler playing with a jet of water. Completely absorbed and highly concentrated, it tries again and again to catch the water, to divert it from its path, to fill it into a cup ... (cf. ibid, p.38f).
Fascination with nature
What is the reason for this attraction? What special development opportunities are there in nature? It offers a special variety of different stimuli for the child without, however, leading to an overload of stimuli. With its rich selection, nature offers every child the appropriate environment to face their respective zone of the next development. In doing so, they have to deal with the impassability of nature - it does not adapt to the needs of the children, but conversely the children have to adapt to nature - they become resistant, resilient. I am thinking particularly of the moments of happiness that children (and adults too) feel when a challenge succeeds after numerous failures and the satisfying and formative feeling of self-efficacy sets in. In dealing with nature, holistic learning is made possible in a special way. This is where the sensual access, which is particularly important for younger children, is given. The focus is on the immediacy of experiences. IngridMiklitz sums this up as follows: “The natural space offers ideal conditions for experiences with real objects, first-hand sensory experiences. And these objects give off specific scents and sounds depending on the time of day and season. They change their appearance in the course of the day and the year, appear again and again in changing light qualities in an exciting and stimulating way ”(Miklitz 2019, p.33). Nature and its phenomena encourage children to research, discover and reflect; they offer children a non-pre-structured framework. This gives them the opportunity to move around freely, to have their own learning experiences and thus to experience freedom, autonomy and, as already mentioned, self-efficacy in a special way. You can lose yourself completely in your actions and sometimes experience very coherent situations. Situations that are understandable, manageable and significant for the children - in short: coherent.
The children's group itself is of particular importance. Many challenges, such as building a hut or a camp, can only be mastered together. The children have to act as a group and thus experience a bond with other people. Can or should children therefore only be outside? No, outside and inside spaces have their right to exist. “Some experiences are best outside, some are best inside. Some inside and outside. So it is not important to position the world outside against the world inside (Renz-Polster / Hüther 2019, p.64).
If this is transferred to the educational areas, it becomes apparent that some educational areas particularly benefit from the implementation “outside”. Is it easier to research and discover than in nature? Here children almost stumble upon natural phenomena, wanting to fathom and understand them. Or also movement? No movement landscape, no matter how well thought out, can ever offer the incentive and diversity that children find in nature. And the big questions about the cycle of life and death, growth and decay, are primarily posed to the children outside - when they are simply people in the world.
Let's look back at the opening quote: Does nature offer children a home? Herbert Renz-Polster and Gerald Hüther answer this with a resounding yes. “We have seen that if children have access to natural places, they can actually make something like a home out of them. They make bonds. And they often arise from very simple, direct experiences - body experiences, smells, through elementary experiences of nature. And what they feel there makes it easier for them to experience the world as a place that means well to them. When would we need that more than today? ”(Renz-Polster / Hüther 2019, p.70).
Renz-Polster, Herbert; Hüther, Gerald (2019): How children grow today. Nature as a space for development. A new look at child learning, feeling and thinking. 5th edition. Weinheim, Beltz
Miklitz, Ingrid (2019): Natural space education in day care. Freiburg im Breisgau, Herder
Note: Quote from Gary Snyder, environmental activist and author, found on Hartmut Krinitz. Available at: https://www.hartmut-krinitz.de/gedanken-zitate.html (last accessed on July 26, 2020)
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