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A presentation of the outdoor education school i Eskilstuna, Naturskolan.

Kvarnstugan Skjulsta

Here follows the text:

Naturskolan in Eskilstuna – a presentation

Our building in Skjulsta is an old mill from the 17th century. It’s situated on a small island in the middle of the river of Eskilstuna about 4 km from the town centre. Long ago the farmers brought their grain here and citizens came to buy bags of flour. In 1920  the community took over the old rugged mill and rebuilt it into a place good for dancing and partying.

Back in 1991 the politicians cleared the community to start Naturskolan in Eskilstuna. The aim was to act as a source of inspiration and support for schools in Eskilstuna municipally in the field of environmental studies and natural science. Today we share the premises with the public; people of all ages are here during the weekends and Naturskolan uses the building everyday during school days, were we have our office, storages and classroom.

The environment is beautiful with a great variety of biotypes and holds exciting culture and history, which are used pedagogically. The surroundings is a part of a nature reserve and is a popular destination for teachers with groups of pupils or students, as well as ordinary people who want to find recreation, to exercise or to just stroll around. They bring their own barbeque food and joyously spend some hours together in the area.

What we call Naturskolan - The Nature School

is not as much a building or a place, as it is a method of working. The guiding principle for this method of work is “to learn outdoors”. It emplies that all school subjects can be taught outdoors in the playground or in the countryside. The best learning is achieved when using all parts of your body; all of your senses, your brain and heart; hand and foot. This is the method of Sweden’s nature schools – combining body and soul; lust for life and learning – outside of doors!

The Association of Nature Schoolslänk till annan webbplats is a forum for those who take part of this way of working. In Sweden there are nearly 100 Nature Schools in different cities. District Council of the community employs most of us. Pre schools, primary schools, secondary schools and colleges belonging to the Eskilstuna District Council can draw upon the experience of Nature School completely free of charge. Before we meet a group of students the teachers will have agreed with Naturskolan on which theme they are going to work with during their visit. The groups are invited to come for an entire day to Naturskolan in Skjulsta. However, sometimes when it is more suitable for them we pack our cars and go to them to teach in the forests surrounding their schools.  We also support schools with tutoring and supervising projects, as well as we hold presentations and educational courses for environmentally related pedagogies.

The approach on Naturskolan is characterized by experienced based learning. We believe that there is a link between positive experiences in nature. Children that through their own experiences benefit a positive attitude to nature develop a foundation of growing understanding and increase their future possibilities of sustainable thinking.

Naturskolan has become part of the municipality's environmental work in schools and preschools for achieving a certifying level of Sustainable development, according to Eco Management and Audit Scheme. Through education of personnel in questions surrounding ecology, along with development of interests and commitments among children and youth, sustainable development can be raised.

Here we will give you some examples on themes we are doing:
1. Experience nature with all your senses; colours, fragrances, sounds and favours vary a lot! They allow for you good opportunities to express your experiences with words.
2. Life of insects and spiders. We are searching for them in trees and soil, examining them afterwards with microscope and lupp, learneing about them..
3. Life in water. We search our lakes and brooks for water animals, while learning interesting facts about what we find.
4. Bird watching. Sometimes the children help us emptying some of our many nesting boxes in the area..
 

We can also offer traditional school subjects, like
5. Learning mathematics outdoors. Children of early ages are taught maths concepts while playing.   
6. Language development while using the senses.
7. Antiquity, old methods of handicaraft, technics. 

We have created a time line stretching from year 2012 back to the glacial period. Every year is 4 cm long. The children recognize their birth year and see how long their lifetime is before they walk the line back in time. During their walk we show pictures and things from the past; they can for example do practical examinations of an archaeological excavation, have treasure hunting in the period of the Vikings and learn little about how life was then and which the duties were during the age of stone-, bronze-, and iron.  We also do some handicraft, using materials like wood, wool, bone, bark and grass.

Outdoor education on schools

The interest of having school personnel go out and do outdoor activities is increasing, especially along with traditional school subjects. Many teachers attend education outside the classroom walls in the nearest forest environment. Some arrange at least one day a week outdoors  with their groups. We have also seen an increase of bookings, the waiting list is long, some classes have to wait for more than half a year to visit us.

Eskilstuna municipality has 100 000 inhabitants. During one school year we met about 175 classes – as well as preschool groups. One normal size on a group is about 20-30 pupils, which means that over 4000 children visit Naturskolan every year.

Services and target groups on Naturskolan

In the present situation, we have budget for three full services on Naturskolan: Ann-Sofie Tedenljung Forsberg and Marlene Ness are permanent teachers working 100 % respectively 80%. We are to employ another teacher 2015. 

The visits during on a year constitutes approximately        
About 75 % of pupils are of ages 7-12 years, there are less groups of pupils between year 13-18 as groups of children from preschools and kindergarten ages of 1-6 years. We are planning to meet personnel from preeschools and nurseries as soon as we are three fulltime employees situated here at Naturskolan.  About 5 % are children come from resource schools requiring special care and education, and about 5 % are children from international classes. 
There are regulare visiting students come from colleges and universities; the majority are studying to become teachers themselves. Some of these come from abroad. 

During a school year we have all in all 10-15 courses and seminars for school personnel. Sometimes there are guidance occasions for individual teachers or groups of teachers. Here are education occasions for school personnel in learning mathematics outdoors, language lessons, various handicraft and technic courses and courses in entomology. . The most popular course has been  “How to play and learn mathematics outdoors”.
There are always great opportunities to do exercises for every sense and implement sustainable development in their ordinary scheme.

Representatives from preschools and schools come for inspiration days on Naturskolan, where they learn how to implement ordinary subjects

• in the forest
• in the playground
• in the park

Finally some pursues to speculate among pedagogues:

• What does the preschool look like and how is the school yard used?

• Are there various places appropriate for different types of activities?
• Are there any distorted protections against rain?
• Are there any logs for children to sit upon?
• Is there any fire place or possibilities to cook or bake outdoors?

• What does your closest environment look like?

• Are there green areas, trees, boscages, berry bushes, cultivated flowers, lawns, paths or meadows nearby? Who owns the forest property next to the school? Is it possible to get access to it?
• How long is walking distance to forest, meadow, park, sea or brook?
• How can you facilitate for the pupils or the preschool´s children to reach those areas?
• What materials can be used in order to benefit the preschools' or the school's activity?

The environmental work
Document how the environmental work functions in your preschool/your school.
What type of work is required in order to become registered as sustainable or certified as an Echo school/preschool preschool/school?
                     
Outdoor activities
How big percentage of a week´s activities could be defined as outdoor education and what activities could be done outdoors? (For example handicraft, creative work, song, business, mathematical or linguistic, concept education, social ensembles …)

The benefit of cooperation
What does the cooperation look like out between the averages preschools/ schools considering environmental outdoor education? Would your school or preschool coordinate such a cooperation?

Naturskolan in Eskilstuna collaborates with other Nature schools in Scandinavia who also work with outdoor schools and this colaboration seems to be increasing every year.

Ann-Sofie Tedenljung Forsberg,  Eskilstuna Naturskola, In December 2014

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Kontakt

Naturskolan
Öppettider

8-15

Besöksadress

Kvarnstugan, Skjulsta, 63369 Eskilstuna

Postadress

Naturskolan Eskilstuna
Skjulsta resurscenter/Naturskolan
Skjulstagatan 3 A
632 29 ESKILSTUNA