|dc.description||Many urban children are disconnected from nature and their local environments.
Nature deficit disorder is a well-known problem, as is the disappearance of free-range
parenting. Today’s families do not send their children out to play or explore without adult
supervision. This creates a monumental issue because for children, unstructured time
outdoors can provide important opportunities to take risks, learn from mistakes, become
confident and resilient, cooperate, problem solve, use imagination, be creative and learn
self-sufficiency and independence. Plus, when children learn about and connect to their
local natural world, they grow up more able to see the important relationship between
humans and the environment, and the role we could have in protecting the environment.
For an expanded discussion on the importance of connecting with nature, see Chapter 2.
Forest kindergartens in Europe have been widely studied and proven to strongly
support students’ academic, physical, social and emotional development. Plus, attending
forest kindergarten helps develop a love for nature, which may lead to becoming a
responsible citizen. Unfortunately, it is a struggle to get urban children outdoors, increase
their comfort level in nature and teach them how to interact with and connect to their
local natural environment. By design, forest kindergartens are inquiry-based, providing
students with greater opportunity for child-led exploration and discoveries.
Literature supports the idea that successful urban environmental education
programs build upon prior experiences and are locally relevant. This is the foundation
that leads students to feel capable of creating local change; so it is very important for
young children to make this connection. However, urban students, in particular, face
many challenges when connecting to nature. The introduction of forest kindergartens to
urban areas will provide an opportunity for urban children and families to overcome these
hurdles and view their local natural environments differently.
Besides conducting a literature review for best practices for forest kindergartens
and their adaptations to urban areas, several forest kindergarten practitioners will be
interviewed to share their strategies for engaging and connecting urban students and their
families to local natural areas via their urban forest kindergarten programs.||en_US