„The children are too wild and can’t eat with cutlery!“ These myths about forest children were finally dispelled at the summer school in the Czech Republic by the association for forest kindergartens, Asociace lesních mateřských škol. The 12th summer school, which took place in the last week of July from 26 to 30 July 2021 at the Ecozentrum in Louti in the Czech Republic, featured speakers Petra Jäger, founder of the first forest kindergarten in Germany, and Nadja Hillgruber from the Feuervogel Cooperative for Nature Education from Switzerland
Petra Jäger spoke about her 27 years of daily work in the forest kindergarten in Flensburg, what her role is as an educator, how the children are fully prepared for life in daily free play and how their personal needs are taken into account. She told how, in her work with parents, she sometimes prescribes word diets for their parents so as not to comment excessively on the children’s development and experiences, but instead gives them space to live out their creativity.
It was a fantastic week at the summer school with the dedicated team from the Association of Forest Kindergartens in the Czech Republic. Tereza Valkounová and Johana Passerin facilitated the week, which was filled with pure inspiration from wonderful actors and actresses. Together the 110 participants spent a balsamic time for the heart, hands and head and were able to participate in numerous workshops in the afternoon in addition to the morning lectures.
It is the hands that create happiness and drive away sorrow, as a Russian proverb says. Nadja Hillgruber talked about gardening projects and how important it is in such times to dig with one’s hands in the earth in order to feel connected to everything. The more than fifty workshop participants who spent two afternoons with her immersing themselves in the world of plant dyes and making them themselves also felt connected to everything.
There are mountains almost everywhere on the Czech Republic’s borders. The interior is flat to hilly. The Louti venue is located south of Prague, nestled in a wild natural landscape near the Vltava River, the longest river in the Czech Republic.
The Ecozentrum offered an optimal infrastructure for this event. The completely restored farm under dedicated management offers everything the heart desired, including home-brewed hemp beer. On the grounds, participants could camp in the fields, and the workshops took place on the meadow, in the wooden yurt or under the shed. Even during a sudden downpour, one group found a dry place in a converted attic in the former horse stable.
The market with handicrafts, books, clothes and forest education material was set up in the barn. There was a lively hustle and bustle every day. Many a long-standing wish was fulfilled there, with the purchase of a handmade kalimba with poplar wood. The personal relationship to this instrument was strengthened even more when the artist said goodbye to it with a song on the kalimba. The physical well-being was taken care of daily by the hearty kitchen team, who scooped the freshly prepared food onto everyone’s plate with such dedication that they were happy to queue up a second time for seconds.
During the summer school, the whole week was spent tailoring and sewing in a sewing lab. Old jumpers or T-shirts were upcycled for a new outfit or new clothes were sewn from merino and bamboo fabric. Even scraps of fabric from the old clothes bag were made into new outfits. On the last evening, the tailors and dressmakers walked down the catwalk and presented all their outfits at the fashion show to thunderous applause. A highlight with great showmanship from the designers who gave their best. The great moderation, which was absolutely cinematic, crowned the creative performance that evening.
The Czech Republic has a long tradition of music and song. The works of composers such as Dvořák and Smetana are known worldwide. The musical connection to their roots could be traced with the most heartfelt enthusiasm at the summer school. Each day began in the morning with a song circle in which fresh and cheerful Czech songs were sung in canon. This passion was carried over into the evenings around the campfire. When the instruments they had brought with them found their common rhythm in time with the flickering flames, and the voices of the group accompanied them, so that the people grew together into a community, their melody put them into a mystical trance. The vibrations of emotion released in the process were transmitted to the marrow and bone of the listener.
The expectation-free trip was gifted with an abundance of special heart moments, refreshing openness, appreciative attentiveness, childlike curiosity, lovingly committed forest kindergarten teams, a programme that was well thought out from start to finish and excellently organised by the Czech association. We felt very hospitable and welcomed into the community and new friendships were formed. This filled everyone with gratitude after a long period of deprivation of joint meetings and exchanges.
The digital journal „Nature Flow“ offers concrete topics according to the basics of nature education and earth-friendly ideas for the future.
Whether you are a forest playgroup leader, a forest kindergarten teacher, an educator and adult educator or an outdoor family, you will all find nourishing knowledge with us.
Editorial management: Christoph Lang, Nadja Hillgruber
Editorial design and implementation: Nadja Hillgruber
Picture credits: © Feuervogel Cooperative for Nature Education and Asociace lesních mateřských škol