Kindergarten, schools, rehabilitation in Norway and Lithuania


Norwegians appreciate being outdoors. Friluftsiv is a unique Norwegian culture heritage, which is believed to be of great importance of modern society. It becomes meaningful in relation to the main challenges in different periods. Traditional Norwegian friluftsliv consists of a simple outdoor-oriented lifestyle based on enjoying nature, health, and fellowship. It originated from the 18th-century protest movement against modernity. The influence of the international youth leisure culture has caused some “sportification” of friluftsliv, but its patterns remain stable because the age groups before and after adolescence are decisive in friluftsliv. Nowadays outdoor life is a part of education, rehabilitation and public sector. According to that we, international friluftsliv students, visited few kindergartens, school and hospital of rehabilitation due to get an impression how Norwegian friluftsliv is implemented into ordinary work of these institutions and what benefit it could create. We had to observe area, the role of teachers (leaders) and children (participants), also give our personal comments of the day and compare to our home country.

Kindergarten in Bragdøya

Skårungen kindergarten was one of the first outdoor kindergartens in Norway (since 1996). This kindergarten is in island called Bragdøya. Each day children with their teachers take small boat to the island. They usually spend here 6 hours a day with the exception of Mondays and Fridays.Kindergarten is in a small valley with natural barriers. These barriers are really good for supervising kids. They are like natural fence which delineator terrain where children are allowed to go and play. But these barriers are not only the fence but also a playground for kids. For example rocks help to develop climbing skills. In winter time they are also suitable for sliding down or skiing. One of favorite children playing space is trees. They enjoy playing with prepared ropes in them or just climbing as high as they can. A stream is crossing this kindergarten playscape. It is too small for fishing but for this activity they can use sea in spring or summer time. The camp has two shelters and one shed for rabbits. Each shelter has a fire place and benches.

In one kindergarten group of 18 kids are tree teachers. They are used to observe kids (knows who can be alone with knife), analyze and evaluate children behaviour, solve problems, develop practical skills and give feedbacks for parent. So these teachers we can be certainly called leaders. The main organizing of day is a trip to and from the island. This trip requires a lot of consideration and carefulness. During day time teachers are making fireplace, warm lunch (soup) and cutting fruits. And of course all day long keep an eye on kids how they are playing, play together with them. If kid needs help or advice how to do one or another thing teachers are always ready to assist him. Outdoor kindergarten is based on learning by doing. But I observed some special methods how kids are being tough – even if they have no special classes. Firstly, they are used to counting: they count each other at least ten times a day. This is really important before and after bout trip to island in case one of kids gets lost. Secondly, children are used to their names. Names of kids are written on their lunch packages, porringers, bags, live saving vast so they can recognize their names even if they are not able to read. Moreover, children are able to find out then they are hungry. Either kid has his own lunch package with sandwiches from home. And they can eat it whenever they want to do that. Another method of learning which I observed was books. Kids are not able to read books yet but they can have a look at pictures and for example find the same mushroom in the forest (most of books were about mushrooms). Also this kindergarten has tree rabbits. They are good “learning equipment” to know how to feed, take care of animals and also play with them. Sometimes you can meet sheep or ducks in the playscape of kindergarten. As well children are teaching safety – they know the importance of life saving vest, how to use knives properly. And also they are tough to keep things like for example songs it their memory. Before going back to bout they sing songs together with teachers and also have some special movements according singing.

Children spend daytime outside in the island all year long with some exception during Christmas and Easter time. At that time they spend more time inside the main kindergarten fence but still outdoor and take a part in free playing. I noticed that in the end of the day kids prefer activities inside shelter – “reading” books, talking with teachers. Although by day they are very active and find lots of activities what to do outside. As I mentioned before children enjoy playing in the trees. They like to climb high into them, playing on the prepared ropes, swings or just sitting and chatting with each other into them. Another big section of activities takes pace on the rocks. Kids like climbing, sliding down on toboggans, skiing. Also children are fond of helping teachers in cooking. They fill a bowl with water, mix soup, etc. As you can see these activities do not require a huge amount of equipment. Kids enjoy nature by free play and can organize activities by themselves. As an instance we played with them with wooden sticks as court swards. It’s not easy to find out all activities what they are doing by spending just one afternoon with them. The nature itself represents an environment for playing and learning. From our lections we know that outdoor activities, free play has a huge contribution to developing children motor skills, especially coordination and balance. And it’s easy to start developing these things then you are young so then you are going motor skills are going better and better. Moreover, kids are experiencing close relationship between human and nature from childhood. They can see what equipment, suitable clothes they need. So it’s huge expectation that children will continue this relationship in their future. First impression of outdoor kindergarten was that it’s not so safe and quite dangerous to leave kids playing alone in nature, climbing in trees, on the rocks and etc. Moreover, they are aloud to use knives! Then I was a child I was aloud to use knife then I was at school and just with adult person together. It looks like children should have lots of serious injuries on Norway. But surprisingly they have no injuries at all just small ones but this happens everywhere.

After spending some time in this kindergarten I started really enjoy time in it. First of all kids do not have a nap in the afternoon. The nap was the worst thing ever in kindergarten then I was a kid. I have already mentioned another good example in kindergarten – eating then you are hungry. Moreover, each kindergarten and school has free fruits from government every day. So children have vitamins and are accustom to eat more fruits. Children motor skills are really good. Then we were playing with kids we climbed on rocks. It wasn’t so easy to do because rocks was slippery, wet and with snow. Also I was wearing sneakers so kids were faster then me. It seems that they are climbing as good as walking. And of course nature – it is the best thing of outdoor kindergarten. Children are free in the nature to play and discover new things every day. Hence, I would like to have such kindergartens in Lithuania too.

Sjøstrand kindergarten

Sjøstrand kindergarten started up in 2003. This kindergarten has a nature group which are going out in the forest four times a week and one day a week they are spending in the kindergartens area. Kindergarten has made few places with fireplace in the forest near by. We visited one of these places. It’s a pity that snow has destroyed shelter in this place. According to teachers in other places they have another shelter. The terrain is a bit hilly but children now an invisible fence where they can go. Then kids start to go to kindergarten they are familiarized with this territory and they never have problems about that. In area is made some play-apparatus with ropes, swings, bird houses. And it doesn’t have any other toys then what they can find in the nature. Children get time to play and decided what they want to do (free play). But they also have some organized activities and a small section for about 20-30 minutes every day where they talk and learn about special subjects. They have activity connected to the subject they are learning about. Environment is a subject they decided to focus on more than the others. It’s very important that children can be mush outside and move their bodies in open space and at the same time get fresh air.

The group we visited has 24 kids with age 3 to 6. The group are led with four adults. But one of them is the main teacher (leader) and others are assistants. The main teacher has the responsibility for the group of children and adults. Also she spent most time with children while assistants are cooking lunch or doing other things. Kids have two meals every day. They bring the food for one meal and assistants prepare one other meal (easy made) in outdoors.

While children are going to outdoor area they have running competition. But just these who want to do that. Others just walk with teachers and help them by pushing a buggy together. In outdoor area kids have some organized activities – games which develop their motor skills. Children climbed on a rope net, went up and down small stairs between two trees, balanced on a log, went into a tunnel between boxes, climbed on little hill by holding a rope, swing on the ladder. It was surprising that teachers did all activities together with kids. We plaid tug-a-war with children. Of course we let them win. But that was really good motivation for kids that they are stronger then students. I was absolutely surprised how patient all kids are. After all activities they can just stand and wait for other kids who haven’t finished yet. They respect each other and do not require a lot of attention from teachers when they are helping to kids.

Comparing to Lithuania

An important aspect is to understand Lithuanian situation, with the school system in its present form being only 17 years old, following independence in 1991. A lot of the present education professionals had experience of the previous Soviet system so first of all they needed to reorganise all system, change their curriculum, and focus on children and families.

Lithuanian children stay with the same teachers and group of children for up to four years. One kindergarten group has a teacher and an assistant for a maximum of 20 children. Lithuanian kindergartens use a variety of curricula: groups following, Steiner, Montessori, ‘Step by Step’ as well as some Lithuanian programmes. Kindergartens do not teach reading or writing (the same in Norway), but have a focus on personal and social development: music, drama, oral and story telling skills, physical development, and motor skills developed through a wide range of art and craft activities. Each class group had a cloakroom with seats and lockers, a large bright teaching room and a room with beds. All kindergartens have a hall, for music and physical education and extensive grounds with fixed outdoor equipment. Kindergartens have a specialist music teacher, with children having 2 lessons a week. The extended time spent on learning through play and on developing personal social and emotional skills seems to equip the children more suitably for a formal education when they leave kindergarten for primary school. Regrettably children do not spend so much time outside as in Norwegian kindergartens. Lithuanian kids are going outside just then the weather is good and spent there few hours a day. But they are not going out to nature. They stay inside kindergarten fence there they have fixed playing equipment. So they can not develop their relationship with nature and enjoy time in it.

Vågsbygd school

Vågsbygd school like almost all schools in Norway has its own outdoor area. This workplace was built up by parent of schoolchildren and teachers. They cut some trees, prepared ropes in them, swings. Also they made shelter and some benches and tables. Schoolchildren are visiting this area once a week. The area is about 20 minutes walk from school. Trip to this workspace is organized by pupils themselves. They can ride or walk and choose different roots but they have one rule. They all are meeting before entering the forest. And all the way in the forest pupils are going together with teachers. Usually class of 30 schoolchildren has two teachers. Unfortunately one of teachers was ill then we were visiting school so we saw just one of them. On another hand that was great improvement of teacher’s professional skills.

At school pupils have normal classes but in the forest they try to continue learning. According to that teachers prepare some group tasks each time then they are outdoors. Then we visited school pupils had task in English language. Talking in words of teacher kids are not able to think and concentrate to learning all the time. So they (especially boys) need to move. Then they have group task outdoor they develop ability to work in commands and also can think with “all body”. Nature refreshes their minds and helps to look at learning as a game. The day outside is more organized then in kindergartens. Schoolchildren have not only group tasks but also make lunch together. Kids are old enough to make fireplace and lunch without any help. They have all necessary equipment (pants, knives) in the shelter. So teacher can just observe them and give some advice according what they are doing. It seems like the day outside goes naturally but actually teachers have plans what they are going to do outside in the nearest future. Teacher said she wish that they would have plans for longer periods of time for example one year or more. After group task and lunch making children are free to do what they want. They like play with ball (especially football), prepared ropes in trees or just dance. Pupils really enjoy the day outside. They like free play and relax from learning a bit. Some of them are going outside to nature often with their family but not all of them. So it is good possibility to develop good relations with nature and maybe encourage kids go outdoors more often. According to that we spend some time not only outside but also in the school my personal notifications is more from school not from an outdoor area. First of all I noticed that pupils are wearing just socks in the calls. But teacher explained to us that school is quite new and they try to keep it without repair as long as it is possible. On the other hand pupils can be walking during the lessons. In the classroom you can feel “free” atmosphere. It seems like pupils are playing not learning. Also they can use computers whenever they have individual tasks and need to write something. In my personal experience I could use computer just during the informatics lesson. But the strongest impression was about excellent English language skills. Pupils are only in the 6th grade but they can normally talk in English. In my home country the same age kids just can say their names or not difficult sentences in English. In the classroom some pupils have a “concentration wall”. They are made from wood and can be used as hurdle from other pupils. They usually are used by kids who are not able to concentrate in the class or are talking too much during the lesson.

Comparing to Lithuania

We do not have outdoor education lessons in my home country. But it is a part of physical education. Physical Education includes: Health education; Education of movement culture;  Physical activities in the nature; Physical activity of invalidity children.According to the Calibre Standarts of Physical Education in Lithuania it is recommended to spend as much Physical Education lessons as it possible outside the school (in a school stadium, forests, parks etc.) Physical activities outside the nature include activities as running up and down hill crossing simple natural obstacles, skiing, playing in the snow, playing and exercising in the different weather conditions, etc. It is also emphasized all Olympic values such as universality, aspiration to consummation, peace and honesty. At school pupils usually have 2-3 physical education lectures a week. From my personal experience outdoor activities is just really small part of physical education. Pupils are going outside just in the spring and just then weather conditions are good (when sun is shining, it is quite warm and of course not raining). Our schools do not have outdoor areas. Pupils spend this time just in a stadium next to school running, exercising or playing various games (basketball, football, etc.)

Kongsgård hospital of Rehabilitation

Kongsgård hospital offers interdisciplinary specialized rehabilitation serving inhabitants of southern part of Norway. The hospital is the leading rehabilitation centre in the region concerning treatment and competence. Vision of hospital: “Back to life”. According to this vision two years ago outdoor was established next to this hospital. This area has different complexity levels so all patients can go outside regardless of what injury they have. Patients are going outside at least once a week for 1.5 hour in all weather conditions. But some of them are going out every day (it depends on what kind of injury patient has).

Kongsgård hospital with other institutions next to it (kindergartens, other hospitals) has a new project to set up friluftsliv area which could be used to participants off all these institutions. This area is almost prepared now so we had a chance to see how it will look like. One of the most important thing is well prepared pathways and heaps of benches (with crutches for pushing up) next to them because people with traumas are not able to walk long without small breaks. According to that there are has lots of fire places too.

The time outside in friluftsliv area is organized by nurses but patients can choose what they want to do each time. Then we visited hospital patients decided to stay in hospitals garden so we couldn’t see real outdoor activities. But anyway they spent some time in nature and played with each other and us. Activities with balls help to move patients’ hands and are kind of exercising. And then you are exercising as playing you can feel more benefit of that. Because exercising inside is a bit depressing and sometimes patients have not motivation to do that. As well as motivation and self-esteem are the most important thing in rehabilitation nurses try to find out patients needs and help them to reach their own goals. Friluftsliv in hospital is new quality of heath system including gathering and problem solving together. Every time then group is outside they make fireplace and lunch together. It’s easier to get in touch with patients in “informal” atmosphere. Actually, it’s kind of daily exercising then patients are cutting vegetables and doing all preparation for lunch. Outdoors is like real life so it’s better to have rehabilitation there then inside. Inside is more like laboratory. Going from one side of corridor to another is not as big challenge like to go up and down small hill or just walking on a rough terrain. And it looks like “real life”. And it’s good because people after hospital going back home to actual life (life which they had before) and they then are nor afraid of real life because of practicing. Therefore then patients have visitors is important to take them in friluftsliv area to make something together with them. Patients feel more important and more motivated then they can do some small things together with their families in the nature.

Another thong for patient motivation is taking photos. It is nice then you can show to your visitors what challenges you have made or what activities are you doing in the hospital specifically then patient is not able to speak a lot. Of course pictures are always with happy faces and good situations in outdoor area. The specialists of hospital are still trying to find out the best way how to make friluftsliv as an implement of rehabilitation. Everybody agree that outdoor activities should be a part of daily training but there is some discussions and lots of way how to do that. Of course nurses help patients all the time but they try to let them to do as much as possible by themselves. On another hand the hospital has some contracts with archery and climbing clubs. Every Monday evening patients have a meeting with archery club. They can do this activity not only outside but also outside (in winter time). Archery is very helpful for balance, coordination, strength training. And it’s kind of fun to see old ladies and gentlemen shooting with arches. Also patients have opportunity to climb. Instructors have climbing lessons in outdoor area next to the hospital. Sometimes they are going to local sports club “Spicheren”. The hospital has a plan to buy some kayaks too. A huge benefit of doing activities like climbing or kayaking is that patients have a feeling that they can do some sports especially if they haven’t done that before or weren’t professional sportsmen. Because if you can do sports – you can do everything!

Comparing to Lithuania

In Lithuania like in all other countries the aim of rehabilitation is to restore the patient’s health and enable him to return to normal life. Care of the patient, comprehensive assessment and qualified treatment are the main areas of the rehabilitation hospital’s work. One of the priorities of the state is prevention of diseases and their consequences. Rehabilitation becomes an important part of the disease prevention system. All multi-profile hospitals located in various towns of the country provide medical rehabilitation services. Majority of rehabilitation and treatment services are supplied by rehabilitation institutions of resort towns.

The medical rehabilitation system is successfully developed in Lithuania. Many people return to full-fledged life with its help. However rehabilitation practice in outdoors is not very common in Lithuania. Of course it depends on what kind of injury patient has. Both joints of my grandmother knees was replaces few years ago. According to that she had a rehabilitation course after operation. But she had no activities outdoors at all. Actually she wasn’t allowed to go outside in case hurting herself. As a result now she is afraid of going outside her flat especially in winter time. In my personal opinion it wouldn’t has happened if she had had good rehabilitation practice in outdoor area with specialists.