On the last day of class Heidi asked us what we had learned throughout the course. My answers related to child development and the aspects that stood out to me. From the readings, study tour, and the practicum experiences I gathered three aspects that I really feel make a difference in education.
I would like to emphasize nature, peer/adult relationships, and freedom as the three aspects that can change any learning experience. I understand that my role as an educator is slightly overwhelming when considering my influence but after observing children in Denmark I know these three aspects are key to positive growth in a child’s development.
The first aspect is: Nature. It is now clear that nature influences Nordic childcare and education. We toured nature centers and implemented activities within nature. I witnessed natural objects become art. I had the opportunity to “play” as children do in nature. Although people might think children should be outside to get away from technology this wasn’t the main reason at all.
The reason for children to be in nature is to connect them to the world around them. They learn about native animals and plants, learn to use natural resources, and interpret functions within various ecosystems. Or sometimes simply for a larger space for self exploration. There is a need for children to connect with their natural surroundings in order to gain an appreciation for it and ignite the possibilities for action towards conservation.
The second aspect is: Peer/Adult Relationships. Children develop and gain valuable social skills through interactions. When either free playing or in an adult led activity children can develop meaningful relationships with each other. This can be achieved through working together in problem solving, negotiations, or inclusive activities.
However, the role of the pedagogue or teacher is equally as important in relationship building. Being authoritative or passive in the instruction for students does not allow for growth. Rather, I learned that educators must be fluid, active, and present with children as they play. Trust and positive relationships can develop that encourages or fosters learning for both the instructor and child.
The third aspect is: Child Freedom. During my readings for the class an article that stood out to me explained “freedom”. This word for child development means giving the child the freedom to play. There are limited interference of adults and opportunities for self initiated activities. Letting go, for me, was difficult because as an instructor we want control over any situation.
But allowing for children to explore on their own with just minimal guidance showed me that they can achieve more that what I expected. Also, while at Broparken we were advised to understand that children are doing “the best they can”. I know now that too much expectations can stifle a child’s freedom to be creative or learn so I want to remember this fact as I begin my adventure as an art educator.
My experience in Denmark really helped me understand that as an educator I will have many opportunities to influence my student’s learning. Also, I know that I can use nature to connect my students with the world and help them realize that nature can offer opportunities to learn and create.
Finally, I know I have had teachers that really hindered learning for me in many ways but through this study abroad experience I can avoid such actions. I want to offer my students the freedoms I saw Danish children experience because I believe it is the best for their learning and for their personal self-development. I appreciate Broparken, Heidi, and all my classmates for creating a memorable experience that will influence me not only as I come back home but I believe for a lifetime.