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Environmental Education at its Best – A Visit to a Swedish Preschool in Stockholm

If you are a nature lover like me, the need to develop environmental awareness in your children will eventually creep in your teaching style and curriculum.

This is why I became a National Geographic Certified Educator and must say that it was a life-changing experience for me. After that, I completed two more programs at National Geographic: Geo-Inquiry Process and Teaching Global Climate Change in your classroom. I will write about all of these programs in separate posts.

Finally, I decided that the topic of my master thesis will be developing environmental awareness by learning English in bilingual preschools.

This is a pretty serious topic in my country since there are barely a few preschools who are bilingual, and also follow an environmental curriculum. All of this lead me to apply to an Erasmus + exchange. I was selected, and I spent around 10 days in Sweden, in a natural resort called Hellasgården. During my stay, I had an amazing opportunity to visit one of the best preschools in Stockholm.

All preschools in the Stockholm municipality follow the environmental education approach as their basic instructional motif, and they build up their unique curriculums based on the connection between the child and the natural environment.

The preschool I visited is surrounded by forest, and it looks dream-like. It was a little cloudy on the day of my visit, so the photos are a bit dark.

All the teachers speak English very well, and their administrator speaks very well as too. The preschool is open to other preschools in the world, and they have posters and photos of projects with other countries in the hallway. They are organizing teacher mobility so that teachers can observe classrooms in other countries via the Erasmus + for education program.

They are currently video chatting with children from the UK and showing them what are they doing that specific day. The children speak very little English, so most of their communication is nonverbal and show-and-tell. It’s still amazing how they understand each other.

The teacher’s lounge looks amazing and comfortable.

Based on the organization of the classrooms and the present materials, I would say that they follow the Reggio Emilia learning approach.

The Reggio Emilia approach is an educational philosophy focused on preschool and primary education. It is a pedagogy described as student-centered and constructivist that uses self-directed, experiential learning in relationship-driven environments. The program is based on the principles of respect, responsibility, and community through exploration and discovery through a self-guided curriculum. At its core is an assumption that children form their own personality during early years of development and are endowed with “a hundred languages”, through which they can express their ideas. The aim of the Reggio approach is to teach how to use these symbolic languages (e.g., painting, sculpting, drama) in everyday life. It was developed after World War II by pedagogist Loris Malaguzzi and parents in the villages around Reggio Emilia, Italy, and derives its name from the city.

There are no specific classrooms for each class – the teachers are rotating and sharing all resources, which is cost and space-friendly. I must say that I have never seen such a preschool in my life since the organization is completely different in my country.

The teachers have a schedule in which they rotate, and children get to use all the dramatic corners and all the classrooms. By doing that, they get to explore different settings and also mix with children who are younger or older than them.

The blocks in the math center which you see above are not branded – they are just wooden blocks which they painted with child-safe paint. The walls showcase multiple structures they already built for inspiration.

Math corner
Dramatic play corner
Music corner

Another thing which I LOVED is the fact that the teachers DO NOT cover the walls with printables, laminated posters, and their artwork.

There is NOTHING made by teachers on the walls except posters from their official projects and professional exchanges.

The walls are filled with children’s artwork, and there are plenty of photos of the process making, which was amazing to see.

All the hallways and all the walls are used as a gallery for children’s meaningful artwork – not just pasted cutouts that teachers prepared in advance. The learning is exploratory and completely learner-driven.

Artwork along with the process step by step

The science center is full of natural materials, and multiple pets as well. The whole preschool takes care of fish, snails, and spiders.

The children go outside even if it is rainy and they don’t mind getting a bit muddy.

There are so many natural materials in the preschool – I was amazed and delighted to be there. Seeing a large dry sunflower on the shelf, branches, and rocks made my day. There are a few sensory sand tables as well.

The literacy room is huge, and it has cozy beds ready to be used during storytelling. The bookshelves feature not just books, but also authors’ books and illustration children created inspired by the books they read.

Here are some more things from the hallway gallery.

Even the windows in the cafeteria are used to grow plants! The fact that all the children eat there and that these bottles survived, says a lot about their politeness and connection to nature.

I believe that my post presents my ecstatic emotions and happiness because I was able to talk with amazing teachers and visit this outstanding preschool. My dream is to one day open a preschool with an environmental curriculum. What do you think about an exploratory, nature-driven curriculum? How do you incorporate environmental education? Write via the comments or the contact page.

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Alice is a 27 years old preschool teacher (Pre-K) with a B.Ed. She is currently enrolled in her Master studies, with a double major, one of them being English teaching methodology. She is also an online ESL teacher and blog writer for British Council. Last but not least, she is a mother of a very energetic toddler.

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