Lecturers teach Danish outdoor pedagogy in Chengdu

Danish lectures in China
Lis Kjeldsen and Karen Barfod, two senior lecturers from VIA, taught a 10 day course for preschool teachers in Huayang Kindergarten in Chengdu.
In May 2015, Lis Kjeldsen and Karen Barfod, two senior lecturers from VIA taught a 10 day course for preschool teachers in Huayang Kindergarten in Chengdu. The purpose of the course “Nature, Body and Outdoor” was to educate and inspire the Chinese preschool teachers in outdoor pedagogy.

In Denmark, kindergartens and public schools use outdoor facilities as a place to learn and play. Danish children spend a great deal of ‘free time’ in the open, where they are physically active and play games of their own choice. Lis Kjeldsen and Karen Barfod introduce Chinese preschool teachers to this tradition. 

Combining Danish pedagogy with Chinese principles

Teaching outdoor pedagogy in China asks for creativity and new ideas. Security is a number one priority in Huayang Kindergarten, and it takes a vast amount of paperwork to take children outside - so it rarely happens. Also, half of the playgrounds are covered with artificial grass. Safety is important to both teachers and parents, but they look for new approaches to learning within the well-known settings. 

"Our purpose is to communicate our experiences with outdoor learning in a way that makes it possible for Chinese teachers to integrate the ideas into their own surroundings and everyday work," Karen Barfod says. 

Huayang Kindergarten has 800 children and 90 employees. In contrast, an average Danish kindergarten has 70-100 children and 8-10 employees. In Huayang, the days are long and structured, and all activities from playing and teaching to eating and sleeping are organised and scheduled. Each day, half an hour is assigned to organised playtime, such as dancing and other sports. 

Potential for outdoor activities 

In spite of challenging surroundings for outdoor learning, Lis and Karen saw possibilities. The current facilities could easily be rearranged and used for free play and learning. 

"There is definitely room for experimental and adventure-based learning – our job is simply to enable the teachers to see the opportunities. They are curious about how they can develop their kindergarten and they wish for alternatives to the many hours spent on inactive classroom activities," Lis explains. 

One of the activities that Lis and Karen introduced was "hula-hoop". Here, the children stand in a circle holding hands, while they have to let a hula-hoop pass through the group, without letting go of each other. It is a combination of physical activity and concentration. 

Adjoined hours for uninterrupted playtime

Lis Kjeldsen was asked by the management if she had any suggestions on how to create more room for outdoor learning. Significant changes as of now were difficult to make, but she came up with some ideas: 

"The children take naps for 2 to 2,5 hours each day. I suggested for them to reduce the children’s nap by half an hour and then add this half hour to uninterrupted playtime in order to have adjoined hours for play," Lis Kjeldsen says. 

An engaged and satisfied management

Both teachers and management at Huayang Kindergarten were engaged in the activities that Lis and Karen presented. Jessie, Head of development at Huayang Kindergarten, is very satisfied with their visit.

"The outdoor course is very useful for Huayang Kindergarten. We get new ideas for teaching and knowledge about pedagogy that can help us build our future kindergarten. The lecturers open the minds of the teachers and broaden their vision. The most important thing is that it enhances the children’s physical activity," Jessie says. 

New collaboration agreements between Huayang Kindergarten and VIA are already on the table, and it is very likely that new courses will be arranged in the Spring of 2016. 

See pictures from Lis and Karen's visit to Huayang Kindergarten

For further information, please contact: 

International Project Department
E: edusoc@via.dk 

Or contact: 

Erik Hygum, PhD, Dean
VIA Faculty of Education & Social Sciences
T: +45 87 55 35 25
E: eh@via.dk