For the forest children, the kindergarten grounds are like their extended home. It’s clear that they want to know exactly who their roommates are in this forest shared living space. The youngest children among us, the Snail and Meadow children (two to three-year-olds), were particularly fascinated by the fox. Therefore, we first followed its trail and researched on the forest floor, online, and in picture books: Where does the fox live? What does it eat? Does it have enemies in the forest?
During our intensive exploration of its habitat, we discovered other inhabitants of our forest: mouse, hedgehog, squirrel, wild boar, owl, deer. But which animal should we get to know next by following its footsteps? The children decided democratically – with the help of a playful solution that even the youngest ones could easily handle: They each received two food grains and could cast their vote by feeding small wooden animal figures. The choice was clear: We wanted to get familiar with the hedgehog and the wild boar next – and we were fully committed to it: As wild boars, we built a cozy family nest in a protected hollow. As sows and boars, we roamed through the forest, hiding acorns and nuts and trying to find them later. If we couldn’t, other forest creatures benefited.
All of us – young and old – had a lot of fun during this long-term project and gained incredible knowledge: not only the self-made animals in the “forest in a shoebox” but, above all, firsthand and rooted knowledge about the forest and its inhabitants.
Overall, it was a successful example of how education for sustainable development in everyday kindergarten life can also work well together with the youngest ones. This was acknowledged by the Bavarian Nature Conservation Association (LBV) and the Bavarian Ministry of the Environment, which awarded our kindergarten the “ÖkoKids 2022 – Sustainable Child Day Care Facility” certificate for this project.