Early childhood education in the outdoors in Aotearoa New Zealand

  • Sophie Alcock
  • Jenny Ritchie
Original Paper


Early childhood care and education services in Aotearoa New Zealand drew initially on the Fröbelian model of the kindergarten or ‘children’s garden’. Later models such as the Kōhanga Reo movement, the highly respected curriculum Te Whāriki: He whāriki mātauranga mō ngā mokopuna o Aotearoa, and the Enviroschools programme are grounded in te ao Māori, Māori worldviews, that feature a strong connectedness to place, and a deep sense of a spiritual inter-relationship with the land, mountains, rivers, and oceans. This article considers how the imported Scandinavian/European/UK models of ‘forest schools’ might fit within this context. To illustrate early childhood education in the outdoors in Aotearoa (New Zealand) we draw upon research conducted in early childhood settings in this country that illuminates children’s experience in the outdoors. We draw upon critical early childhood scholarship to theorise this situation of forest schools emerging in Aotearoa, along with influences from the forest school movement evident in existing New Zealand early childhood services. The article suggests that traditional Indigenous Māori worldviews and knowledges give meaning and contextualised authenticity to ‘forest schools’ approaches in early childhood education in Aotearoa (New Zealand).


Early childhood outdoor education Forest schools Aotearoa New Zealand 


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Copyright information

© Outdoor Education Australia 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Victoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand

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