Into the Woods…and Other Danish Schools?!

For Session 2, I decided to switch gears from learning about Viking history and try out an education class called Children in a Multicultural Context

One possible career path I’m looking into is being a Japanese foreign language teacher, so naturally I thought taking an education class in Denmark might be a good idea — and I’m so glad I chose to take this one!

We’ve been learning all about the Danish education system and the philosophies that Danes use to dictate how they run their schools and classrooms. 

One of the key factors that is emphasized by Danish teachers is letting kids be independent. By encouraging kids to do things on their own rather than rely on teachers or other adults, they learn about themselves and the world in a deeper way — often by making mistakes and learning things for themselves firsthand. 

I’ll give an example from our class: one field study location we went to was an after school program known as an “adventure playground” in a nearby Copenhagen suburb. 

This wasn’t the kind of after school program you might think of in an American context… I thought it felt more like a petting zoo than an after school program at times!

They had all kinds of animals there: goats, chickens, bunnies, ducks, pigs, cats, and horses! The kids could pet and play with the animals, so of course I had to say hi to their furry & feathered friends myself (the chick nursery was my favorite!). 

Chick nursery at the adventure playground

A lot of kids were even given bunnies to take care of themselves. We saw them clean out the cages and replace the bedding, give water and food, and even take the rabbits outside in a coop where they could play with the other rabbits!

By learning to take care of their own rabbits without the assistance of adults, the kids learned responsibility through direct experience — after all, their fluffy little friends were counting on them!

Me with my new best friend 🙂

We also learned about alternative education options offered in Denmark, my favorite of which was the notorious forest kindergarten. 

The forest kindergarten was exactly what it sounds like — a kindergarten out in the forest! The kids get to run around outside and explore in the wooded play area where they can climb trees or all over the wooden playground. There’s an area for team sports like soccer, a sand pit for building castles, and toy bins for anything else the kids might want to play with. 

Lush greens and trees surrounding the outside of the forest kindergarten

While the kindergarten does have a classroom building, most of the lessons are conducted outside so the kids can interact with the world around them. I thought this was such a cool idea for a school — not only is it fun for the kids who want to run around outside and play, but it gives them the space to explore their surroundings and interact with the natural world they live in. 

Classroom building for the Forest Kindergarten

Another schooling option offered in Denmark we visited was a 10th grade school. In the Danish education system, when students finish their compulsory schooling, or first through ninth grade, they decide how to continue their schooling. They can either choose to take an academic track and continue through high school and college, or they can choose a vocational track and learn a trade. 

However, like most teens, some kids aren’t sure what they want to do with their lives yet. They need a little extra time to figure out what they want to do… and that’s where the tenth grade schools come in.

Tenth grade schools offer a place for teens (around age 16-17) who are all figuring things out to take an extra year to explore their interests before deciding on an educational track. 

I think having systems like this in place for students is wonderful because it makes students’ educations work for them and their specific and unique needs. The system is designed to have students’ interests in mind, to care for them and treat them like the well-rounded people they are.

I think the United States’ education system could take notes from Denmark in this way. Learning isn’t always about getting the highest test scores or pushing kids through a “one size fits all” system, because I believe education should have more of an impact on students’ lives than that.

Learning about education and schooling in Denmark has had a big impact on my view of teaching and what an education can look like outside of rigorous testing. I’m going to take what I can about what I’ve learned from the Danish education system and philosophy in this class and implement it into my own teaching one day! ☀️

Study Abroad This Summer with DIS:

Leave a Reply