Johan Theodorsson asking the children where the sea cows have gone, while Anders Peev plays the guitar. Photo: Sara Jeswani.
Is there any use in trying to tell children about the environmental threats the world is facing? Definitely, says Johan Theodorsson and Anders Peev, who started the Music Theatre Unna in order to inspire young people to save the world.
Last week I watched their play Skogens hjärta (“The heart of the forest”) together with a group of children at a French preschool here in Stockholm. This time young people meant very young – from 2 up to 7 years of age.
In the story the girl Unna meets trolls and other characters from the Swedish mythology, and together they set out on an adventure to make the environmental monster go back to sleep by singing it a lullaby.
The end of French discipline... Photo: Sara Jeswani.
I was totally absorbed by how the children entered into the story even if it’s told almost without any theatrical props, relying mainly on music instruments, words and and the actors’ own bodies. Suddenly we are in the sea, seeing jelly fish and sea cows swimming by, or in a big dead forest where the children describe all that is missing. The actors throw snowballs made from a melting glacier and the audience bends down. Read more » >>
Children and cars – not a good mix. Photo: Sara Jeswani.
The traffic situation outside a lot of Swedish schools is a matter of complaints among many parents. There are too many cars, the drivers don’t respect speed limits and the air quality is bad. But according to a survey made among school headmasters, what causes most of these problems is actually the parents themselves! Another study, made by the Swedish Transport Administration, proves the headmasters right: according to it 80 percent of the traffic around an ordinary Swedish school consists of mums and dads leaving and picking up their children.
Read more » >>
A walk-bus. Photo: Stockholms stad/trafikkontoret.
In many places in Sweden one pupil in four arrives to school by car. But to reduce pollution and carbon emissions, make the area around the school safer and give the kids better health there is another way to get to class: “Walking” school buses.
The idea is very simple: One parent passes the houses in the area where the children live, or they all meet at a central spot, and then they walk together to school. There are also “bike-buses”.
One of the advantages of this is also that each parent spends less time taking his or her child to school, and also gets to know the other children better.
When I talk to Fariba Daryani, who has worked to encourage more walk-buses in the Stockholm area since 2003, she tells me the concept has spread widely and that she is often asked to come and talk about the concept in other parts of Sweden.
– This is a very easy way to influence people’s ways of travelling, she says.
Nacka, a neighbouring municipality to Stockholm, has three tips on how to start a walking school bus:
- Contact the families of your child’s class mates that live close to you.
- Make a schedule and decide what to do if someone falls ill. Maybe there are older sisters or brothers who can help out or grandparents who can substitute?
- Decide a “bus stop” close to the homes, where all children can walk safely on their own.
Walk-buses is also one idea from the Chalmers architect students in Alingsås, who I wrote about a few days ago. They suggest that parents take a look at what the way to school looks like. Are the sidewalks broad enough for two kids walking beside each other? Are there other obstacles?
In the booklet Walk-buses this is what we did you can read more about how walk-buses have been created in the Stockholm area.
Playing in the forest has bwwn proven good for many reasons. This picture is from the "I ur och skur" preschool in Mullebo. Photo: Ulf Johansson.
Why go inside just because it’s raining? That’s when the mud becomes soft enough to play with. And in a forest there’s no lack of tables when having lunch – just use a tree stump.
This is how the organisation Friluftsfrämjandet, which promotes outdoor life, describes their outdoor preschools “I ur och skur” (In rain or shine). According to them the children who attend these preschools might get a bit more dirty, but also healthier and stronger.
Important ideas behind this concept is to teach children how to behave in nature and how the legal right of access to private land works in Sweden (“Allemansrätten”).
One other interesting thing is that the games children play outside also tend to be less gender stereotyped than the ones played inside. According to the researcher Eva Änggård at Stockholm University since the material children use to play in the forest aren’t as associated with a specific gender as dolls and toy cars are.
Playing outdoors is also found by researchers to reduce stress among children. Friluftsfrämjandet describes nature as “an endless laboratory, a cozy room, a room for play, a place for construction, a gymnasium, a canteen and many other things.”