Written by Nora Happy MEd Edited by Jess Labbe BS, ECEd
“No Bad Clothes, Only Bad Weather” Scandinavian approach to outdoor schooling
Nora spent the better part of three years in Bergen, Norway studying how a variety of outdoor based preschools spend their days emerged in nature and entirely outside. She left Norway in 2013 with a Masters in the Philosophy of Education after writing her thesis “A Breath of Fresh Air A Qualitative Study on Outdoor Play and Learning in Norwegian Barnehage”1. (link in sources) Early on in her studies she heard the phrase “there’s no bad weather, only bad clothing” on repeat from many Norwegian preschool teachers and pedagogy professors at NLA University College. What she started to discover was that both teachers and preschoolers dressed the way we as New England kids learned to dress for ski season. They layered their clothing appropriately, dressed based on what the weather of the day said, and spent money on clothes that would last for years that were made from wool, goretex, and breathable materials.
The Way Life Should Be! Here at the Village Nest Cooperative, we have thorough gear recommendation lists for all four seasons we experience here in Eliot, Maine. When a family enrolls in our forest school, we send them a gear list and help them navigate between what they already have and what they will need for the year. Jess and Nora have a combined three decades of outdoor based schooling under our belts, so we like to remind families that no gear question is ever too silly.
Finding the right gear that fits your child can be more complicated than one might first imagine. For instance, we recommend to our families that they buy two rainsuits per year, one to fit snugger for spring/fall, and another that will fit over all of their winter gear, the same could be applied for boots (a set for winter that could fit two pairs of socks and a smaller set for summer.)
Dressing for Success Remember when you were a kid and your mom/dad/grandparents stuffed you into snow gear and you felt like Ralphie’s little brother from “A Christmas Story?” Well, we have ALL been there! At the Village Nest we aim to have our students able to dress themselves and regulate their own temperature. While it takes time and practice with our mentors to help students as young as two and a half learn to dress themselves with our approach, we work towards it starting in the fall and have success every year!
Part of our techniques include a detailed list of how to dress for the seasons and what brands we recommend. While we won’t give away all of our secrets in this post, we do have two places we like to send our families. If you are local to us in Maine, we love Kit Supply in Kittery, Maine—they specialize in “thoughtful goods for outdoor kids” we also work with Outdoor School Shop, an online store that helps dress kids for forest schools and provides great insight on why we wear what we do!
Socks REALLY matter? We believe in investing in good quality sustainably made gear for both our students and teacher that helps them to thrive in the outdoor environment. Gear that fits them well and does not constrict their movement and ideally can grow with them (at least for a couple of years and/or last as a hand-me-down for your next child/neighbor/family friend.)
With that said, believe it or not, if there is ONE thing we recommend your family investing in it’s good quality merino wool socks and base layers. We love Darn Tough and Smartwool and kids tend to prefer merino to full wool because of the itch factor.
Unlike with rain gear, base layers should fit tight to the skin like undergarments. As Outdoor School Shop so eloquently puts in their layering guide, “don't worry if you are mixing wool and fleece or high-tech poly – they are all recommended and can all be worn together and accomplish the goal of keeping your child warm!”-2 The only absolute NO is cotton because it its hydrophilic nature causes it to dry very slowly and absorbs moisture like a greedy sponge-3
Friluftsliv, the fresh air approach! In an era of children (and adults) who are glued to their devices it’s no wonder the naturalist movement, forest bathing, and “friluftsliv” have become more and more popular both in the United States and around the globe. The pandemic has shown us both the importance of a strong early childhood foundation rooted in play--4 as well as how important our job as forest educators is—teaching teach the next generation of American students how to dress for all New England weather, care for mother earth, and be a humane part of an ever-shifting global society.
Training the next generation of outdoor kids is our passion. We at the Village Nest believe that children can and should be outside as much as possible. The 1000 Hours Outside movement helped shed light on that and how to do so in the US—5 in fun and creative ways. Our mentors are trained to use the forest and our outdoor classroom to aid in our emergent play-based curriculum that engages children ages 2 1/2 – 8 years old throughout the school year and up to 10 in our summer camp.
Curious about learning more about the Village Nest Cooperative and all we have to offer? head to our Facebook and Instagram accounts @VillageNestCoop or explore our website for our offerings!
Happny, N. (2013, September 15). “A Breath of Fresh Air A Qualitative Study on Outdoor Play and Learning in Norwegian Barnehage” Retrieved February 15, 2022, from NLA Høgskolen https://nla.brage.unit.no/nlaxmlui/bitstream/handle/11250/172055/Nora%20Happny%20aug.%2013.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
Human, D. (2016, Nov 1). “Why Cotton Can Kill You on a Hiking Trip”)