Growing in Solidarity: Sustainable environmental Education at Binzen Farm Kindergarten
Grasping the world from the ground up, and already taking responsibility at an early age – that is what the integrated concept of the first Farm Kindergarten “Die Gartenkinder” in southern Baden is based on. The institution in Binzen near Lörrach that is run as a registered cooperative belongs to the Kita NATURA eG association. Called into being in June 2017 by educationalists and farmers, it currently runs eight kindergartens on agricultural holdings throughout Germany. The association also offers specific continuing and further education. As a member of the Federal working group known as Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft für Lernort Bauernhöfe e. V. (BAGLoB), reg. assoc., it pursues the aim of sharing everyday agricultural life and the biological diversity through basic sensory experiences for the youngest members of society.
In Binzen, up to 20 “Farm Kindergarten Children” aged between two and six years old are usefully employed in the grounds of the Berg Demeter market garden each day. In the family-run business, which has been operating as a certified organic network since 1970, the boys and girls experience life in and with nature at close hand. The mixed-age group is overseen by five specialist market gardeners and a federal volunteer, as well as by Stefan Berg and his wife Mira. Already the second generation to manage the farm, besides agricultural experience the young couple contributes an expert pedagogic background. Right from the outset, the children are lovingly and expertly actively permitted to join in with the cultivation, harvest and preparing the food. The same applies to providing for the animals that are at home in the teaching and ornamental garden habitat. When coming into contact with the free-range hens, the kindergarten children learn to treat all living things with respect, and experience self-efficacy in the cycle of the seasons.
In order to also be able to offer them a protected environment in inclement weather conditions, as well as for eating and resting, in future, plans are under way to procure a new, timber-clad modular residence, in container design. It is also planned to redesign the outdoor area with a fence, awnings, Wendy houses and more plants. Both plans have received the support of Software AG – Foundation (SAGST). SAGST endorses the pedagogic concept of children working on the farm, which – according to the Project Manager in charge, Elke Rahmann – extends the existing educational landscape by taking a valuable approach. “The conscious integration into everyday agricultural life, in constant contact with fauna and flora, contributes towards a healthy and holistic development.” Mrs. Rahmann goes on to explain that, in addition, experiencing nature at close hand not only promotes imagination and creativity, but also caters to the children’s needs to move about in the open air, and develop their personality.