Shaping the World Together

Woman and child stroking donkeys in the meadow
Photo: Naturkinder Kienwerder e. V.

Not far from the city limits of Potsdam, the kindergarten Naturkinder Kienwerder has found a home: a spacious tract of land that invites the children to sing, play, and explore in nature throughout the course of the year. Since January 2023, boys and girls between the ages of two and six have been playing here and in the so-called Fox Den and Beaver Dam. These are two winter-ready, ecologically-built tiny houses with pellet ovens and infrared heating; these provide a comfortable and cozy retreat when the weather turns frosty, rainy, or stormy. In addition to cooking outdoors on the campfire, healthy meals can also be prepared in the kitchen. There is also a reading and cuddle corning with blankets and pillows where exhausted tree climbers and tired explorers can recoup their energy. In a neighboring animal coop are chickens and rabbits that they children help to care for each day.

Seeing these activities as an active part of the personal development of the children is key here. The six educators who work at the kindergarten draw on practical approaches and Waldorf educational ideas. Together the educators ensure that the children at the kindergarten see their daily activities as meaningful and tangibly effective. At the same time, the children are encouraged to unfold their own potential in a protected environment. Over the course of the day, the forest-, nature-, and social educators emphasize a balance between freedom and structured situations where the children experience rhythm and rest. They learn to become more aware of their own strengths, develop trust in the abilities they have developed, and to be courageous about developing new relationships.

“It is vitally important to us that we nurture the value of each individual child. That is why we foster a tolerant environment, occasionally with conflict but always non-violent and constructive,” emphasizes Judith Schadow. Schadow, who studied Biology and Waldorf Education, was one of the founders of the kindergarten organization in 2019. It is a priority for her and the other educators to enable even young children to develop democratic competence and a respectful approach to nature and other human beings. As Schadow emphasizes, this is a necessary precondition for shaping a future world where all individuals can live together peacefully and sustainably. “Only what you love, are you willing to protect,” emphasizes Konrad Lampart of the Software AG – Foundation, speaking of the effectiveness of the kindergarten concept. As the project manager states: “Children who grow up here are allowed to really be children, and they learn from an early large to care for and protect the environment, our basis of life.”

To allow other people from the area to take part in this lively and diverse community, the organization is considering creating an open meeting place for all age groups with the affiliated NaturKulturZentrum. In planning are – among other things – a nature café with fire kitchen, adventure-based experiences such as herb- and mushroom-gathering hikes, and sports and relaxation activities. In addition, they plan to offer parent and family coaching, but also readings, music events, and workshops outdoor to enrich everyday life together.