From the conviction that adults have to provide children with spaces in which they can explore, express themselves, symbolize, move and rest; as well as by the context marked by the covid, some teachers of infantile of the Lourdes School of Madrid, they began to go out with the whole class (and their families), one day a week, to connect with the nature of Casa de Campo. Ares Gonzalez He is one of the promoters of the idea, as well as the author of Educate without GPS (Planet, 2021) and creator of two training spaces: Grow in Family Y School of Teachers.
We accompanied Ares González and his seventeen students on the last Thursday of the course they spend at Casa de Campo. The safety of three-year-olds is striking, handling sticks and stones, climbing trees, looking at ants, or even talking to walkers or cyclists who enjoy, like them, a day in the environment. The tutor tells us: “Children have a tempo, they go slower than the rest. The world they live in is going much faster and they cannot process everything that is happening. But when we come to the countryside, the land has its own rhythms and these do adjust to childhood ”. González affirms that the sleep and feeding of children is regulated based on the time they spend with their peers, the times of sun, as well as the time they are outdoors. The Casa de Campo is a fabulous regulator. As we talk, your children jump, run, look at trees and flowers, and live what the cards or textbooks tell them for theory.
Nature offers them everything they need for development. Not only for physical and recreational activity, but also for piquing their curiosity and seeing the world to broaden their horizons. As we read in Educate without GPS: “The beach, the mountain, the field or the large parks change with the seasons and contain plants and small animals that they can learn from by observing. Nature adjusts to their rhythm because it goes slowly and allows them to create new possibilities such as walking paths and building shelters ”. According to Ares González, the environment always provides them with possibilities to conquer new challenges, and considering that “there is no bad weather, but bad equipment”, children can (and benefit) go out even when it rains. His three-year-old students, equipped with rain boots and waterproof clothing, have made puddles, drops or covered in snow a way of experimenting, having fun, and of course releasing energy.
“Children learn by playing, and that is what we do here. In addition, it is not a directed activity: some walk or pick pineapples, others explore and others look at the bugs. Autonomy does not develop if they are not allowed to expand ”. González considers that autonomy (both physical, emotional, intellectual and social), is established just the opposite of what is usually thought: the little ones are not a blank box that we fill in with our teachings, “but they are like a brush that freely paints everything that is, and that sometimes needs some limit to be able to grow within a framework of action ”.
Parents are advised to educate our gaze to trust and allow movement and activity in the open air: “That will require our presence to accompany, not guide, their emotions and actions. A change of attitude is also necessary so as not to solve and only give small hints in case of help. This will imply respecting their decisions and valuing them as part of the journey ”. Their students know that there are limits and norms, such as being able to run as far as the adult sees them, or how important it is to take care of oneself and others as well as the environment in which they are, or if it is a sidewalk floor (not dirt) they have to go hand in hand as a couple. “When we come here we work on the responsibility of each one. It is also important that they know the limits so that in this experiment they feel security ”, adds González.
Going to the Casa de Campo weekly has also helped them to learn to draw their own conclusions: “They saw rainy days and they deduced that the field was green because of that. From one week to the next the vegetation turned yellow and they thought it was because of the heat. It is the practical way to learn the seasons ”, Ares tells us while the boys and girls (the tutor always mentions them and them because“ what is not named does not exist ”) look for where to cross the river. There is a bridge, but they prefer to get their feet wet, live adventure and look for new trails to continue the fun. The children run to a lawn mower and ask Ares how the machine works, the questions are also the protagonists this morning. Curiosity is awake, active listening and the desire to discover are high.
Raising and educating, sometimes we lose focus, we spend many hours on not so necessary subjects (such as virtual queuing to buy shoes or looking for healthy recipes) and we forget that children need to move, fresh air and play. According to González: “The body plays a determining role in the development of the brain, but, of course, for this we have to allow them to be free.”