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School’s Out: Lessons From A Forest Kindergarten
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School’s Out: Lessons From A Forest Kindergarten

Running Time
Short Film
36 minutes
Documentary, Short

School’s Out: Lessons From A Forest Kindergarten

No classroom for these kindergarteners. In Switzerland’s Langnau am Albis, a suburb of Zurich, children 4 to 7 years of age, go to kindergarten in the forest every day, no matter what the weatherman says. The filmmakers follow the forest kindergarten through the seasons of one school year to make their documentary film School’s Out: Lessons from a Forest Kindergarten. This eye-opening film looks into the important question of what it is that children need at that age. There is laughter, beauty and amazement in the process of finding out.

Filmmaker Notes:

Making nonfiction films is a fascinating process of filtering the experience of real people, events, and stories through one’s own point of view. When I was a new mom, I worked as the editor of the documentary film Compañeras, about an all female mariachi band, and there were many different themes one could have chosen to focus on in this film. My director (also a new mom who would often take breaks to breastfeed her baby) and I chose to focus on working mothers in a traditionally male world (the world of professional mariachi musicians.) So too, in the filming and editing of School’s Out, my voice as a parent was also speaking throughout the process. The themes my producer (also the mother of young children) and I chose to focus on reflect our own fears and failings, perhaps, as parents of young children. I have said often, I wish I had seen this film when my son was in preschool. I learned A LOT in the making of the film. For example, I am embarrassed to admit that when my son was in kindergarten, I was worried that he was not being challenged enough academically. He attends a school where the children’s social well-being is heavily stressed at this age (and throughout). But now after filming School’s Out, I understand that a child’s social development is critical for academic success and that there is PLENTY of time beyond kindergarten for academics. Another example of what I learned from the forest kindergarten is when we first saw the 5 and 6 years olds with Swiss Army knives, we couldn’t believe our eyes. But after spending time with these children and seeing how this seemingly dangerous activity could be so incredibly empowering, I immediately bought my 7-year old son a Swiss Army knife after returning home from our first round of filming. I taught my son how to safely use the knife, and now he knows how to use a real knife. I have also been much more open to my son walking several blocks by himself to friends’ houses in our neighborhood. Because of the film, I am learning to let go of some of my fears as a parent. School’s Out is as much for parents of young children as it is for early childhood educators and administrators. We all stand to learn something from this unusual model of kindergarten.

Film details
Year(s) screened
  • 2013
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