Last August I was privileged to attend the first International Skogsmulle Training Course in Sweden. As part of the training we visited Mulleborg I Ur och Skur Nursery and participated in the “Mulle Walk” into the forest. This was my second visit having done a similar activity three years earlier which can be read in this document.
There are subtle differences between a Forest School session and a Skogsmulle session, but at the end of the day both work well for inspiring children and adults to enjoy spending time in nature. After all, it is calculated that over one quarter of the Swedish population have now attended a Skogsmulle session as part of their childhood which is quite phenomenal. For more information about the history of Skogsmulle, the only book in English documenting this is Rose Joyce’s Outdoor Learning Past and Present which has a chapter dedicated to the growth of this movement. You can also glean a wee bit from the report I wrote in 2008.
There were nine children on the Mulle Walked accompanied by two adults. It was the first week back after the summer holidays. These children are all about 5 years old and welcomed the opportunity to get some peace in the woods away from the hustle and bustle of the nursery. The twice weekly visits to the woods provide consistency for children in their routines.
The session opened in a nearby meadow with a Skogsmulle puppet greeting the children and all the international visitors. We sang the Skogsmulle song and played one of his favourite circle games. After that we walked into the nearby wood.
The entrance to the wood is guarded by a ditch. The children all know about the crocodile in the ditch. The challenge is to jump over the ditch without being caught by the crocodile snapping at your legs!
One of the things I love about working in any natural setting is that there is no need for a forced “gather round and look at this flower/bug/object.” The children interact with nature as part of their play and conversation.
This is also modelled by the adults. For example in the photo below, one of the leaders, Camille, as she was passing by stopped and peered underneath. She just mentioned that she was looking for the fairy who lived there. Then she noticed a birch leaf sitting on top of the stone. “Oh look! He’s left a letter… It says he’s gone to visit his cousin in … (I can’t remember where)” Camille hands the leaf to one of the children and the walk continues.
As the children go further into the forest, up the hill, more blaeberries are to be found. The children recognise these and help themselves as they go along.
The child in the photo below had quite a purple mouth by the time we reached the gathering place in the woods!
At the gathering place, the children and visitors played another popular game about measuring sticks. It was clear they liked and enjoyed this game.
Next there was a brief discussion about spiders. Camille had brought along a book and some plastic spiders. There is not an expectation that children will know the different species. Generally, it is recognised when children are genuinely interested and ready to know more when they ask “What’s that?”
Then of course, snack was needed. The milk, juice and water were all carried into the woods by the leaders who had kindly remembered to bring plenty along for the visitors. The children all munched on Ryvita biscuits! How very Swedish!
After that the children played freely in the woods, doing the usual kid things such as hanging out in dens, exploring on their own and with others, climbing trees, etc. In previous Mulle sessions I’ve seen more free play but I think because of the visitors there was a a greater emphasis on some of the structured activities.
It didn’t seem very long before we were all chuntering back down the path to the nursery. In the photo below you can see one of the girls carrying a basket with blaeberries she had picked.
This post is the stopping post. You stand here and wait for others to catch up. This boy was the first to get there. Doesn’t he look proud!
I hope this gives you a flavour of the visit. Do remember that every session is different and depends very much on the seasons, the children, their interests, etc. What was impressive was how calm and unbothered both the children and staff were about having a gang of adults join them for the morning.