Sunday, January 3, 2016


Fascinating WSJ article on the German habit of sending children as young as two on overnight camping trips:
There are no pencils or paper on the trips. Children in Germany aren’t taught to read and write until they are 6. That leaves time for such tasks as using knives to whittle sticks for roasting sausages. Notes from America’s Wild West set the tone. Tilda’s name for the trip: Little Wolf of the Brave Starfish Tribe.

The journeys, called Kitafahrten, take place once a year at many German kindergartens. They are a Teutonic crash course in becoming independent—with minimal allowances for the tender age of participants.

Stuffed animals top the packing list. Some campers revert to their “terrible twos”—which isn’t that far to travel for campers who are only 3. Chaperones dole out sweets to ward off homesickness. “If you miss your parents, you can eat a bonbon and you will feel better,” Katrin Sperling, Tilda’s teacher, recalls telling the children.

While safety is certainly a concern, teachers don’t engage in the kind of hypervigilant supervision that is commonplace in the U.S. Tilda’s group camped on an island. Nearly all of the 4- and 5-year-olds were nonswimmers. On a different trip, some children cut themselves with Swiss Army knives they were given to carve wood, recalls Henrieke Basker, whose then 4-year-old daughter was on the trip. “Some parents weren’t so amused about that,” she says.

Phone calls from parents are typically verboten. “We will call you if we need to,” Ms. Sperling recalls telling two worried mothers before this year’s trip. Parents got three terse texts over four days. “We have arrived,” said the first.
Personally, I think this is great. Anyone else?


G. Verloren said...

Americans today are a cowardly and fearful people. I would encourage shedding that fear through any reasonable means, and this fairly seems reasonable.

Young children camping with competant chaperones are at no serious risk. A child is in far more danger riding around town in the family car, and yet no one gets hysterical about that.

People fear what they don't know and aren't use to, and they don't fear what is familiar and what they take for granted. And speaking psychologically, the only way to end a phobia is to confront it through controlled, safe exposure to the source of the fear.

You are more likely to be killed by a vending machine than by terrorists. You are more at risk standing on a step ladder than bungie jumping or skydiving. You should be more suspicious of family members and friends than of complete strangers.

But fear is a hot commodity these days, being pushed by countless unscrupulous self-interested dealers...

David said...

Having read the article, I will say that one of things I liked about it was the absence of any scolding rhetoric. It just says, "here's a really remarkable and good program, and you'll be amazed at how well children do it at."