At the Section for Teaching and Teacher Education at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences we work on building bridges between farm and garden activities and the schools of general education. Our initial project, “Living School”, from 1996 to 2000, took its point of departure from the question: “How can we contribute to fostering hope, courage and resolve in children in order for them to be able to participate in a productive way in the forming of their surroundings?” More concretely, the goal was to create pedagogical “provinces” in which a committed, caring and continuous work with nature could occur to enable an enduring experience of connection and belonging. “Green care” is thus seen at our institute as essential for building health in children, as a prerequisite for learning.

This is in accordance with one of the most basic tenets of the theory of salutogenesis in the work of Antonovsky (1997), which states that one important premise for the development of sound health is to be found in the experience of coherence. This is to be understood not only as an experience of, and insight into, the origins of objects in our daily lives, but also an experience of being able to contribute to and affect the connections surrounding us. Such as the researcher of early child development, Martin Dornes (1993), writes: “Not only joy in bodily activity and play, but also the joy of discovery and the feeling of being able to effect and understand meaningful relationships in the world are central motives from the beginning of life.”


When we make an attempt to experience today´s world in Western countries through the eyes of a child, we can easily understand that they meet a complex, fragmented and confusing structure in daily life. Milk comes in cartons, fish in rectangular boxes, heating from floors or vents, furniture and building materials from delivery trucks and clothes from fashionable shops. Insight into how food is produced in nature, where textiles and building materials come from or how inside temperature is created is removed from their experience. In addition most children see their parents disappear each day to unknown places and activities, at the same time as they themselves are placed within the four walls of childcare institutions, many first at only a few months of age. In spite of early access to the world-wide-web, children are in a large degree cut off from participation and understanding of the basic tenets for daily life. Such a bird’s eye view of childhood makes plausible the fact that Richard Louv (2005) includes in his book The Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder: Pre-school children are the largest growing consumer group on the market for anti-depressive medicines in USA today.

How children's health is affected by their environment is seen clearly in the increase of both psychological and physical illnesses such as asthma and allergies, anorexia and bulimia, obesity and diabetes, hyperactivity (ADHD or ADD) and dyslexia (reading disability), to name the most frequent. The rapid acceleration of such health problems rules out genetic causes and demands a reassessment of the conditions for childhood. Amount of time indoors, time spent in passive activity, the lack of free movement and play outdoors are factors which have been identified, whereas the lack of transparency of, and occasion to contribute to, daily life have not yet become issues in the public consciousness. As professor of pedagogy, Tom Tiller, asks in his book, which came out in Norway (2003), Is it not possible that children are tired at school and lack interest in learning because they lack a meaningful context for their learning and see neither how things are connected to each other nor how they themselves can make any difference?


Through our courses with farms and schools we see the effects of repeated work-periods at the farm. The farm work provides “meaningful contexts” where the children are motivated to learn through practical experience that sheds light on the origin of products in their daily life. Concrete tasks give them insight into ecological connections and man’s place in nature. Development of manual dexterity strengthens the foundation for learning in all subjects, at the same time as they learn to cooperate and solve problems as they arrive. The children or youth can learn with their bodies and senses, which is not only the basis for enduring memory, but is also essential for physical health. Outside in nature they connect to other living organisms - a prerequisite for stewardship and engagement in environmental issues. As a leading American educator, David Sobel (1996), writes: “One takes care of what one loves.” When children feel their contribution to caring for animals or plants is needed, it reinforces their identity and gives them self-confidence.

All these aspects and many more apply in even greater degree for the increasing number of pupils who are “losers” at schools. The children with diagnoses, with concentration problems or psychological crises are perhaps those who need what farms and farmers can give them most of all. Many children today cannot be in classes without personal assistants and daily medication. The school, not the health authorities, has the responsibility for these pupils, but cannot offer them adequate alternatives within the four walls of the school. Farms can offer an arena which can fulfil the obligation of the school to meet the needs of the child.


After the initial pioneer project, “Living School”, which was supported by the Departments of Education, Agriculture, Culture and Environment with 1 million euro, the work has continued mostly in the form of accredited courses given in different regions of the country. While the project succeeded in producing examples of school gardens (eight schools) and school-farm cooperation (eight farms) in pilot projects scattered throughout Norway, there was a need to develop regional models which were rooted in local communities. At the present time there are parallel courses in several regions, and the demand for courses is more than can be complied with. The courses are supported by the regional agriculture authorities, and the national development agency for rural projects, Innovation Norway, provides funding for farms in trial periods and for capital investments. A number of local governments see the farm-school cooperation as a way to ensure population stability in vulnerable regions. By experiencing a connectedness in the local community during school age, the authorities hope that more people will wish to move back after finishing their education other places.

Although there is rapid growth on the grassroots level, there is a need for research on the effects of farm-school cooperation, especially as to the learning benefits with which the farm arena can contribute. At the present time farm-school cooperation forms the largest group of farms engaged in a production of societal services (Fjeldavli and Meistad, 2004).


Antonovsky, A. (1997): Salutogenese. Zur Entmystifizierung der Gesundheit. Tübingen: dgvt-Verlag

Dornes, Martin (1993): Der kompetente Säuling. Die präverbale Entwicklung des Menschen. Frankfurt/M.: Fischer

Fjeldavli and Meistad (2004): Grønn omsorg og Inn på tunet. Rapport R-02/04. Frekvensrapport fra en spørreundersøkelse blant gårdbrukere.

Louv, Richard (2005): Last Child in the Woods – Saving our Children from Nature-deficit Disorder. Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Algonquin Books

Sobel, David (1996): Beyond Ecophobia: Reclaiming the Heart in Nature Education. Great Barrington, Ma: The Orion Society and the Myrin Institute.

Tiller, Tom and Rita (2003): Den andre dagen – det nye læringsrommet. Oslo. Høyskole Forlaget.

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Linda Jolly
Seksjon for læring og lærerutdannelse (SLL)
Institutt for matematiske realfag og teknologi (IMT)
NMBU - Norges miljø- og biovitenskapelige universitet
Postboks 5003 NMBU
1432 Ås
Tel.: 67 23 15 39, mob.: 48 29 43 47

Erling Krogh
Tel.: 67 23 15 15

Kontakt web master
Jan van Boeckel



School-Farm Cooperation on Family Farms in Norway
Linda Jolly & Erling Krogh, 2012

Farm-school cooperation for sustainable learning
Linda Jolly, 2012

Making Sense of Place: School-Farm Cooperation in Norway
Linda Jolly & Erling Krogh, 2011

Relationship-based experiential learning in practical outdoor tasks
Linda Jolly & Erling Krogh, 2011

School-farm Cooperation in Norway: Background and Recent Research

Linda Jolly & Erling Krogh, 2010

The Farm as a Pedagogical Resource (PDF)

An evaluation of the co-operation between agriculture and primary school in the county of Nord-Trøndelag, Norway. A paper presented at an international conference on farming and rural Systems Research. (Vila Real, Portugal, 2004)

A short description of farm-school course in northern Norway (PDF)

Out With the Blackboard in With the Cow! (PDF)

Nature as a Teacher (PDF)
Ceciel Verheij

Resurgence Magazine

Reality and Joy in the School Garden
Linda Jolly
(pp. 4-48) pdf(~2.53MB)

The Farm as a Pedagogical Resource. Health and learning from farm activities for school children in Norway
Linda Jolly pdf (98 kB)