Chapter 15 From Fresh Air and Sunbathing to Wildlife and Snow Caves

‘Friluftsliv’ in Norwegian Primary Schools, 1939–1980

In: Exploring Textbooks and Cultural Change in Nordic Education 1536–2020

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This chapter focuses on the concept of ‘friluftsliv’ (‘open air life’ or ‘outdoor life’) and its importance for the Norwegian primary school curriculum over the period from 1939 to 1980. ‘Friluftsliv’ is associated with grand narratives of Norwegian national identity depicting outdoor adventures, foraging, and a deep connection to nature. As its inclusion in the national curricular plans during this period indicates, this concept plays a significant role in defining Norwegian cultural heritage. ‘Friluftsliv’ has been a key element in parts of the national curricula, and its role in primary education reflects broader changes in the schools during the development of the welfare state from 1939 to 1980. An examination of curricular plans and selected textbooks shows how the concept transformed over these decades from a health topic to a broader interdisciplinary theme covering physical education, nature studies, and environmental learning. Taking into account how the place of ‘friluftsliv’ in the primary curriculum evolved over these years allows us to better understand how notions of childhood and national identity in educational policy changed from the postwar years through the emergence of the welfare state.


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