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본 연구는 유아들이 교사의 계획된 지도 없이 숲에서 자유롭게 놀이하며 갖는 경험을 알아보기 위하여 수행되었다. 연구 참여자는 유치원에 재원하고 있는 만 5세 유아 15명이었다. 2006년 9월 첫째 주부터 2006년 12월 셋째 주까지 매주 토요일 14회에 걸쳐 숲놀이가 이루어졌으며 이를 참여관찰 하였다. 수집된 자료는 필사를 거쳐 질적으로 분석하여 5가지의 범주로 정리되었다. 분석 결과 유아들은 자유로운 숲놀이에서 앎을 위한 여정 떠나기, 나를 세상 밖으로 드러내기, 공동체 속으로 들어가기, 상상의 세계에서 놀아보기, 실패 걱정 없이 도전하기를 경험하는 것을 알 수 있었다. 본 연구에서 나타난 결과는 유아들이 숲이라는 자연에서 교사의 지시나 설명 없이 자유롭게 놀이하는 과정에서 드러난 자연에 대한 반응과 자연에서 놀이하는 유아의 본질적인 성향을 이해하는데 도움을 줄 수 있다.


The purpose of this study is to reveal the meaning of young children's experiences at free play in the forest. The participants were 15 5-year-old children in kindergarten. The data was collected through participant observation for 13 weeks in the forest. The observation time was 100 minutes a week. All data was categorized using content analysis and meaning analysis. The themes were integrated by five themes according to meaning. First, young children feel curiosity for nature in free play in forest. and search and observe things and environment of nature. They deduct some result combining knowledge that with information that they already have and observations. Therefore, they experience a journey of knowing through play in nature. Second, young children appreciate various states and phenomenona of the forest. they experience themselves in words and body. Third, young children are involved in lively interaction playing with ages freely in forest and from relation with ages. The social actions in forming relation to play with peers, to cooperate, to help, to give, to exchange, to compete, to promise justice and so on. They experience to becoming community members. Fourth young children experience the world of imagination through the use of unstructured natural objects in the forest. Their play by imagination is thematic fantasy play, role play, imitative play. Fifth, young children try various play with freedom and rich play material. They experience to challenges without worry of failure. Young children try to practice new body exercise and invent new play and methods to play successfully. They experience that the solving of problems and phenomenon and social problem with peers.