I spent the past week in Helsinki, Finland with my core course, Child Development in Scandinavia. DIS is the only study abroad program that I know of where you travel with your course twice throughout the semester, once to a different country. The purpose of our trip to Finland was to learn more about an education system that is continuously ranked best in the world and how their overall view on childhood influences that rating. This trip was especially exciting to me because my Mom’s family is very Finnish.
Finnish Early Childhood Education
We started the academic part of our tour by spending the morning at a Finnish ‘preschool’. Finnish kids attend their version of preschool/kindergarten/pre-primary education through age 6 and the last year is the year that truly focuses on preparing them for school in the academic sense. The idea in Finland is that they are being prepped for school even when they are 2. Not necessarily in an academic sense, but they are fostering their growth as a person in society. Here are my main takeaways:
- Finnish education funding is very equal across geographical locations
- In the US, it is often heavily based off of property tax which creates a large divide between neighborhoods
- The have a strong focus on integration for children who require special needs education
- Finnish children are given much more trust and independence, they are believed in
- The kids butter their own bread, scrape off their own plates and organize their dishes on the dirty dish cart, put on and take off their own snowsuits, etc.
Culture, Nature, Experiencing Finland
While our visit had an educational purpose, we learned through many culture-based visits while in Helsinki! We visited the Fazer Chocolate Factory where we had a chocolate tasting and learned all about how beloved Fazer chocolate is in Finland. We visited the Haltia Nature Center where we learned about forest schools and how Finnish children are encouraged to learn in nature. We spent most of this visit outside and the nature looked so similar to northern Minnesota! The guide actually said that people say Minnesota is the most Finland-like state in the US. Every DIS group that goes to Helsinki spends an afternoon/night with Pekka at Green Window Oy. We sipped coffee in a teepee-like building by a fire, snowshoed, ate a reindeer dinner and finally went to the sauna and winter bathed. I have winter bathed with my host family but this was on a whole other level. Pekka had to carve a hole in the frozen lake for us to dip in to… It was an experience for sure! We ended the week as a class spending the night out like Finns, at a karaoke bar! There was ABBA, Hannah Montana, Justin Bieber… the classic of course! Once we got back from this trip, it really hit me that I only have 6 weeks left here. I’ll be spending that time enjoying the warming weather in Copenhagen and traveling to Berlin and Norway with my families (host and home). I am absolutely loving it here in Copenhagen and can’t imagine leaving but I miss my family friends so much and can’t wait to see them when I come home 🙂
Although I have been blogging for the semester, my strengths definitely do not lie in writing so here are some photos, my way of recording memories.