Our group spent the first day in 2 very different settings, the first was a Hjalli school, where they follow the philosophy of Margret Pala and teach the children from the age of 2 upwards in classes divided by gender. Having grown up in a society where children are separated by religion and gender at times, I was intrigued by this system. On reflection I could see why some were in favour of this system but in my opinion it was more for the boys to flourish than to empower the girls, as women in Iceland already seem very independent & strong thinkers. The whole gender divide challenged me less than the lack of resources available to the children. I can see the point of pairing back on 'stuff' & do feel we have too much in our classrooms but I'm not sure how much progression there can be in 3 years spent playing with just hollow blocks. This is one sector I would like to revisit & see as many of the different schools within this model as possible. We observed 2 English lessons & from that it was easy to see why everyone speaks such impeccable English in Iceland, the lesson reminded me of how the children in the main school learn French back home - it was fun & all done through games & songs. I like the pictorial signs in the foyer to encourage as much independence as possible - getting dressed for outdoor play in the snow must be like a military operation!
|Learning colours & body parts through play|
|This I could copy for getting on wet weather gear|
|Bottle babies greeted us at the entrance!|
After meandering back to the school, the children went to their classroom for some snacks & drinks while we were taken to the staff room to do the same. Staff rooms in Iceland are for relaxing, no computers or work related info on the walls, just coffee machines, candles & flowers. We had a chance to share some photos from our settings & ask questions before being shown around the building.
|A home corner created in a store cupboard!|
|A room just for art!|
There was a very warm feel to this school, with parents wandering in & out to collect children & stopping to talk with us & ask about our stay. Luckily, in Iceland, they can still have the school doors unlocked.
It is always good to see familiar resources when you are visiting settings elsewhere but also to see things that could be introduced back home. I was very taken by the way choices were made in the Hjalli school & could see me introducing this in 3rd term - the children chose were to play by picking cards & obviously some didn't get their first choice. These choices were also recorded by the staff so they could see which areas a child preferred to go to to or tended to avoid.
|Choosing areas to play in & tracking where the children tend to go.|
The art work on display in the Steikkjaras preschool was inspiring & something I would like to try with my class - I loved a mobile made up from all those lost 'things' that gather up as the year progresses.
I am eternally grateful to Tom & Hulda & all at Fafu Toys for making this trip possible. I hope they know how much the experiences I had on this visit will influence my practice for many years to come.