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  • Erna van der Werff

Welcome to Oulu!

Written by: Jeltsje Kramer-Tamminga

Teacher Assistant at Greidefugel and Toddler Leader at Greidepykjes Kids First

Last week we traveled by plane with a delegation from the Netherlands to Oulu, Finland. From the window of the plane we already got a small impression of Finland. White, here and there a village with those beautiful wooden houses, a lot of forest, but to our surprise quite flat. Not a hill or mountain to be seen. The program for the week had stated that there would be time for skiing. We had taken that into account in terms of clothing. Well, no mountains.

After a warm welcome at the airport in Oulu by the Finns and a small group from Scotland, we went to our Airbnb, right in the center of Oulu. Oulu, a city of about 200,000 inhabitants, is the only major city in the northern half of Finland and is also known as the capital of the North. Furthermore, Oulu will be European Capital of Culture in 2026.

In the evening we got to know the rest of the group while enjoying a snack and a drink. The entire group consisted of about 25 people. With Ireland, Scotland, Finland and the Netherlands we formed the Culture United group, an Erasmus+ project with the aim of cultural events and heritage festivals as a driving force to embed multidisciplinary ways of teaching in primary schools.

Our program was set up throughout the week to work and develop this education plan. Bart Roelofs of Kunstkade, well known to most of us, has been working a program for this that we would be testing and which we can later use in our schools.

The program of the teaching/training workshop started in the Oulu Museum of Art. The team from Finland immersed us in the Finnish culture. They also showed us how they integrate culture in the schools. The great distances in Finland sometimes make it very difficult to include schools in the cultural sector.

We discovered how well the Netherlands has managed that part. Thanks to Kunstkade, there is a plan, and many schools already make extensive use of art and culture. Kunstkade has many projects for schools in the municipality of Leeuwarden that children can participate in at school and after school. After the first training session, we were given a tour of the museum.

During the week, each training session was done at a different location, combined with a tour or presentation. We visited Oulu International School, Oulu Public Library and Kastelli Community Centre. The latter was a multifunctional building for childcare, primary education, secondary school and a library.

At the International School we were able to join two lesson with different groups. This gave us a nice insight into Finnish education. The library in Finland also plays a very important role in education. Every student receives a library card, every class (grade) receives a list of books that they should have read and/or that they must read that year, for which they receive a diploma afterwards. We were presented with a nice example of a book display.

Besides all these training sessions, workshops and presentations, we were also able to enjoy the typical Finnish culture. A performance was provided by the Finnish "Hendrik van der Meer". And we sang with the whole group, counting in Finnish (I think…). The Finnish sauna was also a highlight, this was a bit different than in the Netherlands. Here and there the temperature rose considerably for some people, but luckily we could alternate that by cooling down and rolling in the snow.

Despite the full program there was plenty of room for relaxation, and we could conclude this Finnish adventure with the national sport of Finland, cross-country skiing. I understand now that you don't need mountains for that.

We look back on an instructive, pleasant, fascinating week in Finland and its beautiful culture and nature. We met amazing people, learned a lot from each other and made a first big step towards developing a Cultural Education Program for the schools. The Netherlands has a lot of culture, such as the 11-city tour. We have chosen this as the subject to work out as an education plan. Next year, the Musical de Tocht will premiere in October, and we will also present this education plan to the schools.

Until then!


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