Pre-school and the animal Olympics
Our time in Finland continued with a visit to pre-school services in Espoo, a city in the municipality of Helsinki.
The pre-school year is for six-year-old children, and is not compulsory, though it is taken up by nearly everyone. Pre-school classes can be located with kindergartens, or at schools.
The pre-school we visited had classes at both the kindergarten and the school, all located on the same ‘campus’ as the secondary school, which seems great for smooth transitions.
We observed a maths lesson, which was very active with lots of walking around and standing up and crouching down. This was for a small group of 10 children, with one teacher and one assistant, very much focusing on the numbers one to ten even though these were six-year-olds.
The pre-school element was just for 8.30am to 12.30pm, with ‘daycare’ activities that were much more playful in operation for the rest of the day.
Both children and staff were very calm at all times, with children barely seeming to register our presence and continuing to focus on their lessons. A sense of exuberance was somewhat lacking, however.
Then it was off to the Haltia Nature School, dedicated to outdoor activities for school groups. We went off into the forest with our leaders to try out the ‘Animal Olympics’ programme more usually undertaken by seven- to nine-year-olds.
So we ran and jumped, carried each other up the track, threw acorns into bags in the trees, and played at lynxes catching mountain hares. We received a stamp for each activity we completed.
The following day was a cultural rather than professional one, with a journey across the water from Helsinki to the island fortress of Suomenlinna, which had played a pivotal role in many important events in Finland’s history. The weather brightened up, and we walked around with the sun on our faces.
After a few hours back in the city, we boarded the Viking Line ferry for Stockholm on an overnight cruise – a bizarre but strangely enjoyable experience for those of us not affected by the slightly rough crossing.
The next day we would be arriving in a different country.