Blog

Happy Monday! And Hello it's Min Lee and Jessica Greene!

     Today we went to the TPCA factory, otherwise known as the Toyota Peugeot Citroen Automobile factory. In this factory alone they are able to produce 900 cars a day, by working five days a week for eight hours a day. This factory has been in production since 2005. Their factory is run by the motto "Quality today, success tomorrow."

      The process begins in the "press shop." In the "press shop" the body of the vehicle is produced by using molds. Because of their high quality machines a lot of the work is completed by robots, but both the machines and people work together. Throughout the factory the use of a display board helps to show the problems that are occurring in the factory. This helps to ensure that all problems are fixed quickly and successfully. 
The next step of the process takes place in the welding shop. While in the welding shop the parts that are made in the "press shop" are welded together. This process takes place using over 200 robots. The car is welded at 3570 different points and 116 arcs. All the welds are completed in a little over an hour.

    Next the welded car moves to the paint shop. In the paint shop the car is cleaned multiple times to ensure that no dirt has been left on the car after welding. The car is then introduced into a phosphate treatment. A couple other processes take place to ensure that the car is protected against coercion. A sealer is then placed over the welds to protect the welds. The exterior is then painted by robots and the interior is painted manually. The company offers a variety of colors. Folding roofs are also placed into the cars while in the paint shop. The final process takes place and is mostly performed manually, using no machines. There are over 200 operations that are completed before each car can be finished. It takes a total of 54 to 70 seconds for a new car to leave their line every hour. The cars are then taken to quality control. In the quality control facility the cars are judged on their paint and operating systems. The factory runs on the confidence of their employees. Each employee is trusted in their ability to produce the perfect car. Sadly, we were unable to get pictures at the factory because of their rules against photography. 

      After the TPCA factory, we travelled about 15 minutes down the road to a bone church and cemetery. The cemetery is set on holy ground, causing a lot of people from all over to be buried in this cemetery. The cemetery was so big so that they had to dig out the old bones and tombs and then put those bones into a chapel. First the bones were just stored in a chapel, but later on a monk arranged the bones into statues. Then the last owner of the chapel, a noble family, hired an artist to re-decorate the chapel in 1870. When you walk in the decorations are used to make you think about your life. Are you a good person? Because your life will end very soon...

May 26: Day Trip to Olomouc
Hey everyone - it's Morgan and Thomas! We're sociology-urban studies and physics-education majors, respectively! While we are sad to see our trip starting to come to an end, we aren't done yet - here's our story of today!
Today started on the early side, 6:15 am if we're being exact - as we took a day trip from Prague to Olomouc to explore a gymnazium school and the local University! Our visit began at the gymnazium, Hejcin School - located near the city of Olomouc in the eastern part of Czech Republic. We arrived to the school early, ands had a chance to sit in the school's main lobby; which made an impression with thick, stone columns, a large statue, and paintings on each of the walls. The Czech schools we had visited previously did not have a lobby area, nor were as formal, and so this location already stood out in contrast. Once settled, Karel Pohanel, the school's Deputy Principle, took us on a quick tour of the main building. During this, we were able to see the three different school gymnasiums, as well as the science classrooms and lab facilities for physics, chemistry and biology. We learned during this tour that Hejcin is a government run institution and, as the Deputy Principle expressed to us, the school faces many difficulties in terms of not being able to make building updates and repairs due to budget restrictions. Despite this, however, Hejcin appeared to offer nicer facilities - even with poor lighting in the corridors and bare classroom walls - than other schools visited thus far within Prague. In contrast, the school appeared more up to date - whereas previous school buildings dated back to the 1500's. The cafeteria, in particular, had a very pleasant atmosphere, with Windows covering the back walls - the cafeteria had an abundance of natural light.
Our time at Hejcin was focused around the secondary level (high school), however the school offers both primary and secondary education. The second phase of our visit allowed us the opportunity of participating in two different lessons. The school has forty-five minute lesson periods with ten minute breaks following each class. During the first block, our group split up into an English class and various science classes. During the english lesson, we had the chance to interact in small groups with students in the sixth grade. We spent the lesson period talking with them about their school experiences, as well as with the class teacher - a previous resident of Chapel Hill, NC. We heard about their home life, as well as their favorite subjects, and talked about differences between American and Czech social life. During the second lesson, we were divided again into two classrooms and had another opportunity to interact with students going into their final year at Hejcin. The Czech students were able to ask us questions about academics and school life in America, as we discussed comparisons between Czech education and schools in the United States, in terms of a typical school day schedule and freedom in the selection of classes and academic paths. During this conversation, the Czech students expressed that they felt torn with having to decide their future career paths at such a young age. As we have learned, Czech students have a high degree of freedom in choosing the path their education takes - and this freedom happens early on - as they choose to enter high school or vocational schools at grades 5, 7 or 9. The two girls we spoke with both entered the gymnazium during the 9th grade - as they said neither of them were ready to choose a career path at that age and so this education route made the most sense. When talking with one senior, something that stood out was her comparison of the Czech and United Kingdom educational systems. She hopes to attend University in the UK because, in her words, she'll have more intellectual freedom since the UK focuses on long term life learning, while the Czech schools she's grown up in tend to focus more on short term memorization for tests. This contrast is much like that between American and Finnish schools - where American schools focus on this type of short term memorization and Finnish schools focus on teaching for life. The Czech students also asked us questions about the United States legal system, American Universities and our feelings on our current political situation. In turn, we had the chance to talk with them about the social life of a Czech student outside of school, Czech social norms, and how they plan to spend their summer holiday! This school visit was one of our favorites, because we got to spend our time talking with students and getting their personal perspectives.
We ended our visit to Hejinc with lunch in the school canteen!
After lunch, we traveled by bus back down to the city center of Olomouc. Some people used our time in the city center for a coffee refuel, while others had a church tour around the small city. We will briefly interrupt this post for pictures of the churches in Olomouc!
The final stop on our day was the University at Olomouc for a lecture. Our lecture topic of the afternoon was on the Integration and Education of Roma People, better known to Americans as Gypsies. We started with some background on the Roma People. There are about 12 million Roma people worldwide. In the Czech Republic, there are around 226,000 Roma. Of these Czech Romani, 50% have been integrated into society. The rest live in social exclusion in 660 socially excluded locations with 115,000 inhabitants. The Romani people originally came from India into Europe and there have been several migrations since then. Right now, there are 4 sub-ethnic groups of Roma in the Czech Republic: Servika, Hungarian Roma, Olash, and Roma-Sinthi.
Unfortunately, the history of the Roma is one of persecution. Church observes that Roma are not actually Christians first. Excommunicate the Roma People in 1427. This starts Roma persecution and is soon joined by secular powers. Repression climax ed in the 17th Century. They were labeled as outlaws, which meant that killing Roma no longer considered a crime, so hunts for fun start. Women and Children had their ears cut. The Roma were expelled beyond borders of the country.
In the 18th Century, Maria Theresa starts gradually officially assimilating and integrating Roma into society, but that leads to the removal Roma culture. Her assimilation politics included: a ban on nomadism, a ban on traditional clothing, efforts toward the removal of Romani Language, sending Roma children to be educated in non-Roma, Christian Families from 7-12 years old, and the official renaming of the Roma to Neubauern or Ujmagyar. Maria Theresa’s son, Josef II, continued Maria's policies. The assimilation program doesn't last forever and eventually fails, causing Roma settlements to grow.
During the 19th and 20th Centuries, industrialization increases, causing the divide between Czechs and Romani to grow. The Roma stagnate instead of growing with the rest of the population. In 1921, Gypsies were recognized as an official minority in Czechoslovakia. This causes some help to come to the Roma ‘s poor economic and social status. In 1927, a law on controlling wandering Gypsies is introduced. It calls for lists of all wanderers, Gypsy identification cards, wandering documents, no Roma weapons, no wandering Roma in villages and towns overnight, and Roma children can be taken back by authorities for "lack of appropriate care.” The law was ambiguous, regulated way of life, and defined it as ethically Gypsy. All of these laws allowed for discrimination by the Nazis when they took over in 1938. The Nazis ended up killing Roma in concentration camps. They were first transported to working camps, then to Auschwitz or other Gypsy Concentration Camps. Gypsy concentration camps were run solely by Czechs before the transport to Auschwitz. Only 583 Roma survived and returned from camps. The Roma population almost disappeared from Czechoslovakia, and current Roma are descendants of original Roma.
After the Nazis were driven out of the Czech Republic, the Soviet Communists take over. Under Communism, the Roma took on a new form of semi-wandering lifestyle. Especially in Slovakia the Roma lived in traditional communities with no knowledge of the value of money and no rents/cost of living. They were then transferred to cities and their way of life was changed drastically. Communist policy towards the Roma was Paternalistic (violent) Assimilation. The policy states that Roma had to settle immediately. The State was obliged to assure accommodations and jobs to settlers. Those who didn't settle went to jail. Severe police actions start happening against Roma. The Roma unable to resist and had to move into State flats. This lead to conflicts between anti-social Roma and the rest of society. A New Policy came soon: Inner Transfer. This policy destroyed large collections of Roma and moved them around the country to smaller communities. Quota limits were set for transfer. 494 families transferred from Slovakia to Czech Republic before the program fell apart. A 1972 Policy called for cultural integration of the Roma. Václav Havel and Charter 77 opposed the Communist Roma Policies. In the 1970s, new Roma ghettos with no mixing into society were created. From this point into the 1980s, Communists started the sterilization of Romani women. They offered financial rewards to go through sterilization, were pressured to do so, or were sterilized without consent. Roma children were educated in Education Ghettos in special schools for learning difficulties.
After Communism fell in 1989, positive events for Roma became more common. The two main ones were the fall of communism and transfer to a new political situation, and the split of Czechoslovakia. Havel himself attended the first Romani World Festival. New laws still hurt Romani, however. The Czech Citizenship Law of 1993 called for application for Czech citizenship. The law called for no criminal record for previous 5 years and a previous permanent 2 year stay on Czech Republic lands. Both of these conditions were VERY hard for Romani to prove, so the law targeted them. Around this time, violence against Romani started by skinheads with racial motivations. A law to prevent racially motivated severe bodily harm was introduced in 1995, but did very little. Two of the political parties in the Czech Republic were still racist towards the Romani. The 2007-2009 Workers' Party was also racist and openly marched against the Roma, but they were banned in 2010. In April 2009, a 2 year old Romani baby was burned in a Molotov Cocktail attack against a Roma family. This sparked a 2010 wave of protests against Racism against the Romani.
Romani currently have a hard time identifying with political parties and feel excluded from the majority of society. They consider themselves excluded from democratic public life and second class citizens. Roma are now a national minority and supported by the government, but they still belong to the lowest levels of the population. The Roma people suffer from high unemployment, low education, lack of employment qualification, poor living standards, and sub-par income. The Czech Republic now has anti-discrimination laws, but they don't help much. The Roma live socially excluded with lower community housing and poor sanitation. There have been positive steps in last two decades for the advancement of the Roma people. A new institutional framework was adopted in 2009. There is currently a Strategy of Roma Integration for 2015-2020 to reverse negative trends in Roma Minorities.
There are big problems assimilating Roma children into the main Czech education system. A language barrier, poor social competencies, differing social background, etc. are causing difficulties in integrating Roma children into Czech schools. Because of this, Roma children are sent to "special schools" and "Practical Schools" as a result. "Practical Schools" are for the education of children with mild mental disabilities. "Special Schools" offer education programs for children with heavy and severe mental disabilities. 30.9% of Roma students are assessed as having mild mental disabilities and are sent to these practical and special schools even though Roma children only make up 3.7% of the population in all elementary schools. These disproportionately high numbers were judged as ethnically discriminatory and a violation of the European Convention in 2007.
The European Convention's decision has led to the School Reform of 2016. This reform consists of the transfer of students from practical schools to mainstream schools, the abolition of Practical schools, and a compulsory year of pre-school for all children from the age of 5. There has been lots of controversy surrounding this reform. Mainstream teachers think that it won't be practical. There are insufficient funding complaints. Questions about teacher quality have been raised. There are concerns about the rise of administrative burdens of teachers and the loss of specialized teachers and decreased functionality of the special education system. Finally, there are concerns about teacher quality declining in the future.
It is still too early to assess the reform. One result has been private schools forming to escape reform already. There are still lots of questions about integration of Roma students. It is a major challenge. Hopefully one day a solution will be found.
Our day ended with a dinner in Olomouc's Town Square, then we headed on the long bus ride back to Prague. Thanks for reading about our day!
-Morgan and Thomas
May 27: Cultural Trip to Plzen
Hey guys, it's Thomas Gaudin and Jessica Greene :)
Today we traveled to Plzen, a small town about an hour and a half outside of Prague. Plzen is known for having car factories and their famous Pilsner Brewery. We began our journey at Plzen at the Pilsner Brewery. The brewery is famous for being one of the Czech Republic's oldest breweries. The Pilsner Brewery began in the 18th century. In 1839 the brewery started after 260 citizens and Joseph Groll founded Pilsner. Joseph Groll was the brew master from 1842-1845. Their first brew, Pilsner Urquell, was brewed on October 5th of 1842. The transportation of the beer across long distances began in 1900 when a train was built to make transportation easier.  
 
Pilsner Urquell Brewery
The brewery is able to produce over 60,000 bottles per hour for each conveyor  belt. The main brew building has three separate conveyor belts, two that sort and produce beer into recycled glass bottles. Their third belt fills aluminum cans and packages them for distribution. 
It takes them five weeks to produce the perfect Pilsen brew. They begin with barley and hops and then place the two ingredients into the malt mill. Once in the malt mill water is added from their own 100 meter deep wells. The new mixture is placed into copper containers where they heat the mixture until it reaches over 600 degrees Celsius. 
This leads to caramelization, while some brewery's only mash their brew once or twice, Pilsner mashes theirs three times.  They then move the brew into a cooler area in which the brew will sit for a total of 10-12 days, fermenting. Once the brew has fermented, it will be filtered to produce the perfect Pilsner Urquell.
    After the brewery, we got a chance to discover our inner child at Techmania in downtown Plzen. Techmania is a science and industry museum built in 2005. The general layout of the museum is Anvers interesting one: there are no exhibits. All exhibits are jumbled together in the same large room. As someone who has worked in museums for years, I can confidently say that this is an unusual setup, but one that is very conducive to learning. Children are able to run around and explore science in any way that they want and just have fun. 
Outside and Inside of Techmania
Our group had an absolute blast at the museum (the Physics Major has the blog, results may vary)! We saw examples on Physics, Chemistry, Geology, Biology, and any other field of science that you could want! Every example was interactive and had an explanation. I love exhibits like this because the intrigue of the demonstration leads to reading the plaque, which leads to a redo of the demo and better understanding of the concept. This is the trend among science museums in America as well. My personal favorite exhibits were those featuring light and magnetism, or the radioactivity exhibit with a Geiger Counter. Dr. Svec really enjoyed the Flame Tornado exhibit!
Our last stop of the day was downtown Plzen for a cafe and culture break before taking the bus back to Prague. A lot of people enjoyed the historic city center and ate ice cream, while Jessica and I took on the Gothic Cathedral at the center of town. We climbed over 130m to the top for an amazing view of Plzen! The view was great, but the fear of heights was daunting, and so were the small wooden stairs....
Outside of the Church and the view from the top
Well, that's all that we have to say about today! Thanks for reading our blog!
-Jessica and Thomas

Ahoj! This is Maddie Dosser and Jessica McDowell and we're here to tell you all about our day in Prague!

 

We started out this morning with a trip to a gymnasium. A gymnasium is like the Czech's version of high school. Students can enter gymnasium after 5th grade, 7th grade, or 9th grade at their primary school. Gymnasium is optional, and goes from the time students enter through grade 13. All the students at this gymnasium came from the 9th grade because it is only a four year school. Gymnasiums are more academic than primary schools.

 

 

 

The name of the school was "Gymnazium Na Zatlance". The head mistress talked to us for a while, but she spoke only Czech so she had an interpreter. She spoke to us about the history and make-up of the school. The school was built during the First World War. There are 16 classes and 480 students. Mostly all of the students that attend this gymnasium will attend university. This is a language school so many languages are taught here, such as English, German, and French. They have a program with the European Union called the Erasmian European Youth Parliament. Projects are encouraged in the curriculum here. The ministry sets the basics of the curriculum, but the schools have the freedom to write their own year long curriculums.

 

 

 

Jessica had the chance to talk to five first year students. The students were able to ask and answer question with amazing English. We learned that a lot of focus is put on conversing in Czech schools during foreign language instruction. When students matriculate from primary school to gymnasium, they must take an entrance exam and may be able to choose where they go, depending upon their scores. In gymnasium, there is an option to study abroad; however, the student's parents would have to pay all of the expenses. These students told us that the teachers typically lecture them and they take notes. They also said that they study or do homework for about an hour every day, a stark contrast to American high schoolers. The teachers here also seem to use tests as a motivational tool. 

 

Maddie was able to go watch a fourth year student perform her final exam for English language. Afterwards, she got to talk to the student and get her to explain what happened. She went into the room and chose a number from a bag, and the number correlated to a prompt in English for which the student had to prepare a speech. She had twenty minutes to write her speech. Then, she basically had a conversation with two teachers. She said that the English classes are split up by ability group, so it was her English teacher and the "better" English teacher. She answered questions about the weather, acted as though she were planning a party, and gave her speech on current events. The student told Maddie that she was very nervous, but it was her last exam so she was happy to be done. These exams are only given at the end of the final year, and students have to take five exams total. They take two from the state - Czech and either English or Math. Next year, Math will be a mandatory exam as well. They can choose their three best subjects to take at the school level. This student chose Biology, Chemistry, and Geography. After these exams, students can choose to go to University or some sort of higher education, if they want to at all. 

 

We ended the school visit with a tour. We saw a chemistry classroom and lab, a biology classroom, and the library. Overall, the school was very interesting.

 

 

 

After lunch, we toured a pedagogical museum called J.A. Komenského. The museum showcased different time periods in Czech's history. We wrote with quill pens and ink, used old Slovic impressions, and saw artifacts. The Czech Republic had a communist period and was on the Axis side of World War II, so they have a lot of interesting history involving the education of children. 

 

 

 

To end our day, we had a lecture. Our speaker, Bob, studies both Scandinavian and Czech education systems. He works for a non-profit NGO that is working to actively reform the Czech education system. This was a nice review of both Finnish and Czech systems. The speaker said that the biggest difference between the two countries laid not within the education, but within the societies. For example, the Czech spends a very small amount on education. Without funding, teachers are not paid well and not as motivated to work well. Teachers are paid less than $1,000 a month in the Czech Republic. The wealthiest people pay to send their children to private school, because they're more concerned with their children than with children across the whole area. This is similar to the US system in that it is a more selfish society. As Americans, we tend to think of ourselves before we think of others. 

 

The lessons are set up fairly similarly to the United States in my opinion. Here, the classes are set up as instruction followed by reproduction. Most of the teachers started their careers in totalitarianism, so this system works well in the majority of teacher's eyes.



Hello everyone! We are Kathryn Painter and PollyRose Philpot. We have just graduated from Furman with our bachelor degrees in elementary education and will begin jobs as full time elementary school teachers in August. PollyRose is starting graduate school at Furman this summer to get her Master’s degree in early childhood education. Kathryn plans on teaching for a while before pursuing a Master’s degree in special education.

This morning we visited Vratislavova, a primary school (grades 1-9) in the center of Prague. Many of the students were away on a week long nature trip, which is a tradition students in the Czech Republic have been taking part in for many years. Although most of the classes were gone, we still got to observe several classes and had the opportunity to speak to one of the teachers. In an introductory meeting, the English teacher told us that Vratislavova has 15 classes total. The 1st through 5th grades each have two classes, and then there is one class each for 6th - 9th grade. The class sizes average about 20 students each. The school is mainly made up of students from the surrounding area, but can also take other students when they have spots available. The students who come to the school have diverse socio-economic statuses. During our time at the school, PollyRose got to see a 1st grade math class and Kathryn saw a 1st grade Czech language class. Here are our experiences:

The Czech language lesson was for 1st grade students who are just learning to read and write. The goal is that all 1st grade students will be able to write all the letters and read by the end of the year. The class I saw was rather traditional, in that students were sitting in rows and the teacher stood at the front of the room giving directions and leading the class. The lesson was a phonics lesson that focused on the accented e in the Czech language. The teacher had this letter on the board and placed various consonants in front of it to make different sounds. The kids repeated these sounds after her. The teacher also wrote longer words on the board that included the accented e. She read the words aloud to the kids and they talked about their meaning. The teacher instructed the kids to open their workbooks to the page that contained the lessons on the accented e. This page had other words that contained this letter, as well as short writing activities for the kids to complete on the letter. There were also some sentences written out in the workbook that used words containing the accented e. After completing the workbook pages, the kids opened their cursive writing books and began working on the page for the accented e. The teacher modeled some of the words on the board. The cursive writing books had words written on the left hand side and lines for kids to practice copying the words on the right hand side. There was a set of twins in this class who could speak English, and one of the boys told me that in the Czech culture it is very important that you can write well in cursive. He showed me his booklet and I saw that the teacher grades every page they complete and assigns a score of 1 to 5, 1 being the best and 5 being the worst. Although the kids are graded for their work, they are expected to write in pen and cannot make mistakes. During the middle of the lesson, and again at the end, the students stood up to recite a poem they are working on memorizing. They used hand motions that went with the poem as they recited the words. The students remained focus and on task for the 45 minute lesson, but as soon as it was over they ran out of the room and into the hall where they could laugh, yell, and be themselves for about 10-15 minutes before the next lesson began. They were not expected to walk down the hall quietly in a perfect row like we ask of our kids in America.
 

The math lesson I observed was for first grade students ages 7 to 8. When we entered the classroom the students were finishing up one of the many breaks they receive throughout the school day following each 45 minute lesson for 10-20 minutes. When the lesson was about to begin the teacher rang a bell on her desk and the students went from silly to serious very quickly. The lesson started with a song that the children knew very well and I assume they sing daily. The teacher proceeded to ask the students activating questions to get them thinking and she called on children to answer. The first activity used number cards from 1 to 20 that each student layed out on their desk. The teacher would hold up an addition or subtraction problem and the students would hold up the answer. The students had a number line taped to their desk to help them if needed. The second activity used a small cardboard box that looked like a public bus. One student held the box over her head as she traveled around the room collecting and dropping of “passengers” at each “station”. The passengers were small bottles with people on them and the stations were three other children placed around the room. After the bus had made all the stops the students had to figure out how many people were still on the bus.  The third activity started with problems on the board that asked the students to fill in a number that was greater than less than a given number (for example, _<12<_). Four students were called to the board to fill in the blanks for each number. The fourth activity consisted of the teacher asking the class to recite the numbers from _ to _ (for example, 9 to 16). The fifth activity used the children’s math activity books. The teacher played a recording that introduced the scenario of eight snails in a race. The children had to figure out where snails 3 and 6 were in the race based on the information they heard. The students also had to fill in a number pyramid that used addition. The sixth activity required popsicle sticks that the students used to create a large box with four smaller boxes inside. The students were told that they needed to remove two sticks to create 2 rectangles. The students demonstrated four possible ways to do so no the board after figuring out the answer themselves. The seventh and final activity used four manipulative blocks. The students were told that they needed to use the four blocks to create a building with three floors. The students demonstrated all the ways to do so on the board to check as a class. They drew overhead views of the building to show the three floors. This math lesson was fun, engaging, and well organized. All of the materials were easily accessed so no time was wasted and lots of material was covered in a variety of ways.

After eating lunch at the primary school we made our way to Charles University where we received a detailed overview of the history of Prague and the logistics of the university. Charles University was founded by Charles IV who is also the king that the Charles Bridge is named after. The university began in 1348 which makes it the oldest higher education institution in the area. We examined the education system in the Czech Republic and discussed the potential social problem that can be created by the sorting that happens so early in the education system. After 5th grade, at the age of 11 years old, a student who passed the Maturita exam may be selected to proceed to secondary school. This would mean that the students would spend 8 years in secondary school rather than 4 like a student that continues through lower secondary school and finishes 9th grade as a 15 year old. A student can also move to secondary school after 7th grade if they pass the Maturita exam and attend for 6 years. The students that are able to enter secondary school early usually come from a more affluent and educated household. They are provided more opportunity to succeed and they are more likely to continue to higher education (Bachelor’s or Master’s). Teachers in the Czech Republic must complete 5 years of study for primary school which includes their Master’s degree. A preschool teacher must only complete 3 years to achieve a Bachelor’s degree. Charles University is 1 of 26 public universities/colleges in the Czech Republic. The university consists of 53,848 students and is free for all students from the country. During the Bachelor’s degree the teaching candidates receive mainly content knowledge through their courses and the Master’s degree contains 8 weeks of hands on experience in the classroom.

When comparing our experiences today to what we saw in Finland, and what we have experienced as teachers and students in the U.S., some similarities and many differences are apparent. First, we believe that the Czechs and the Finns have more similar education system structures than we do in the U.S. They both have periods of public daycare and preschool (ages 3-5), followed by one year of preparation for school (age 6). Grades 1-9 (ages 7-16) are compulsory. In Finland, students have a variety of options for what happens after 9th grade. They can attend an optional 10th grade, go to an academic upper secondary school, go to vocational school, or go to university. In the Czech Republic, students also have options. They can begin gymnasium, an academic focused school that can start either after 5th, 7th, or 9th grade. Typically, the more academically gifted you are the younger you go to gymnasium. The Czechs can also go to vocational or technical school for upper secondary. To go to university, you must pass the matricula and earn a certificate showing you have finished secondary school. Then, you must apply to a certain program or faculty within the university by taking an entrance exam. These systems are obviously different that the one we have in the U.S., where we have elementary, middle, and high school with either community college or college/university after high school. Public schools are typically valued above the private schools in Finland and the Czech Republic, but private schools seem to play a more prominent role in the U.S.
 

Additionally, the Czechs and the Finns both seem to value education more than the U.S. This is evident in the teacher education programs in the two countries. In Finland and in the Czech Republic, qualified teachers must have a Master’s degree to teach, where as the U.S. only requires a Bachelor’s. While the Finns pay their teachers a very respectable salary, the Czech teachers we spoke to do not believe they are paid very much at all. Of course, teachers in the U.S. are certainly underpaid and under-respected. Both the Czech Republic and Finland offer free public education all the way through university and getting a PhD. Although public education is free in the U.S. for kindergarten through 12th grade, U.S. students must pay for public college and university degrees.
 

One similarity we have noticed is the general trend in all countries to focus more on inclusion of special education students. In Greenville County there are fewer self-contained special education classes than there used to be, and almost all resource services are provided by a resource special education teacher pushing into the regular classroom instead of pulling those students out. However, some students with more severe disabilities are still served in separate classes or schools. In Finland there were some special classes and schools, but the desire is to include as many students as possible in the general education classroom. Even students in special classes join the general education classes for some lessons. The Czech Republic seems to have taken the strongest stance on inclusion. They believe that all students, regardless of disability, can be educated in the general education class with the proper support. Students are only placed in separate facilities or classes if the parents determine that a special placement is best for the child. While we love that all three countries see the value in inclusion, we sometimes fear that general education teachers are not adequately prepared for this task. We hope that each country continues to meet the needs of these students in special education.
 





 

Prague Day 5

 

Ahoj everyone!

 

Today, Tuesday May 23rd, 2017, we had the opportunity to experience 2 distinct places in Prague.  We visited Střední odborná škola stavební a zahradnická:High School for Building Industry and Horticulture (Jarov for short) as well as the Museum of Communism located very close to Wenceslas Square here in Prague. 

 

          Our first destination was the vocational high school Jarov. A unique high school, Jarov was established in 1973 and the biggest school for the working class. With an average of 1,300 students, Jarov takes pride in teaching the skills necessary for constructing, industry, building, and gardening. Programs include 4 year study programs (state graduation exam), 3 year study programs for students of elementary schools finished with a state Certificate of Apprenticeship, apprentice branches with specific educational programs, and follow- up studies that include night classes or full- time classes. Students have the opportunity to choose a field to specialize in. Options include: painting, flooring,carpentry, roofing, gardening – florist´s and horticulture,  bricklaying – building services. Students range from 15-19 years old, starting at 15 years old and begin school September 1st every year. There is a special opening ceremony for the new students located in the biggest room of the school.The large auditorium holds the opening ceremony for the new students, fashion shows, balls and dances, and new projects. The school day starts at 7:45am and depending on the program and day may end at 2:00pm or 4:00pm.  

 


          One of the common features we have found that Czech Schools have in common with Finnish Schools is that education is free. All is paid for in the Jarov school except for special practice workbooks and some materials for classes. The Jarov school is specifically funded by the state. One unique aspect of the Jarov school is its 2 week internships for it’s students. Depending on their specific chosen field of study, there are internships in other countries such as Spain, Germany, or England.The majority of the students were working or lower middle class, who would not necessarily have the opportunity to visit other countries, and this school gives them a greater chance through a cheaper price, as well as giving them work experience. Students have the opportunity to get real practice in their craft by participating in training sessions, lessons, and hands-on creation. We learned that students who learned horticulture were able to work in a floristry in Amsterdam and train in making arrangements for lessons and real clients. The Jarov school even has a flower and plant shop right next to it’s entrance where people can purchase these plants.Other students took a trip to Spain and were there to work on construction of houses and other buildings.

          Within the school, they include many requirements and programs to help each student to prepare for their individualized future. Because English has become a universal language, all students are required to learn it at Jarov. They also have the option to learn German (depending on field) and continue throughout all their school years. Before attending the school, the student chooses their specialized program-often chosen or influenced by their parents- to follow throughout the university. Students can also sometimes earn money through the services and products that they create through their work, such as through the flower shop or wood work.This opportunity emphasizes the connections between education and the larger economy. We were surprised that this vocational school does offer support for students with special needs by giving them an assistant teacher if needed. Unfortunately, their "library" was very small and included only a few study desks and computers. Also, our guide did not try to hide the fact that the programs are very gender specific, such as with gardening being predominantly girls and the wood shop for boys.

          We had the chance to visit their botanical garden which is only 10 minutes away by bus stop and a quick walk. Their botanical garden was beautiful and our guide explained that the school rented it from the city for the 40 years and must keep one quarter of the area open to the public at all times. Students who study gardening are examined and must learn and be able to identify around 300 plant names in Latin.

          Overall, the Jarov school was an engaging experience and gave us a great perspective on the vocational schools in Prague. Furman is  actually the first university from the United States to visit this institution. There are several visitors from London, Germany, and within the European countries, but we were the first from overseas. 

For information on the school, here is the link for the website www.skolajarov.cz 

 

 

 

After having a hearty and filling lunch of potatoes, soup, lettuce, and fish at the school dining hall, we said our goodbyes and took pictures in front of the Jarov school. The Tram 11 we were taking had to suddenly stop and we had to get off. After waiting in the hot sun for a few minutes, we got on the Tram 9 and continued on. We took the tram to the Wenceslas Square and convinced Dr. Svec to let us get gelato or candy right by the Museum of Communism.

 

 

          The Museum of Communism is located in a small area within Wenceslas Square. Small and integrated within the city structure, the museum was filled with an extensive history of the major impact the Communist regime had in Czech Republic and Czechoslovakia in general. The Museum takes you on a journey through the labyrinth of rooms and corners starting with the origins of the communist theory introduced by Karl Marx, the dream of communism, the reality, and how propaganda played a vital role in  creating further conflict between the working classes, authority figures, and even other countries (United States perception). Eventually, one travels the corridors looking at various uniforms of the secret police and even the “nightmare” of the interrogation room (in order to avoid torture, family members would turn each other into the authorities.) The museum had a cinema room where one could watch documentaries of the the regime, interviews with ex-political prisoners, and propaganda films.  Eventually, the museum leads to the “cult of personality” section where we look at costumes of police guards during the time, a section of what let to the destruction of the Berlin Wall, and eventually the Velvet Revolution.

 

 

          One unique story that pertained to the Czech Republic was the story of Jan Palach. On January 19th, 1969 Czech student Jan Palach set himself on fire in protest against the Soviet occupation of his country, and he eventually died from severe burns that day.  The 21 year old doused himself in petrol and set himself on fire in Prague’s Wenceslas Square, which a few of us have frequently visited this week. His act of protest succeeded in inspiring the Czech people to have hope and fight on; it became a catalyst for change. Palach was honored with a Prague square being named after him in his honor, a cross marking the spot where he burned himself, and his ashes are buried in Olsany.  

         Overall, we had a very exciting and engaging day, and we hope you enjoyed reading about our adventures! 


Hi there! This is Brigid and Bree reporting on yet another day in the magical land of Finland. We are both rising senior elementary education majors and have absolutely loved our time here. We hope to implement some of the practices we have seen in our own classrooms one day! 

 Our Finnish adventures are actually coming to an end! Today, we finished up our stay in Oulu with two school visits and are awaiting a flight back to Helsinki. We fly to Prague tomorrow morning to begin the second leg of our trip in the Czech Republic! We have had quite an adventure during our time here in Oulu, from our Arctic reindeer adventures to meeting THE Santa Claus to (surprise) visiting even more incredible schools. 

 We started today off bright and early, meeting in the lobby at 8AM and piling on a bus to our first stop, Kastellin Monitoimitalo Kirjasto. Don’t worry, we can’t pronounce it either. Essentially, it is a community-centered school with three functioning schools within it: pre-primary, primary, and upper primary. These three sections are purposefully separated with their own individual areas, but do interact between each other and within the community. 

 A trend that we have definitely noticed in Finland is a push for schools to encourage community relations and integration. The school is described as more of a community center than a traditional school. In fact, their library is not only shared among the sections of the school— it is open to the community as well. It acts as a sort of hub, which is a great example of Finland’s love for literacy. People from the community are free to come and check out books, even after the library staff has left for the night. (Finnish people believe strongly in trust and honesty. Finnish culture is deeply intertwined with their education system.)


 Our tour guide was a mathematics teacher in the upper school. She began our tour with the pre-primary area. As we’ve seen before, the pre-primary grades include day care and pre-school. Daycare in Finland is equivalent to our pre-school system, with students who are under six years of age. Pre-school is equivalent to our kindergarten, including students who are six years of age. This section of the school includes around 125 children who mostly attend three days per week for a minimum of four hours per day. The pre-primary section within the larger school catered to their every need. Their resources seemed boundless, complete with well stocked classrooms, gym areas, a playground, and even napping rooms. 

 We then toured the primary and upper primary grades (also sometimes referred to as early secondary). These classrooms were relatively plain, as most Finnish people prefer minimalism. Most classrooms consisted only of white desks, smartboards, and an accent wall with student work. This school used the open learning environment practice in which students are allowed to work freely both in or outside the classroom. As we walked, we saw students working in the hallways. The student to teacher ratio in this upper school can be up to 36 to 40 students per one teacher in some classes (of course, classes like chemistry must have smaller class sizes by law for safety reasons). This was somewhat shocking to hear, as we have seen only small class sizes up until this point.


 We saw many shoes and helmets lining the halls, as students take their shoes off before entering the classroom. Students all either walk or ride bikes to school because Finnish schools strongly encourage students to walk or bike to school. This is both environmentally and fiscally responsible. 


 The last stops on our tour included the school counseling center, e-school, and gym facilities. There is great emphasis placed on mental health and guidance for the students at the school. Finland is known for being not only one of the most successful countries in education, but in overall happiness and contentment as well.  The e-school’s office was situated right next door to the counseling center. It was the headquarters of a national online school in which Finnish people from across the country can take online courses. This is yet another way in which the school was connecting with the community. The gym facilities included state of the art equipment, free for students and teachers. When we parted ways, our lovely tour guide encouraged us to keep in touch with our new Finnish friends!

 After a quick stop at the market for lunch, our second visit of the day included a trip to OSAO Vocational College outside Oulu, where 1300+ students study. In Finland, vocational schools include specific career training and the learning of technical skills. Students may start as early as fifteen, choosing to gain skills necessary to enter into the workforce sooner than their peers pursuing a more traditional academic education path. About half of Finnish students choose to pursue vocational schooling after the upper grades, but young students aren’t the only ones that can attend schools like this one. Adults who wish to fine-tune their skills or receive extra qualifications may also attend. As is (almost) always the case in Finland, these students receive this education for free. Many even hold a job while they take classes at vocational school. This particular school offers apprenticeship, labor, political, and personnel training. They also offer vocational qualifications such as vehicle technology, electrical engineering, construction, upholstery, surface treatment technology, catering, hairdressing. 


 It was interesting to observe how these classes heavily collaborated with companies and other industries in order to design courses that fully prepare the students for the workforce. These close ties ensure that the programs are competence-based, so students are learning skills that are necessary for their specific field of work. Each student actually has an individual study plan, which the students and teachers create together to ensure the best education possible and to determine if there is any need for special support.

 We walked through autoshops, hair salons, construction simulators, and kitchens that were fully equipped. The facilities were absolutely incredible and with the student interactions we had, we could really tell that they were doing incredibly meaningful learning. Each student seemed to love what they were doing and truly believed that they were gaining the skills necessary to succeed in their future careers. Oh, and perhaps most importantly, Dr. Svec may have found his new calling on this tour.

 


 It is important to note that schools like this that promote blue-collared work are not looked down upon, but rather seen as equal to any more white-collared counterpart. Finnish society emphasizes equity above all else — and especially in the education system, no matter what the level. There truly are no dead ends, as our speaker (a school director) explained! 

 Well, that’s all from us! Our flight is here! Wish us luck as we embark on the next leg of our adventure - see you tomorrow in Prague! Hei-Hei (goodbye) for now!

Pudasjärvi Log School

Hei! Sophia and Caroline here! We have been in Finland for a week now and we're loving our time in Oulu. Today we visited Pudasjärvi Log School, the largest log school in the world. This award winning school was built in 2016 and has been nationally recognized. We were taken on a school tour by the school’s principal, who shared the reasons behind the school’s architecture and the school’s philosophy. A reoccurring theme throughout Finland’s school is holistic wellbeing. The principal shared that one of the challenges in Finland’s schools are the school buildings themselves. Many of Finland’s schools were built in 1960-70 and have poor air ventilation, which has translated into a mold problem and student allergies. Finland’s government allocated 25 million euros to build new schools made of wood. Wood is the best building material because it is breathable. Schools consider psychological wellbeing as well. The wood brings in an important element of nature and creates a calming, cozy effect within the traditional minimalistic framework. The spaces were designed to be safe, healthy, comfortable and adaptable for many uses. The school was built with the future in mind. The spaces were designed to be flexible so the building can later be used for other purposes, such as a home for the elderly. The principal passionately believes that learning doesn’t happen just sitting in a classroom. Classrooms are attached to a large atrium that served as a type of community center with flexible seating and games such as air hockey and foosball for students to work and relax during their frequent breaks between learning tasks.

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Similarly to their architecture, the school has a pretty simplistic, but inspiring philosophy regarding the education of their students. They believe that their school should be one in which students are able to make mistakes, learn from them, and progress forward. They stand behind the concept that it is crucial for students to be able to make mistakes because that creates an authentic opportunity for the child to learn. Rather than focusing on assessments and how the teacher should measure a student’s knowledge, they focus on creating the kind of space and providing opportunities for students to be successful in their actual learning. In order to do this, they have created learning spaces that break the traditional mold. They have what, in the United States, would probably be considered alternative learning spaces that include a workshop, a fully stocked kitchen, a complete music studios, and other unique environments for students to find what they are passionate about. It was also evident that they believe in the importance of celebrating their students’ accomplishments. For instance, when we arrived at the log school, there were decorations around the lunchroom/atrium in celebration of their ninth grade students who would be moving on from their current building and choosing their next path (in Finland, they may choose to move on to a vocational school at this point).

 

This school was definitely one that we were impressed by! From their beautiful architecture to their general philosophy regarding education- this was one that we made sure to take note of!

 

 

    

 

P.S. It looks like we aren’t the only ones taking note! As we were leaving, they had a reindeer outside waiting to greet the German President who was coming for a visit!

 

 

 

 

Hey everyone! It's Maddie, Katy, and Margaret, ready to share some of our experiences with you from our day today!

We began our day at the University of Oulu, specifically in the Teacher Training School, to learn more about the programs that this university has to offer. With around 15,000 students, this university provides top level teacher education for those enrolled in the program. We had the opportunity to hear accounts from two 24 year old students involved in the program themselves, specifically in Intercultural Education and Educational Psychology. The students shared their experiences with us, both in their time at the University of Oulu, as well as in their study away programs in the various countries that they have visited. In conversing with them about these experiences, we were able to learn about the ways that Finnish education differs from that in the United States. Specifically, they shared that students are typically in a 3 year bachelor's program and a 2 year master's, in contrast to our 4 year bachelor's and 1-2 year master's. They also explained that the relationships between teachers and students differ, as students in Finland refer to their teacher by her first name, whereas American students typically refer to their teacher using her appropriate suffix and last name. They also reiterated that teachers do not have the overwhelming responsibility to prepare students to simply succeed on exams, as American teachers do, but instead are able to focus on the joy of teaching and developing creative and productive lessons. We greatly enjoyed getting to hear from these students, as they were around our ages and enrolled in a similar program to our Teacher Education Program back at Furman. 

 

 

 

 

 

Next, we moved on to a presentation about LEAF Infrastructure, another program at the university. One of the employees in this department explained to us the uses of various technological tools for innovative classrooms and teaching. He described the incorporation of 360 degree cameras for teachers and researchers and explained that this technology can assist teachers in better understanding their students. He additionally expressed the ways that students even as young as First Grade can use these cameras to be creative and to collaborate with others to make innovative projects.

 

Our technological tour continued with a walk through the Fab Lab! This area of the university opened our eyes to some of the impact that technological advances have had on engineering and design. We were able to see the various 3D printers, computers, and other tools used in this lab, as well as some of the products made as a result of these complex machines. It was very interesting getting to see the integration of the disciplines of engineering and design come to life in these labs, and also hear about practical ways in which these tools could be used for students and by students.

 

After that, we received a walking tour of the school's Tellus Innovation Arena. This space was developed in response to the students' need for an innovative working space. Our tour guide explained that this arena is used for people both in and out of the university. She explained that the space is used for three primary reasons: an event space, as a place for students and researchers to participate in activities, and as a place for students and others to volunteer and help facilitate events. She told us that recently, an event was put on by students in which they explained some of the cultural aspects of their home countries. She expressed the value in the students' and the community's collaboration to create such a meaningful event. She said that this was eye-opening for students that attended, as it exposed them to new experiences outside the lecture hall.

 

The next portion of our day was spent with an Early Childhood Education professional, Jana Juitnenen, who shared what the Early Childhood Education programs consisted of in Finland. She shared that most ECE programs are free for parents, or at a low cost, and that all programs, whether public or private, are this way. She explained that schooling for children ages 1-5 is considered Daycare, age 6 is Preschool, and age 7 is when the student first enters Primary School. Students in Finland are required to attend Preschool at age 6, but before then it is optional. We learned that only around 70% of children ages 1-5 attend schooling, although it is typically free or of low cost. She also described the Phenomenon-Based Learning practices in which students are active in creating and learning by doing instead of just listening, and emphasized that this is the basis of Early Childhood programs, in addition to other levels of the Finnish Education system. We enjoyed getting to compare the Early Childhood Education in Finland with our own experiences in the American ECE.

 

Our day concluded with a visit a Human Computer Interactions Researcher and the CEO of Finpeda, who both shared some virtual reality tools that they believe will become useful in the future of our classrooms. The researcher showed us some of the projects that she has created using various technologies, and allowed us to try on virtual reality goggles to experience virtual realities of real streets in Oulu. The CEO continued discussing the use of virtual reality software for classroom teachers, and even showed us the program and how we might be able to use it ourselves one day in America. He also gave us each a copy of his book, "How to Create the School of the Future," which was very exciting, and explained the importance of open classrooms that allow students to be comfortable and successful. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Helsinki/Oulu, Monday May 15th (Day 5) -School Visits in Helsinki

    Hey guys! It's Nicole & Payton- we are junior Sociology majors along for the ride on this awesome adventure!         

          Our first stop of the day was a visit to Siltamaki Elementary School. It is located in Northern Helsinki and has approximately 260 students, 17 teachers, and 8 school assistants. While Siltamaki was not situated in as affluent a neighborhood as the school we visited on Friday, the money to support a child’s welfare while at school is financially accessible via the state regardless of a student’s personal background. They strive to integrate basic education with special education classrooms, allowing students to have extra space when needed but also allowing them the equal opportunity of a mainstream classroom experience. Their main philosophy is a focus on joyful learning and empowering education, which lead their principal to develop The Creative Fire Model. This is a pedagogical style based on creative learning, collaboration, cooperation, design, and digitalization. The model is people, project, phenomenon, and technologically based with an emphasis on future-oriented school culture. When the school shifted to this model, the held a number of parent meetings to explain the new approach, along with various internet-based resources such as YouTube Videos (check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NElH knsmeL8). The Vice Principal focused much of her attention on exploratory developmental projects that focused on integrating technology in the classroom in a reasonable way such as Co-European iTech Project and Ten Sticks on a Tablet. This was a way to help children of all ages engage more meaningfully with their peers as well as older members of the school and local communities. Another project that the Vice Principal helped shape at Siltamaki was the Magic Forest Games, which demonstrated the importance of music integration in academic settings.

Music.mov

While visiting the elementary school we were instructed not to take very many photos of the children. However, we caught a brief clip of one of their songs they have been practicing that we wanted to share with you all! We also found it interesting that it is customary that students remove their shoes before entering the classroom.

           

          Our next stop was at Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences. The university has approximately 10,500 students with 650 staff members across 5 campuses. The four basic program units at the University are the Business Program, the Hospitality/Tourism/Sports Program, the ICT/Management/Communication , and the School of Vocational Teacher Education. We focused our attention on the School of Vocational Teacher Education. Vocational Teacher Education is organized by law and they have the same requirements nationwide. Teachers have to go through five to six years of schooling for an academic degree (ranging from an M.A. to a Ph.D.) and three years minimum of work experience, and then one to three years of pedagogical studies. After this point, they can elect to continue their education, but this is the minimum timeline. The steps of vocational teacher education are: 1. Competence Assessment, 2. Personalization, 3. Peer Group Mentoring, 4. Pedagogy/Observation, 5. Assessment. With great educational opportunities and a more far-reaching welfare system, more people have the opportunity to seek educational advancement during periods of unemployment, making vocational programs such as this one appealing to many young adults.

 

            In the words of our guide, "Hey!" We than visited a company called Martela Inspiring Spaces and their primary goal was to inspire creativity into the workplace.  They designed their work-spaces to enhance concentration, communication, and collaboration. The furniture they built is light-weight and easy to move. They incorporate acoustics into their products with rugs and ceiling panels. When used in the classroom, they begin by looking at the student’s activities and base their furniture off of what is necessary for the teachers needs and the potential hazards, such as spilling. Their goal is to change classrooms from passive spaces to active spaces. Active spaces are flexible, integrate technology, encourage teamwork, and are student centered. The company as a whole strives to be environmentally friendly. Space design reflects your values, so the set up of a classroom reflects how the students will learn and process information. The modifiable element of their furniture is the most important as they can move the furniture to fit the lesson as it changes and when you change the pedagogy, the environment can change with it. 

LEFT: Classmates Jessica Greene and Maddie Dosser test out an engaging workspace.
RIGHT: Here we are in a purple egg-shaped chair. Go Dins! 


We ended the day with a flight to Oulu, which is situated about 600km North of Helsinki. We made this trek to the Lapland Region of the country on a very small propeller plane. It is definitely a bit chillier here than in Helsinki. Stay tuned for tomorrow's post as we continue to visit different classroom settings!

That's all for now, folks!

Nicole and Payton


On Friday morning, we met with the National Board of Education to get an overview of the education system in Finland. The two key points of the Finnish education system are equity and trust.  

Finnish education seeks to give all students equal access to a good education. This means that all students are the same status when they enter the school. The schools will also accommodate students whose families cannot afford technology in the classroom with the materials that they will need. When a question was asked about the effects of socioeconomic status and race on education, our speaker, Eeva-Kalsa Linna, spoke on how these things do not affect the education of students. I thought this was very interesting because in the United States, socioeconomic status and race very much affect the education of students.

The Finnish education system also has large amounts of trust in the teachers in the schools. The teachers in Finland are all required to complete their Master’s degree before they begin teaching. These teachers are also able to have autonomy in the classroom in how they teach the curriculum. There is not national testing in Finland, but teachers are trusted to assess the progress of their students with how they see fit. Unlike the United States, Finland has a national curriculum, but again, teachers are able to be autonomous in how they teach it. The teachers take into account students' preferences when teaching, as well. 

Our second stop of the day was at Kasavuori Dream School here where we met with the head of their international relations unit, Marjo Kekki, and also got a chance to meet their principal, Leen-Maija Niemi. Marjo Kekki told us about how the program in the school worked and then we got a chance to both eat in the cafeteria as well as observe some classrooms. This school is for 7th-9th graders and is preparing them for far more than just school subjects, but also real life skills. The overall school set up is very similar to that which we may see in the United States with a cafeteria and hallways with classrooms and lockers. The entry way, however, is very different than schools in Greenville because there is no security or check in. We were met by Marjo Kekki and escorted into the school, but it is such a safe area that the high level of security clearance is not necessary. One thing we noticed when we drove in was that there were so many bikes, mopeds and motorcycles parked at the entrance that kids had used to travel to and from school which is very different and interesting. 

The first class we observed was a cooking class in which the kids were preparing their own lunches. They were required to make a main dish, a greens dish and a dessert item. The teacher was very supportive, but allowed the kids to create their dishes and menus independently. We then went to see a sewing class where kids were working on their projects independently and making items such as dresses and bags. This was quite impressive and such a great skill for them to have at such a young age. The last class we saw was a woodshop, technology and metal class.The teacher was very knowledgable and enthusiastic. He showed us many of the kids' projects and explained the curriculum well. Lastly we walked though an art classroom as well as a German language classroom. The German classroom was interesting because it was very intentionally designed with the Swiss alps mural as well as two tables similar to that which would be seen at Oktoberfest. Overall, what we saw were very engaged children who were learning invaluable skills that are far more than just school subjects. The teachers were very attentive but not overbearing to their kids and they were all knowledgable about their subjects.

 

 

On Friday afternoon, we met with Mr. Pasi Silander who specializes in phenomenon based learning. He spoke on how the method of phenomenon based learning focuses on teaching competencies that children are interested in. He shared a link with us that would better explain this methodology: http://www.phenomenaleducation.info/phenomenon-based-learning.html Further in the workshop, Mr. Silander revealed that the teachers in Finland are so successful because they have a book full of guidelines and activities for each standard they are supposed to teach. This contradicted what we had been learning throughout the day because we had been hearing that teachers were very autonomous in the classroom and that the curriculum was based on what the students wanted to be learning. Mr. Silander said that this book was created by the best teachers in Finland and everyone follows it. Of course we didn't get to see this book for ourselves, but knowing this information now, I am interested to see what other teachers say about it when we go visit more schools in Finland.