Norway – Trondheim Queen Maud University
I am here in Trondheim, Norway visiting Queen Maud University (Dronning) is the Norwegian word for Queen) I have been made to feel so welcomed. Already in week I have been able to visit two Barnehagens (Norwegian name for the schools that serve children from one year of age to 5/6).
In addition I have met with two wonderful people who coordinate the International Student programs (Siri and Rasmus) and three faculty members who have shared both information about their teacher preparation programs and perspectives on early childhood education in Norway. ‘One of faculty I met with is the distant cousin of one of my students at Bethel. He shared with me the remarkable story of how they reconnected.
As everywhere, there are restrictions on taking photos of the children. I am taking as many pictures as possible to give you and idea of the environments and best practices here in Norway. even though I cannot take pictures of the children in action.
I am a guest of Queen Maud University. They have kindly given me an office which is a cute loft above the bookstore. This has been a wonderful place to reflect and read as I learn about their program.
This is key information from Queen Maud’s website which helps you understand they hold a unique position within early childhood teacher preparation.
Queen Maud University College of Early Childhood Education (QMUC) was established in 1947 as a foundation built on Christian values.
- We have currently about 1400 students and 150 professional employees.
- A lot of effort has been made to encourage men to start in Early Childhood Education and Care. Queen Maud University College has received The Gender Equality Prize for its successful work in recruiting men to the profession.
- QMUC are participating in several research projects regarding Early Childhood Education and Care, both nationally and internationally.
- QMUC participates in the ERASMUS program.
- QMUC is leading the Network for Preschool Teacher Training and Preschool Development in Southern Africa, namely Zambia, Namibia, Swaziland, Botswana, Mozambique and Tanzania. We also take part in several other national and international networks.
First I want to share with you some information from the Norwegian Preschool Framework. As in Iceland, there is an agreed upon national guide that all barnehage follow whether pubic or private. All children can attend a barnehage….the directors of both schools I visited explained the cost is very low and there are discounts for families who have lower incomes. In any case the government subsidizes preschool care and education.
Here is how the government funding impacts families:
The parent payment for the first child in kindergartens shall amount to a maximum of six per cent of the household’s total personal income pursuant to the Tax Act, Chapter 12 and taxable capital income, and be limited to the maximum limit for parental payment pursuant to section 1. This means that the care and education for children between ages 1-5/6 is very affordable and provisions are made to make it affordable for all families – even those new to the country. Everyone is expected to learn Norwegian but their is a deep understanding of the importance or retaining one’s native language as well.
FRAMEWORK VALUES TO BE EMBEDDED IN THE BARNEHAGEN….
Norwegian framework plan (new in 2017) I am hopeful you can hear this audio of my host translating some of the framework for me. It is not easy to translate these concepts and I really appreciated her doing this so I could better understand the deep thinking reflected in the values in the framework. You will better understand how values are then reflected in the programs. Click on the link. This is my first time trying to add an audio link to my blog and I am hopeful you will be able to hear the translation. 🙂
The education will help to promote understanding of human dignity and democracy, especially through child participation and in line with the value basis in the kindergarten’s purpose clause.
The education will promote understanding of Sami culture as part of the national and emphasize indigenous status and rights, both nationally and internationally. (The Sami are the indigenous people who live not only in Norway but across Scandinaiva. I learned that Sami children have the opportunity to learn the Sami language in addition to Norwegian. This is critical for the Sami people…just as it is for our Native Americans in the USA.
The kindergarten teacher education will qualify the candidate to practice the kindergarten teacher in a society characterized by diversity and change. Learning outcomes are formulated based on the national qualifications framework for higher education, bachelor degree.
Norway has a great deal of diversity – many new immigrant groups have settled in Norway. Last night I attended a festival performance of young people called Fargespill . To celebrate the diversity in Noway these performances gather up students from 8-20 years of age and create an international performance. In Trondheim this year it included Norwegian young people performing with their Syrian, Somali, Kenyan, Burmese, Egyptian, Vietnamese, Kongolese, Eritrean, Phillipino , etc classmates. It was AMAZING! The Faregspill project is being nominated for a Nobel Peace prize. This is a picture from the last scene in the performance which I thoroughly enjoyed. Thank you to Oddrun for the tickets.
SCHOOL VISIT: What did I see at Laeringsverkstedets DoRiMi This school for children 1-5/6 had an emphasis on music as the name implies!
Humlehaugen DoReMi – Barnehagen
Ratio in 1-2 year old class. 5 staff with 17 children. One of the five teachers was a male. He said he had come to enjoy working with the youngest group. The teachers follow the lead of the children and extensive exploration is encouraged with little re-direction from adults. Free play and exploration is highly valued and this is evident as one observes.
I noted a child who was not walking (all of the other children were) and I wondered about early intervention type services. The teacher explained they will wait another 2 months and have parents check with medical provider. Treatment (if needed) will be taught to staff and parents so they can help the child in the best manner.
One of the children is this group understands/speaks 4 languages. Her mother is Chinese, a father who Italian and they speak English at home. At age 2 this little girl speaks Chinese , Italian, English and Norwegian! A testimony to the ability of the brain to respond to what it experiences.
The Kitchen, children were kneading small bits of dough for rolls. There was a big mixer out they had used/observed to make the dough. Later, two infants were brought into the kitchen and were sitting in high chairs with wooden spoons…watching, smelling the bread baking.
The Infant sleep room. 30 strollers lining the room, Kept at a cooler temp. Same all year. At nap time children get into their strollers and sleep in this room.
Assembly room. The school has a very large auditorium. While I was there children were learning about dinosaurs and had light shadow puppet stage. They use this room to gather once per week to build community. On this particular day there were 83 children 21 staff on-site.
Art room There were so many materials! Children have art lessons where a teacher gives them opportunities to work on project – also there are times when this room is open for free art. The teacher is herself an artist. There were beautiful art projects. Sticks wrapped in year with googly eyes, bumble bee foot prints, water color of self-portraits displayed in frames.
Math room – set up for teaching math through hands on materials. Again, there were many kinds of well organized materials.
Outside EVERY DAY Note the large play area – Children are allowed to climb and expected to have some minor mishaps. Teachers do NOT provide written reports if there is a bump or scratch like we do…it is an expected event of childhood.
Classroom for 4 year old children. Health Care/ Hospital. Teacher (male) teaching children how to do CPR on a stuffed animal. Children carefully resuscitated their ‘patient’. The children were so serious about procedure and all of the stuffed animals were revived! Later free play and children were very engaged taking temperatures, listening to heart beats. It was fun to observe.
Children here having a field trip walking towards the fjord. They wore bright vests that have the school telephone number listed. I learned that sometimes teacher wears a large rucksack with and brings along the children’s lunches…some days bring along a portable BBQ, start a fire and cook lunch in the forest. At the sea gather crabs, shells, rocks to be brought back and investigate. In the forest they gather materials to be used in art. The picture included here was not taken at the barnehagen but was a photo op when we were walking in Trondheim…it shows children wearing their vests walking with their teachers.
Mealtimes. Children have special dishes designs to engage them in conversation – They sing and talk about the story depicted on their dish or bowl. They used to use ceramic plates but decided to use these heavy plastic dishes that with a gummy ring on the bottom to cut down on clatter and noise.
Food cooked on site every day: breakfast, lunch and snacks , Trude is shown here in the kitchen where small groups of children may eat or help in the preparation of food. Trude explained they changing art work in here in the kitchen and throughout the school so that it spurs conversation with the children.
This banehagen is for children of students who attend the Norwegian Technical University (NTNU) in one of the satellite campuses of this large university. What struck me was the array of services provided to the parents of the attending children. An example was the fact that during exams, staff provided longer hours of care for children and will even go to the home of the child to provide care so that the student/parent can study. There is a high value placed on university study and students who are parents are afforded the support of the barnehagen staff beyond the regular school day. I found that extraordinary.
Parent collaboration is so well embedded into the program. In addition to seeing many parents enjoying the morning music assembly, I learned that the day before I visited they had a parent event. Parents had spent time out on the playground arranging materials in a way they thought the children would enjoy and learn from. As you see in this picture this included pallets, tires, long boards. The children also use these daily in their outdoor free play and teachers help them move items into the positions the children desire. Through the parent event, parents experienced what they children see and do.
Another part of this parent event was to learn more about the values of the barnehage. They had an opportunity to reflect on the value of community. After discussion they had a fun on-line quiz using their cell phones about what they had covered during the sessions. See below how they arranged the playground:
It is Friday Sept. 28th and all of the children had gathered for an assembly that included persons playing an electric piano and guitar. Two male teachers were playing the music for the children. It was wonderful music, children very excited to participate. In several classrooms I noted they had piano, guitar or ukulele – real instruments meant to give the children a high quality music experience.
Director explained that like to create small interesting spaces for the children and I did not see large groups of children in any one space. Instead many children were outside or they were using spaces throughout the school such as the art or math room. They have a much greater ratio of staff to children then we typically have – so there is much adult support though the goal it to allow children freedom to chose their activity.
Children in this barnehagen also spend a good deal of time outdoors. As I was observing, a group of 4 year olds were donning their gear (coats, hats, waterproof pants and boots) along with a small rucksack in which they had their lunch. They were headed out to the forest where they would spend some hours. They would be enjoying nature searching for things to bring back and explore more. What was impressive to me it was not only raining but the first snow flakes were falling. Weather does not prevent teaching/learning outside – it is simply part of the experience. (I have adapted too. I am heading out in the pouring rain to catch the bus and am grateful for a water-proof jacket with a hood. They say there is no bad weather only bad clothes).
While I there I noted two babies became tired. The teacher got their strollers out and bundled them into the stroller and wheeled them out to the covered porch outside. Eventually during the day all of the infants and toddlers will be out on the porch taking their naps. Teachers use a ‘baby caller’ (monitor) to know if any child is awake and they monitor them visually as well. This is also how these little ones take naps at home – outside in their strollers. As you can see they use a warm mini-sleeping bag type bunting and the bunting has inner straps so that the child cannot get out of the stroller. It was explained to me that sleeping outside provides the opportunity to sleep very well. I had read about this and it was interesting to see how It was actually done. These strollers are outdoors under a roof of an open porch. Each of these strollers has a baby getting a good rest.
Next week I will be meeting with more faculty members and making more school visits. My biggest insights (and admiration for) are the very intentional way values drive the curriculum.