Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Settings Day 2 - #playiceland

Day 2 in Iceland dawned bright & early (with a text message at 6.30 from an excited team member to say it was snowing!). Around the hotel the snow was like the kind we would get at home, more slush than snow but as we were heading out of the city on the bus we could see the snow getting deeper & deeper, and while waited for our next bus the scene was like a real winter wonderland. 
The first school we were visiting was Krikaskoli, an amazing school in so many ways - it came about as the result of a competition for the best design of a school building as well as a complete ethos & philosophy. The building is incredible, such a brilliant piece of architecture & extremely well finished. The basic design is that of a tree, so the ground floor is supposed to reflect the trunk of the tree, whilst the first floor is the branches & the roof the leaves etc. 
A beautifully designed school
The classrooms are all upstairs & even the little ones (2 year olds) learn to go up & down the stairs. Their playground is directly off their classroom & almost on an upper deck of the rest of the playground. It was hard to grasp how the outdoor space looks as it was completely covered in snow but it was lovely to see the children out playing in the snow, sliding down banks & throwing snowballs.
Kristen was very generous to take the time to show us around this school that has based itself on the democratic model of John Dewey. The administration side of the school was all housed in the one area, with lots of offices, meeting rooms & again a beautiful staff room where people could really relax away from work. There was a large picture window out into the main foyer but a blind could be pulled down if privacy was needed.
As the building is based around a tree, each of the classrooms have a 'nest' a horseshoe shaped soft padded area where the teacher & pupils gather for group time. We also saw some boys lying inside the nest doing some maths whilst others sat at desks & one boy even stood on a chair. It did make me question why we as teachers spend so much time & energy ensuring children are sitting 'properly'. On reflection if the work is being completed does it matter if a child is lying on the floor to do it?
Completely on task.
Once again I saw lots of schedules for children with ASD but couldn't have picked anyone out of the main group. The classes have time for 'workshops' every morning, we saw small groups doing physical education, woodwork, home economics & craft. It was incredible to see children as young as seven learning how to clean, they were washing chairs, walls & windows & their teacher explained that the next workshop they will cook something. She also told us that when they have cleaned a room, the children have more of an appreciation for keeping their school clean & tidy.I found it interesting to see primary age pupils taking part in many activities that would be restricted to secondary school in our system - wood work, home economics etc.
Cleaning, craftwork & woodwork for primary children.
In the afternoon I was lucky enough to visit Reykjakot & spend some time with their amazing vice-principal who was fantastic at answering all our questions. Once again, this school separates the children by gender from the age of 2 but it wasn't as rigid as the first school we had visited. The actual founder of the Hjalli model had taught in this school & they liked most aspects of her philosophy.The children played together in the playground & mixed together in one of the groups where numbers were too low to sustain 2 classes. This preschool had a wonderful homely feel about it & all the staff & children seemed very comfortable with each other. Their staff room had a book case full of fiction books for staff to dip into during breaks etc. - not a school book in sight!
Wonderful vice-principal at Reykjakot
Gorgeous art work at Reykjakot
I thoroughly enjoyed my chance to visit both these schools & since coming back have reassessed my attitude to how children sit in the classroom & story room, as long as they are not blocking another child from seeing the book etc. why do they have to sit in a particular position? The staff were so friendly & welcoming in the schools that I also hope that any visitor coming into my setting would be made as welcome. I have so much to reflect upon after this visit to Iceland that I think it will take a few more posts to cover it all!!

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. 


  1. What a fantastic experience for you! It seems such a lovely way of learning for the children and the fact that the children cleaned their classroom is amazing. I can't imagine anything like that happening in my childrens school. Enjoy the rest of your trip x

    1. Thanks, it was an incredible experience. I think it's a pity more of our primaries don't have lessons like this to allow all children to feel a sense of achievement & not just the academic ones.


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