Monthly Archives: April 2015

Finnish Penpals

One of the best products of my trip to Helsinki, Finland, for a meeting with Innokas and the Global Education Foundations, was meeting and collaborating with two educators from a Finnish school north of Helsinki.  We planned and put a plan in place to set up penpals between our classrooms and use a.   We wanted our initial letters to be handwritten so that the students felt they were more personal and got the feeling of receiving something in the mail from another country.   From there, they could then continue corresponding via email or post (whichever they preferred).  We also planned to share projects that we were doing in class to help give our students a real global audience to which they could share their learning.  To do this, we set up a blog called Bridging Communities (this ties in with the Building Bridges theme from the Global Education Foundation).  There was such a benefit to meeting and working with these two in person.  A bond was created that made it feel more comfortable when we communicated by email afterwards.

Last week our first letters arrived and the students were ecstatic to receive them.  For the most part we were able to pair them one to one, boy to boy and girl to girl, with a couple sharing a pen pal or receiving two.  The students read their letters and immediately were sharing with each other and asking some questions of me, such as what team is Oulun Kärpät (a Finnish ice hockey team), what is floorball, and what is a pedal car.  The letters lead to lots of discussions about similarities and differences from Finland to the USA.

When most of the discussion had died down, the kids asked if they could begin writing their penpals back.  My response was of course.  They began writing and you could have heard a pin drop until they began sharing what they had written, asking for ideas of what to share with their penpal, and wondering if it was okay to say Americanized things in the letters like football or tv show names.

I’m so excited to continue this collaboration into future school years and grow by connecting with more schools in other countries.  The engagement level for our students has increased for wanting to create projects to share, have time for writing, and we are building relationships that could span a lifetime.

Nicole, Jefferson & Roosevelt Elementary schools, Janesville, USA

Walk, bike, ski, or sled

I am an American science teacher spending four months in Finland on a Fulbright grant. I’ve been visiting many Innokas schools and was asked to share some posts from my own blog.

This winter I ventured north from Helsinki to visit Innokas schools in Rovaniemi and Oulu. Upon arriving at the Metsokangas School in Oulu, the first thing I noticed were the skis. It looked like I might be at a cross country ski center in Vermont. But then I saw the bikes. I’m 100 miles (160 km) south of the Arctic Circle, and kids are biking to school in February. Wow. It was quite a warm day, hovering right around freezing, but most bikes in the US at this time of year are stored in garages or basements, covered with a layer of dust, and in need of a tire pump. Most American elementary school students don’t even bike to school when it’s warm out. And the streets and sidewalks in Oulu were were sheets of ice flanked by huge snow piles.


Skis for gym class

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Circuits and the Arctic Circle

I am an American science teacher spending four months in Finland on a Fulbright grant. I’ve been visiting many Innokas schools and was asked to share some posts from my own blog.

Despite studying Finnish for over a year, I had never learned the word piiri, which translates to “circuit” or “circle.” During my trip to Lapland to visit the Ylikylä School in Rovaniemi, I became familiar with both translations.

arcticcircleArriving during the weekend, and armed with a rental car wearing studded tires, I had the opportunity to be a tourist. On my way from the airport to town, I made the mandatory stop at Santa’s Village. I finally figured out that all the signs for napapiiri were not directing me to a town of that name, but rather to the Arctic Circle.

My original plans didn’t include dogsledding, thinking it to be the touristy Lapland equivalent of a Central Park carriage ride. But another Fulbrighter highly recommended it, so I decided to give it a try. I’m mighty glad that I went, especially as I had the sled to myself and got to drive for the whole 2 hours through snowy forest.


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Movie Gala

We went to a movie gala last Thursday. It was for everyone who took part in the Espoo movie competition. We sat in the front row. First we saw the first movie ever made. It was a black and white movie about a train coming to a station. It was very short. Then we saw all the animations. Then we got a price. We got tickets to go see a real movie and a diploma for taking part in the competition. They asked us questions about making the animation. It was fun. 

Jalavapuisto school, class 3K, Espoo, Finland

More in Finnish

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Robo Greetings from Metsokangas Comprehensive School


The Robo Project has started at Metsokangas Comprehensive School in Oulu. Our students made wooden game boards by using Google Maps, painted them using six different colours and after that they marked the names of the biggest cities all around the world.


When the game boards were finished, students started to learn programming. A few of them had programmed before, but for the most of them it was the first time to program EV3 Lego Robots. At the beginning they programmed their robots to walk from the city to another. Next time they will start to learn to avoid obstacles and to program robots to turn around.


During this spring our students will create many own playing strategies in groups and design how to play the game by using the robots. They will also make ship outfits for the robots, because robots are moving along waterways from continent to another. Students will also make pawns during this spring. Pawns will look alike pandas.


Päivi, Jaana, Minna and Petri (and also our 106 eager  students) from Metsokangas Comprehensive School