Spring has arrived in full force. I am so enjoying the warm sunny days, which are noticeably longer already. From Oslo to Bodø the ice has given way to crocuses, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. But spring also means that I’m now making my last visits for the school year. To try and capitalize on the best weather, I strategically scheduled a couple trips to more remote, coastal locations for the last few weeks of Roving. I have been looking forward to these all year.
Last week I took my final trip above the Arctic circle. I had an invitation to visit the school on Helligvær, a cluster of islands about 25 kilometer north west of Bodø. The principal told me I had to come on a Thursday or Friday due to the ferry schedule, and that she would gather the 19 children who attend one-room schoolhouses on two neighboring islands for my visit. I was in.
When the kids asked me if I had heard of their favorite take on dodge ball, I told them I had not. So, immediately we got up and went down to the gymnasium so they could show me how to play! This gymnasium is a new addition to the school and community. Before it was built a few years ago, physical education classes took place at a neighbors house.
The high light of the day was when the kids took me on a walk around their island— without a teacher! It was a fun way to connect more informally, to practice their English (and my Norwegian!) and let them show me a little more about their lives here. Many pointed out their homes and animals along our walk.
As we left the schoolyard and began to climb a steep, grassy path one pupil turned to me to ask if I would manage. “Yes!” I replied, and as I watched them all scurry up the hill ahead of me I realized just how much these kids really have grown up completely outside. “Growing up on a small island, they learn to do everything the adults do. Sheep, horses, the boats, and to be safe around the water too, thats the most important thing,” one teacher told me later.
When we left Helligvær at the end of the day, we made a quick stop at the third nearby island to drop off one student. As we waved goodbye to him the kids still on the ferry remarked to Hege that it was almost time... “Almost time for what?” I asked.
She explained: “Soon they’ll jump off the ferry and swim into the dock. We’ll stop, they’ll hand over their backpacks and clothes, and then as we’re pulling away they’ll jump off the boat and swim to shore. Their parents will be waiting for them with a towel. Some of these kids swim all year ‘round.”
I am so grateful for the unique experience of visiting small schools, particularly here on Helligvær. Talking with these students and teachers about school routines and growing up certainly gave me a new perspective on different school experiences around the world, but it also reminded me just how much we have in common, too.