Skolen i Væen, Helligvær

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. 

 The ferry departed Bodø at 7am and made one stop on the island of Landegode, home to 45 people, to pick up five pupils. These children usually attend school right on their island, with two teachers. Today they’d come to the largest island, due to my visit. Then we continued on to Helligvær. 

The ferry departed Bodø at 7am and made one stop on the island of Landegode, home to 45 people, to pick up five pupils. These children usually attend school right on their island, with two teachers. Today they’d come to the largest island, due to my visit. Then we continued on to Helligvær. 

 The school on Helligvær provides an education for anywhere from 10-20 pupils, ranging in age from kindergarten to 10th grade, depending on the year. Currently, the entire island has a population of 90. There are four teachers and one principal at this school. The island has a grocery store that is open from 3:30-5:00, five days a week. Two mothers share the job of running the shop, and almost all of the fathers work on boats in some capacity. There is also a post office and a gas station, however the fuel is mostly sold to run farm equipment, as there are only four cars on the entire island! 

The school on Helligvær provides an education for anywhere from 10-20 pupils, ranging in age from kindergarten to 10th grade, depending on the year. Currently, the entire island has a population of 90. There are four teachers and one principal at this school. The island has a grocery store that is open from 3:30-5:00, five days a week. Two mothers share the job of running the shop, and almost all of the fathers work on boats in some capacity. There is also a post office and a gas station, however the fuel is mostly sold to run farm equipment, as there are only four cars on the entire island! 

 This 5-10 grade classroom overlooks the harbor, and is just across a path from the ferry dock. Each pupil has an iPad, the classroom has high-speed internet, AppleTV and a SmartBoard! We spent the morning here learning about a typical day in the life of a teenager in Vermont, and reading letters from American teens. We also learned about how the Norwegian government and NASA have been working together on space exploration lately, as they have been studying astronomy in science class. 

This 5-10 grade classroom overlooks the harbor, and is just across a path from the ferry dock. Each pupil has an iPad, the classroom has high-speed internet, AppleTV and a SmartBoard! We spent the morning here learning about a typical day in the life of a teenager in Vermont, and reading letters from American teens. We also learned about how the Norwegian government and NASA have been working together on space exploration lately, as they have been studying astronomy in science class. 

IMG_0369.JPG

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. 

IMG_0385.JPG

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. 

IMG_0380.JPG

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. 

 The town center on Helligvær island. The yellow building is the school. 

The town center on Helligvær island. The yellow building is the school. 

 Tic-tac-toe tournaments in the school yard. 

Tic-tac-toe tournaments in the school yard. 

IMG_0374.JPG

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.”  

 Heading home on the ‘school boat.’

Heading home on the ‘school boat.’

IMG_0382.JPG
IMG_0373.JPG

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.