Last month, I got a unique opportunity to spend a week before Christmas over in the snowy Lapland, Finland. We have already dedicated a few posts to sharing the experiences, the methodologies from the training course, and over the next few weeks, we will be covering more topics, all linked to outdoor and adventure education. This training course was made possible with Erasmus+ funding and welcomed 36 participants from Germany, Finland, Portugal, Slovenia, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom.
I had hoped to experience exciting winter activities with fellow youth work professionals, and learn about the Finnish approach to the great outdoors in youth education, but I discovered so much more along the way.
It is a chore to travel especially when air travel is in the picture. As we all know flying is mostly waiting at airports, getting through security behind passengers who take forever to empty their pockets but the hope is always, that at the end of this arduous process we will get to our final destination. Travelling during Covid times has not been easy but I would like to say that for the most part, I have found my fellow travellers more organised, more patient, and generally accepting of the added restrictions.
So, how do you get to a remote area of Finland in winter? You take a connecting flight from Heathrow via Helsinki to Kuusamo, a town with a population of under 15.000 people, and hope for the best when you are driven on a coach through a thick forest covered in snow. The weather conditions were generous to us that week with mild temperatures of around -5C and some additional snowfall. The week previous to our arrival they saw -25C which is COLD and would have been more of a challenge to us during the week of the training. I should also mention that due to the season, there is limited daylight, which lasts about 4 hours a day, and then it’s dark. It does take some getting used to, with lots of coffee, and a range of activities helping us all to stay awake.
The Finnish Ministry for Education supports financially and supervises 9 youth centres scattered across the country. The Oivanki Youth Centre happens to be one of them. Located 15km outside the town of Kuusamo, in the middle of the woods, by a lake, the area has a lot to offer and is a perfect setting for a number of activities throughout the entire year. The centre staff made sure that the guests got to try traditional pastimes such as the sauna, ice-fishing, ice-hole swimming, Finnish curling, cross-country skiing, snowshoe hiking, and others. Outdoor education forms a vital component in the Finnish approach to youth work and youth development as a whole.
I will refer back to the title of this post; as in who is to decide whether any given activity is an adventurous one? Is it the role of a youth worker to plan, and execute these activities for the young people they work with? Should young people be part of the process from the start? During the training we tried to answer these questions, all according to our own experience and different national perspectives. It is also key to the success of these outdoor education opportunities, learning outcomes, and long-term educational impact for young people.
In the next posts, I will be covering the Finnish pedagogical approach to running their youth centre network, the youth-oriented approach, the Nuotta coaching, experiential learning, as well as the overall importance of reflection in youth work. Watch this space.
For more information check out:
Finnish Youth Centres: https://www.snk.fi/en/
Oivanki Youth Centre: https://www.oivanki.fi/home/
Youth In Action Finland: http://www.oph.fi/erasmus-nuorisoalalle