Alice Felker Copenhagen
September in Copenhagen!
Copenhagen has been great so far! I’ve been on some great day trips in Denmark so far. I visited Møns Klint, some beautiful cliffs by the seaside in Denmark. I also spent time in Arhus, the second largest city in Denmark, visiting their Teaching College. I also got to visit the Fredriksborg Castle and the Kronberg Castle (where Hamlet was set) for my philosophy class. We read Kierkagaard while exploring his favorite places to write in Denmark for a weekend.
I also have been teaching English in a special education school every Thursday since I have been here. The kids are amazing, and I’ve learned so much about the Danish education system in general. One thing that is really cool is the amount of autonomy given to children—we visited a forest kindergarten where 3-6 year olds spend time in the woods year round. They even sleep outside for nap time! They help to cook the lunch, facilitate their own games and activities, and are basically given free reign over the forest. I saw some 5 year-olds cutting tree branches with handsaws! In class, we talk about how this philosophy often leads Danish children to be more independent in the long run. Children learn from an early age to take ownership of their learning!
One of my passions is inclusive education, and Denmark is currently in the midst of some pretty heated debate about whether inclusion is really the best solution. In 2012, a controversial policy in Denmark coined “The Inclusion Law” set a goal of having 96% of students in the general education population by 2015, indicating that almost 10,000 students in special schools would need to be transferred to public schools. However, while the number of students in general education increased, the amount of funding per student decreased by 12%. A lot of people now associate inclusion with efforts by the government to cut spending on education—which has led to backlash from teachers. Also, while lots of students were transferred from special education schools to general education schools, teachers were not appropriately trained in how to best teach in an inclusive classroom. Resultantly, many students with disabilities fell significantly behind their peers academically and even regressed. It has been interesting to discuss the process of moving toward inclusive education with the Danish educators I work with at my practicum site.
I live in the Outdoors Living and Learning community at DIS, which is awesome! I live with nine girls in an apartment right near the city. Every Thursday, we have group events. So far we have been kayaking, cooking over a campfire, and biking. This has been really cool, because Denmark has some amazing sites to camp at and is just generally very beautiful. We had an overnight camping trip
next to the Prime Minister’s house in the woods on one of our first weekends! I also learned how to pitch a tent with one tarp, a rope, and a knife. It has been really fun to challenge myself to be a little more adventurous and spontaneous through all of our outdoor activities!
I’m looking forward to going on a trip to the Czech Republic and Paris over fall break. Then, shortly after, I will be traveling to Finland to study one of the highest rated education systems in the world. I am also really looking forward to exploring more of the City of Copenhagen. I have been to Nyhavn (the place with the pretty houses and boats), center city, and freetown Christiania so far. I’m hoping to explore more castles and get to the see the little mermaid too!