The reason children at this Swedish preschool say ‘Konnichiwa’
In an increasingly globalized world, teaching children to appreciate different perspectives and to be culturally sensitive to others is key to a modern education.
Raising children who value and respect diversity is often a priority for international parents. But finding a school that can appropriately foster this particular brand of empathy isn’t always so simple.
Promoting international mindedness is an everyday focus at Futuraskolan International Preschool Brunbärsvägen. Part of a network of seven preschools and seven schools in and around Stockholm, the preschool – which opened its doors in 2008 – has 40 nationalities and 35 languages represented across 22 staff members and 120 children.
The mission at all Futuraskolan International schools is to shape children into future world citizens. But how to do this when your students are aged between one and six years old? By celebrating both individuality and diversity, explains Ivett Tamayo, Principal at both Preschool Brunbärsvägen and Preschool Warfvinges Väg.
“At Futuraskolan, we believe that to be internationally-minded we must know ourselves and our values to be able to be respectful and curious about each other and other cultures. Here at Brunbärsvägen, we encourage this by helping the children to get to know who they are as well as by celebrating differences using many pedagogical tools,” Ivett tells The Local.
A uniquely diverse environment, the international preschool works rigorously to break down intercultural barriers and encourage openness and inclusiveness. The teachers skillfully engineer this through a combination of innovative teaching methods and activities that promote cross-cultural sensitivity.
“We have many different projects to advance our main goal of being a stepping stone for future global citizens,” says Sascha Slavnic, preschool coordinator at Brunbärsvägen. “One of our longstanding efforts involves the families of the children as much as possible by, for example, celebrating many different holidays and festivals such as Diwali, Chinese New Year, and Swedish Midsummer. We have found this to be a very effective way to make the children comfortable with who they are as well as with their cultural differences.”
At an organizational level, Brunbärsvägen’s work to reach the goals of the Swedish LPFÖ curriculum is inspired by two international curricula: the International Primary Curriculum (IPC) and the International Early Years Curriculum (IEYC). In addition to being modelled on the latest neuroscience of learning, these curricula tie neatly in with the Swedish curriculum.
“If you look at the Swedish curriculum, it talks about the need to reflect cultural diversity and to have cultural awareness as well as ensuring that children's mother tongues are featuring in preschool life,” says Naomi Hudson, who is responsible for Brunbärsvägen’s Scorpions Group. “And I feel that for us at Brunbärsvägen, this is not an abstract concept or something we need to find and bring in; I think we live it, it’s what our preschool is at its heart.”
Always encouraging the children to be proactive and reflect on their role in the world, each year, Preschool Brunbärsvägen focuses on a particular theme to guide everyday activities. This year the focus is language and, in this spirit, parents have been invited to come in and speak to the children in their native languages.
“This fall we’ve had mother tongue storytime, for example, so we’ve been inviting parents to come in and tell their personal stories. This has been a fantastic experience for the children and you can tell how this has benefited their self-esteem and made them more open to each other and new experiences as well as inclined to share,” says Naomi. “Every day in the groups, we see everything from children teaching their friends how to count in their mother tongue to children saying Konnichiwa to each other.”
Futuraskolan doesn’t exclusively rely on its diverse student body to promote international mindedness. Since its inception, Futuraskolan International Preschool Brunbärsvägen has actively worked to involve the children in the wider world through community outreach at elderly homes and sustainable development initiatives such as school-wide cleanups and recycling.
For the past four years, the Global Citizenship project (now up and running at all Futuraskolan schools) has made the children active participants in an ongoing outreach program in the Philippines.
“Throughout the year, we have a lot of fundraising activities where the children sell their handicrafts and donate the money to the schools we are supporting and working within the Philippines,” says Shezana Syed, Administrator and Admissions Coordinator at Preschool Brunbärsvägen. “In this way, the children get a chance to help other children in a way they can relate to and at the same time see for themselves – from an early age – that it’s possible to help others and make an impact in the world.”
This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by Find out more about Futuraskolan International's schools in Stockholm.
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