In the Nordplus Junior project "Start with Yourself", students at Sveaskolan in MalmĂ¶, along with schools in Latvia, Lithuania and Iceland, studied the concept of health from four different perspectives: environment, drug abuse, exercise and eating habits. The project has been to make students more aware of their own health and what their lifestyle choices can have of impact on them now and in the future.
"You will learn much more by meeting people and really experience all that one would normally only read about", says John Dennis, team leader at Sveaskolan, who is also the coordinator of the project.
The idea to start cooperation on the topic of health and lifestyle was due to the constant relevance of these issues, particularly among young people. These are practical problems that many young people are struggling with today: too little exercise, too little sleep, poor diet, drug and alcohol abuse, and environmental impacts that could result in adverse health effects.
Exercises in scientific problem-solving
The four participating countries have each been responsible for one of the four selected topics within the concept of health: Iceland â€“ environment, Sweden â€“drug abuse, Latvia â€“ eating habits and Lithuania â€“ exercise and physical activity. Students have approached the issues by applying scientific research methods. Each school has been designing questionnaires, conducting research in their subject area and then presenting their findings to the other schools.
Exciting field trips
The exchange has also included study visits to each of the participating countries. Pupils and teachers have visited each other for a few days at a time. The visits have mixed classroom exercises with social activities and various field trips. In Sweden, the pupils visited the narcotics police and met with former addicts who shared stories on their personal struggles. In Iceland, they made an excursion to an environmentally friendly power plant and visited a recycling centre. In Latvia, organic food was on the agenda, including visits to an eco-bakery. And in Lithuania, it was all about various forms of physical activities, including horseback riding.
Instructive on several levels
According to John Dennis, the project has been very rewarding on many levels. Through the exchange, students not only learned more about the subject of health but also about their neighbours' cultures, about each other and about cooperation across national borders.
"Apart from a better knowledge of English, it also provides students with an opportunity to experience other countries' school systems and see them in relation to their own."
TEXT: JĂ¶ns AhlĂ©n, International Programme Office for Education and Training, Sweden