The Nordic countries in a new light

An increased interest in Nordic languages and culture, as well as in the common Nordic history. That is the aim of the Nordplus Junior project that Fridegårdsgymnasiet in the Swedish municipality Håbo carries out together with schools in Norway, Denmark and Iceland.

"One result of the project is that the pupils now consider Scandinavia a holiday destination and a future labour market. I am really happy about that", Elin Quas, teacher at Fridegårdsgymnasiet, says.

Since the autumn 2014 Elin Quas and her pupils cooperate with upper secondary schools in the Nordic neighboring countries in the project “Nordic culture in change with a global perspective”.  The aim of the two years project is to increase the pupils’ knowledge of the common Nordic history and let them explore the Nordic identity. An identity that, due to globalization and an increased international exchange, is in change.

An objective of the project is to increase the pupils’ interest in Nordic languages and make them understand that you can communicate with our Nordic neighbors without speaking English.

"Our pupils had never been to the other Nordic countries before – they go on holiday to the south of Europe or to Asia", Elin Quas says. Very few in the class had even talked to a Norwegian. “You can’t understand what they say” was a frequent comment. But we were speaking Scandinavian already in our second meeting.

Stereotypes scrutinized

The project started in the fall of 2014 with the pupils and teachers at home discussing similarities and differences between their countries. What prejudices and stereotypes exist when it comes to the Swedes, Danes, Norwegians and Icelanders? The pupils produced films, quizzes and questionnaires that were sent between the countries. Through a Facebook group the participants have been able to communicate and get to know each other. The project has also set up a website.

The first meeting took place in Håbo in Sweden in the autumn of 2014, where the 26 pupils at Fridegårdsgymnasiet hosted their Nordic friends. During the visit, the pupils presented their work in the project so far and the guests participated in lessons at Fridegårdsgymnasiet. There was also time for visits to the Swedish Parliament, The August Strindberg museum and to the municipality of Håbo.

"Our pupils made good progress and took responsibility during the visit", Elin Quas says. They found solutions and took care of their guests. "I also experienced that the more quiet pupils started to take their place. Since no one spoke in their mother tongue everyone had to adapt to each other and that worked well".

Discussions on literature

This spring, the project has focused on the languages, and the classes have been working with loanwords, reading and discussing books and magazines in the Nordic languages. In March, pupils and teachers visited Reykjavik in Iceland.  The next visit will be in Denmark this autumn and the last meeting takes place in Nittedal in Norway in the spring of 2016. Then the participants will work on the Nordic identity, from perspectives such as migration, globalization and the welfare state.

Elin Quas thinks that the most obvious effect of the project so far is that it has awakened the pupils’ interest in the Nordic countries.

"When the project is over we hope that the pupils will have gotten a new and changed view of Scandinavia. We want them to feel that this is a region that you can move within and where you can make yourself understood".