There is a part of me that always had this dislike for nature. I can probably trace this dislike back to the various summer camps that I had to endure as a child. The outdoors in my experience had always been full of bugs, scorching weather, and activities that (when being an introvert) served no other purpose than embarrassment. Honestly I never saw the value in nature other than just being beautiful. This course has introduced me to approaches in childcare in which nature is a key component to development. However I was hesitant that a space full of trees can provide any significant learning experience beyond flora and fauna.
For the second week, our class traveled for a study tour to Helsinki, Finland. The bustling city was the platform for my classmates and I to give cultural presentations on city landmarks and renown Finns throughout history. Followed by academic presentations covering topics based on Finland ranging from their history as a country to the characteristics of the Finnish social welfare system. From my group presentation on “Teacher Education in Finland” what stood out to me was that teaching is considered a highly respected profession. This ideology leads teachers to have autonomy and provide all children with a high quality education.
The second part of the study tour took place away from Helsinki and into Nuuksio National Park in Espoo, Finland. We stayed at the Green Window Oy hotel owned by Pekka, a native Finn and a protector of the forest. Upon arrival we settled in and Pekka lead us to the lake. I knew we would be canoeing but there was a part of me that did not want to participate. For me to see the value in this experience I needed to engage…so I put on my life vest! Pekka provided us with basic canoeing instructions and paired me with two other classmates that I did not know well. We worked together to push the canoe out onto the lake and formed a rhythm forward.
I realize the purpose of this activity was for me to enjoy nature but also to learn to build peer-relationships. A canoe cannot row itself rather it requires teamwork to move forward. There needs to be a person behind steering, the middle for balance, and the front for speed. Cohesion is necessary for learning to happen. If I fail to work alongside my peers there will be no opportunity to learn about each other or from one another.
We each contribute to the learning experience in unique ways. It can be difficult but there is beauty in moments where we are all “in the same boat”. I enjoyed my time on the canoe as we sailed in the sunshine, admired the natural splendor, and talked our way through the process. Nature can teach valuable lessons about the natural world and the natural process of building peer relationships. My experiences in the past resulted in limited engagement but the Green Window offered a new opportunity for me. Embracing every moment with peers can result in learning experiences that can last a lifetime.