While visiting Norway for the European IY Networking Meeting, Bjorn Brunborg (IY parent mentor) and Marianne Gjerstad (IY Dina teacher and peer coach) took me on a field trip to Fjell to see two Kindergarten Schools. In Norway, kindergarten Schools are available for children ages 1 to 5 years.
This beautiful school opened 7 years ago and is nestled in the side of a mountain. It has an outdoor play area surrounded by rocky hillsides which the children are allowed to explore. The glass fence around the play area has pictures drawn on it by children as well as the Incredible Years logo! This logo originally was drawn by my daughter when she was 4 years old so it is exciting to see her art alongside some Norwegian children’s art. Looking out at the rocky mountain I can almost image trolls waiting to play with the children.
At this school there are 57 children and 28 of these are toddlers (ages 1 to 3 years). In the toddler classrooms there are 2 preschool teachers and 2 assistants for 14 children. The children start school as young as one year of age beginning in August and they stay there from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. The principal Anette Kaland had taken the IY Teacher Classroom Management Program many years earlier when her daughter attended this school. The school has a wonderful warm and calming atmosphere and I think that I would like to work here with these children, teachers and trolls.
The next school is located on a farm and is what I imagine Old McDonald’s farm to look like with a large, red barn, many animals and children playing happily. It is surrounded by a beautiful hillside and forests where the children can also explore. Even though the day is cold (freezing temperatures) the children are outside, dressed in their snow suits and playing happily. I see that Willy Problem Solver (managed by teacher Sonja Pedersen) is also dressed in heavy clothes and a warm hat and is playing with the other children. Willy and a group of 5-year-old girls grab me by the hand to take me on a guided tour. I discover that Willy and Molly (managed by teacher Heidi Valen) are constant companions of the school’s children, modeling and encouraging problem solving, communication and emotional regulation. This school has 4 age-groups of children – 10 toddlers (1-3 years of age), 15 children (mixed ages 1-4 years), 12 preschoolers (4-5 years) and 19 early school age children (4-6 years).
In the first three younger age groups the teachers who were trained in the IY Teacher Training Program model verbal and nonverbal communication methods, guide children with emotional, social and pre-academic coaching, and provide constant positive attention for positive behaviors. The teachers in the older children’s group also deliver the Dinosaur Curriculum lessons twice a week. These teachers took the first Dinosaur teacher training delivered in Norway in 2007 and are accredited in delivery of the dinosaur program. They have incorporated Dinosaur concepts throughout the day for the children. Every month they focus on one of the Dinosaur program themes. In one classroom I notice how children earn small Wally Problem Solver picture coins for sharing, helping and taking turns. When they get 5 of these coins they can trade them in for a Dinosaur foot. When the class earns 19 dinosaur feet they get to choose a class reward – this class has chosen an ice cream party. Another class has selected a slumber party in the hay for their classroom reward. I also want to work at this school and be a child again! I meet with one of the accredited preschool teachers, Kristina Bergsvile and the administration manager, Heidi Iren Vatne, who show me a video of how the children are teaching Molly to feed the horses hay and later how to jump in the hay and participate in their cooperative play. They tell me all new teachers get IY training and that they participate in teacher booster sessions yearly to keep their motivation high. It is a magical place. (Stay tuned for a new IY YouTube video of this event)
I end the tour at the Town Hall and meet a group of accredited IY teacher peer coaches for the IY parent, teacher and child programs.
I am greeted by Steinar Nesse who is the Chief Executive and has energetically supported the roll out of these training programs for at least 13 kindergartens.
They train 3 new kindergarten schools each year and will start another 3 in August. Over 400 kindergarten teachers have been trained in IY teacher and child programs. The peer coaches provide intensive support in the first year of IY training and start the first 2 months delivering the Dina program together with them. Gradually they decrease their time in the classroom letting the teachers deliver the Dina lessons more independently. In the 2nd year they meet with the teachers twice a semester to provide support.
In this community, all the teachers first receive the 6 monthly IY classroom management training workshops. Peer coaching is provided throughout the year and teachers have booster workshops once a year where they share stories of their experiences and how they have incorporated IY concepts in their daily work.
The community and their teachers have made a real and genuine commitment to helping enhance children’s social and emotional development. How lucky these children are!