Two Early Childhood and Family Studies students recently returned from an eye-opening exchange program with Queen Maud University in Trondheim, Norway that provided a first-hand look at an educational system vastly different from that of the United States.

Olivia Sullivan, who spent the fall term at Queen Maud with classmate Jessica Funk, said the opportunity to explore another country's educational system as well as Norway's mountains and valleys appealed to her sense of adventure.

“That feeling of loving the outdoors, mixed with my love for working with children, was the main reason why I chose to go,” Sullivan said.

For the first month, the students participated in courses and lectures with Queen Maud students and a group of international students. Afterwards, they spent the rest of the term completing fieldwork with Norwegian outdoor preschool programs as part of Queen Maud’s volunteer/practical-training setting.

In addition to gaining practical experience working with children, Sullivan and Funk observed differences between early education in Norway and the U.S.

“There are no ‘lessons’ or any emphasis on reading, writing, or numbers. These concepts are built into play,” Sullivan said. “Norway has a strong tie to the outdoors; one of their important words is ‘friluftsliv,’ which translates to ‘free-air life.’ This is a strong concept that is shared throughout all of Norway, and I feel that this concept could explain my trip in one word.”

The Norwegian kindergarten is called ‘barnehage’ and falls under the Norway Barnehage Framework Plan. The plan outlines goals and concepts each barnehage should have and is implemented throughout the whole country. With a strong emphasis on play and nature, the barnehage is fundamentally a nurturing center for young children one to five.

“My experience was rustic, and taught me a lot about contrasting views of childhood throughout the world,” Sullivan said.

In Spring 2014, two students from Queen Maud came to UW to take classes in the ECFS program and begin the exchange. Then, in November, faculty members Carol Davis and Susan Sandall visited preschool programs and presented lectures at Queen Maud. Faculty from Queen Maud will visit the UW campus this March.


Dustin Wunderlich, Director for Marketing and Communications