Tag Archives: history

Finland propose radical overhaul to their education system, would you want your country to do the same?

Image credit: The Guardian

Image credit: The Guardian

Did you know that Finland has one of the best school education systems in the world? According to the PISA rankings by the Organization fro Economic Co-operation and Development, Finland is always near the top for mathematics, reading and science.

Image credit: mgmnt-class.com

Image credit: mgmnt-class.com

Despite being routinely praised, Finland is considering a radical overhaul of their basic education system by abandoning teaching by subject for teaching by phenomenon.  Traditional lessons such as English Literature and Physics are already being phased out among 16-year-olds in schools in Helsinki.

What is this new phenomenon? Well, it involves subjects such as the “European Union,” which encompasses learning languages, history, politics, and geography. The idea is to eliminate the saying that is regularly heard from students everywhere: “What is the point of learning this?” This would mean changing the traditional structure of the schooling day: no more of an hour of history followed by an hour of chemistry. Lessons will draw on a variety of different subjects relevant for the future. 

Pasi Silander, Helsinki’s development manager, says the world has changed with the spread of technology and many of the old ways of teaching have no practical purpose. “Young people use quite advanced computers,” he told the Independent. “In the past the banks had lots of  bank clerks totting up figures but now that has totally changed.”

Many teachers who have been teaching single subjects oppose the changes, and it’s not hard to see why, change on this sort of scale is incredibly daunting. The new system is much more collaborative, forcing teachers from different areas to come up with the curriculum together. 

Marjo Kyllonen, Helsinki’s education manager and the person responsible for reforming the system calls this “co-teaching” and teachers who agree to it get a small bonus on top of their salaries. Kyllonen told the Independent: “There are schools that are teaching in the old fashioned way which was of benefit in the beginnings of the 1900s—but the needs are not the same and we need something fit for the 21st century.”

Later this month, she is proposing that the new system is rolled out across the whole country by 2020. Will the rest of the world follow the Finns’ lead? How would you feel if Canada opted for this new system too?

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St. Patrick’s Day Joint Activities for Parents and Children

St-Patricks-Day-Kids-3St. Patrick’s Day is a chance for everyone to celebrate Irish culture and heritage. We’ve put together a fun list of activities and facts for your children, with a cheeky Irish themed cocktail recipe at the end for parents!

1. Grow your own Shamrocks

The weather has been so nice over the last couple of days here in Toronto, if it continues you could head out into your garden with your children. Plant some shamrock seeds and talk about the importance of gardening: you could mention anything from the source of food to looking after the environment. Alternative you can by little pots and plant your shamrock seeds indoors, either way your kids get to make a bit of a mess with a spade and you’re broadening their minds at the same time!

2. History

St Patricks Day history for kids doesn’t have to be all about drawing rainbows and wearing green. We’ve always enjoyed teaching our children the real history behind holidays and events. In this list we’ve include some of the popular stories and legends as well as the actual facts about the holiday, take note of the ones your children show interest in, you should follow up on them. There’s a ton of information online or head to your local library. Here’s a brief rundown of St. Patrick’s history:

  • St. Patrick’s Day is the feast day of the patron saint of Ireland named St. Patrick. Patrick wasn’t born Irish, he was brought to Ireland as a slave after he was kidnapped. He managed to escaped back to Britain to be with his family but while there, a voice told him to go back to Ireland. He was ordained as a priest and spent the rest of his life working to bring Christianity to Ireland. St. Patrick’s Day is the national holiday of Ireland and we celebrate it each year on March 17 because this is the day he is rumored to have died.
  • People search for four leaf clovers which are very rare, finding one is supposed to be very lucky. A shamrock is actually a three leaf clover like plant. Legend has it that St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit).
  • The colour of St. Patrick’s Day is green. Ireland is known for it’s green shades of grass and the shamrock is green as well.
  • Traditionally people eat corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day although we enjoy it all year.
  • Some people claim that St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland. However, science has proven that there never were any snakes in Ireland because of the cold climate. It is thought that the word snakes in this legend actually represent driving out the pagan ways when he introduced Christianity.
  • Irish legend says that there is a small Irish fairy called the leprechaun. He wears pointed shoes, a hat and a leather apron. According to the legend, he’s very unfriendly and lives alone in the forest guarding his pots of gold. The story says that if you find a leprechaun, he will have to tell you where is gold is hidden. If you look away for even one second, the leprechaun will disappear along with all his gold.

3. Cooking

Corned beef is a traditional Irish meal eaten throughout the year, but it’s a favourite on St. Patricks day. If you have time, spend an hour or so making it from scratch with help from your children. Not only is it a lot healthier to make a homemade version compared to the processed store bought alternatives, you’re setting a good example for your children (to eat healthy) and you’re bonding over the simpler things in life rather than games and tv.

4. Shamrock math race!

We really like this simple math game for kindergarteners from Coffee Cups and Crayons.

5. Pot of Gold cocktail for parents

Serves 2
-2 tbsp fresh pear juice mix (see below)
-2 tbsp Michael Collins Irish whiskey
-Sparkling wine or Champagne of your choice
-Lemon twist for garnish

Mix the pear juice and the whiskey together in a liquid measuring cup or some other cup that has a spout, which will make it easier to pour. Divide the mixture equally between two Champagne flutes. Slowly top with bubbly, then garnish with a lemon twist. Enjoy!

For the pear juice mix:
-2 ripe d’anjou pears, peeled, cored, and diced
-4 tbsp water
-2 tsp fresh lemon juice

Place all the ingredients into a food processor and run the machine until the mixture is pureed. You may need to stop and scrape down the sides a few times to get the mixture smooth. Place a fine mesh strainer or sieve over a non-reactive bowl, then pour the mixture in. Allow the juice to drain out, stirring the puree gently to help the process along. Serve right away!

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Guy Fawkes Night: A History Lesson

Guy Fawkes NightGuy Fawkes Night, also known as Bonfire Night and Fireworks Night, is an annual celebration which takes place on November 5, primarily in UK. The history of Guy Fawkes Night is incredibly interesting and if your children do not seem to show that much interest in history class, this is one history lesson that will capture their attention.

Its history begins with the events of 5 November 1605, when a member of the Gunpowder Plot, Guy Fawkes, was arrested while guarding explosives the plotters had placed beneath the House of Lords in London. Celebrating the fact that King James I had survived the attempt on his life, people lit bonfires around London, and months later the Observance of 5th November Act enforced an annual public day.

Encourage your children to research the event, there are a great selection of books from Horrible Histories which explain historic events in a fun, colourful and easy to read manner, including the Gunpowder Plot.

There are many beaches in Toronto that allow bonfires, so what better way to teach your kids about an important historic event than to reenact it! Bonfire, sprinklers, fireworks (if permitted) and hot chocolate will make it a really fun evening for the whole family.

Guy Fawkes Night isn’t just for children, it’s an event that captures the interest of kids, teenagers and adults alike. Once the kids are in bed why not watch V for Vendetta which is based (loosely) on Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot. This film made the Guy Fawkes mask an icon of popular culture.

Although Guy Fawkes Night isn’t really celebrated in Canada, it’s an excuse to organise family time! It’s also a good way to educate your children about British history without them knowing!

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