As the children walk into the School Hall this 6th of June 2001 we play the Swedish National Anthem "Du Gamla Du Fria". After all it is the Swedish National Day! They are coming one class at a time and have about 35-40 minutes to experience Sweden.
They sit down on the floor and Ebru from Turkey shows a map of northern Europe on the overhead projector. We show where Sweden is situated in comparison with Great Britain. I also show them where my home island of Gotland is in the Baltic. Ebru then changes the picture to one of the newly opened Öresunds bridge and a map that shows where the bridge crosses the Öresund between Denmark and Sweden, first through a tunnel onto a man made island and on to Malmö in Sweden.
Head master Mr Williams tells the children about my national costume, which I have made all on my own, even the lace.
I then tell them that we are celebrating our National Day on the 6th of June to commemorate this day in 1523 when Gustaf Vasa came to Stockholm and was elected king. We also celebrate Swedish Flag Day today.
Mr Williams then divide the children into five groups. We have five different geographic areas to visit, south west, south east, Gotland, central and northern Sweden.
The first station is manned by Louise from Australia – for today a viking woman called Astrid and is dressed in a viking dress she made herself. She has borrowed her daughter Sarah´s baby doll for a viking baby and the baby lies warm and cosy on some lambs wool. "Astrid" tells about the vikings as one of the first to preserve food in different ways, drying, smoking, salting etc. She concentrates quite a lot on fish that smells "horber"(horrible). "Astrid" also tells a bit about how we celebrate Easter in Sweden. Here is also a section about Volvo.
At the next station we concentrate on Astrid Lindgren, the world famous Swedish childrens book author, and her creation "Pippi Longstockings" Here we find Mam from Thailand, who has a Thai student helping her. Her friend is posing as a very special international version of "Pippi". The children are watching a video of "Pippi" in English. Here we also show some midsummers celebration and the children try som Swedish rye crisp bread. Most of them like it. We also have some information on Swedish folk music and my little accordion is displayed, as is Louise´s violin. A little mention about SAAB and IKEA of course, whose Birmingham branch kindly donated a box of goodies from their Sweden shop, sweets, oats biscuits and lingonberry drink among other things. They also lent us a couple of very nice books on crayfish parties that were displayed in the Central Sweden section.
Then we come to Gotland that I´m hosting myself. First I show on the map where my birth place Klintehamn is and point out some pictures of special rock formations around the island. Children likes animals, so I tell them about the special animals on Gotland, the "Gotlands Russ", a hardy pony that stays outdoors all year round as do the "Gotlandsfår", sheep where even the females have horns! My fine rocks from the Gotland coast that normally lives in our greenhouse and have fossils in them caught some attention. One of the boys told me he has a fossil collection.
Nenita from the Philippines and her husband has a farm and she brought some newly cut sheeps wool that I let the children smell… doesn´t smell too pleasant!
Mrs Rider, teacher in one of the reception classes, lent me her spinning wheel so that I could show the children the different stages in creating a knitted wooly jumper. Mrs Rider is very interested in wool handling and she had created some lovely baby booties and everybody appreciated those. And what do you know…! She told me that those booties were made from wool from Gotland Sheep! It really is a small world!
We have placed "Hälge" the moose in Central Sweden. The Children remember him well and all the havoc he can create on the roads, causing quite bad accidents because he is so big, so I´ve realised from the papers the children in class 2K wrote afterwords about Sweden Day.
The Royal family and their castles and the Royal guards must have a mention here. And crayfish parties!
Here´s also ABBA represented by Frida and Agnetha, alias Karen from Astwood Bank and Sue from Manchester. They tell the children about the big animals and obviously they play ABBA music. You can´t really show Sweden without mentioning ABBA! Apart from VOLVO cars ABBA is usually the only things people here recognise as being Swedish!
Then we get to the last section – Northern Sweden! The Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi where Marek with Polish roots is a Sami man and tells the children about their keeping of reindeers. The children also see pictures of people skating on frozen lakes…! The ice is thicker than mr Williams is tall! Even mr Williams could jump on it and it wouldn´t break! Nenita is Sancta Lucia and tells about the saint from Syracuse who has become such a symbol of light in the winter darkness of Sweden.
At the end we played the march "Under blå-gul fana" (Under the blue and yellow flag) as a reminder of the Swedish Flag Day and the children marched out into a beautiful English summers day, hopefully with a bit more insight about some Swedish phenomenons. Look how concentrated these children from the reception class R/C look as they march out!