Where is home?

I’m sure you have heard the phrase “home is where your heart is”, but what if you can’t really decide where your heart is? Or perhaps it is not set in one single place, but rather scattered around in two or more special places as in my case I’m afraid ?

As many of you know, I am from Finland but live in Namibia with my family of three (+4 pets!). Me and my husband consider ourselves extremely blessed to have these two opposite worlds’, winter and summer, snow and desert, and of course my favourite places on earth, forest and bush.

I realise this is really not a problem at all, just something I’d like to share. After a long Christmas vacation in Finland I felt a bit odd when returning to Namibia. I really love Namibia and consider it home, but at the same time I wasn’t sure how I felt about returning.

In addition, I can’t help to think, now that we have a daughter, where will she grow up, (where are we going to settle,) which country will be more familiar for her, and most of all, will she consider both of the countries home or just another one?

We as parents of course would like her to know both countries and love them equally, despite where we live. Therefore we do our best to make sure she speaks our languages, hears stories and visits as often as possible. Perhaps even more important is to consider the culture that is on the background, and try to emphasize that culture.

My solution for now is to bring a piece of Finland with me here, for instance some Finnish chocolates and sauna drops along with a sauna stove! For us Finns sauna is just as important as braai (bbq) is for the Afrikaans culture. If I would live in Finland, I’m certain I would miss Namibia equally. But how to bring the smell and sounds of the bush, that’s really something to ponder about! Even camping, which we love, would be totally different in Finland!

Speaking of the smell and sounds, I have been caught by my husband smelling the fresh wood planks in the hardware store. I think he must have felt really sorry for his wife who happily, eyes closed imagined a Finnish forest!

If you are in the same situation, how do you cope? Do you think it is our destiny, as well as being blessed, to always be a little in between the two worlds?

Sad ending and an incredibly beautiful beginning

Dear readers,

I am sorry you haven’t heard of me in a while. These last couple of months have been an emotional rollercoaster. I usually don’t really post a lot about my own personal life, but I will have to tell you why I have been quiet. First of all, I had to say goodbye to one of my best friends for 12 years. Before you take out your tissues, I must admit she was a cat. But what a cat! I got her when I was going through a challenging transition in my life. I was in my early twenties and I  had just started my studies in Educational Sciences. She brought me plenty of joy at the turbulent twenties, but little did I know at that point what an amazing personality she would grow up to be.

The most amazing thing about her was that she was always there for me when I really needed her. She had a phenomenal ability to detect if I am not ok, sometimes even before I myself recognised it. Once she kept on coming to my lap, and as she otherwise was a typical cat, who kept a respectful distance mostly (except at night, that’s when she loved me hehe), it was a bit unusual behaviour of her. Finally I realised I felt a bit funny, and took out a thermometer: my fever was already high and rising! She saw my tears when I was breaking up with a boyfriend or grieving a lost friend. I think, especially on my single years I would have felt much lonelier if she wasn’t there. I remember one particular Christmas evening, when I was waiting for my parents to fetch me. They promised they would come at six p.m., but since they at the time were busy entrepreneurs, they only came 9.30 in the evening. By that time I had cried on my kitchen floor for hours, my Simba in my lap.

Naturally there were more happy moments! We both, as proper Finns, loved to sauna. Almost all new Finnish houses have a sauna, and so did my studio apartment. When I turned the sauna on, my cats went in. When I went in myself, they came out but went back in as soon as I left and switched the sauna off.

We had great adventures together: we moved from one city apartment to another further away from downtown, and she got to walk in a leash in forest and stroll around in the suburb’s parking lots. She hated the leash but loved outdoors! I remember once I was extremely busy taking garbage out and she saw her chance is here…and boom she ran out in to the woods! I nearly panicked thinking who to contact and what to do, and ran in to get my phone. Before I had called the police, army and firefighters, she ran back to the door with the speed of light, her tail buffed up. There must have been something scary out there!

Simba

However, our greatest adventure together was, when I found the love of my life and moved from north of Europe to the south of Africa. Together we travelled with three different planes and flew from Finland to Namibia. I couldn’t imagine my life without her, even though she would have had the best possible care as my parents said they would take her. For the last two years of her life Simba lived happily under the Namibian sun, enjoying the warm days, exploring the garden (without a leash!)and sleeping cozy with us during the night in the bed.

As the days grew shorter, she barely ate and mostly slept, in and out of hospital, sometimes better, until the day we all feared was there. The vet told us we should let her go. We all cried, as she drifted away peacefully in my arms while my husband was holding us. I made sure that through my tears the last words she heard was me telling her how much we love her and how one day we will see again and be together forever. My husband, who loves animals but is not quite as crazy as I am said: “She was the most incredible little creature I had ever met. A fearless Lion!” That is a beautiful tribute to my little Simba.

Just after two weeks of my beloved kittys’ passing, our beautiful, absolutely perfect daughter saw the world outside my womb. What an incredible happening it was, her birth and these days and weeks after that, watching her grow, or even just sleep peacefully makes my heart feel so content! I am still overwhelmed about all the things that happened, before, during and after the amazing event.

This is the beginning of a new journey, inderscribably full of life with all of its colours. I consider myself as a rather ambitious woman with career goals, but being a mother is the most beautiful thing I have ever accomplished. For me these two can walk hand in hand, the way I accomplish them is another story which I will figure out later.

 

Reducing plastic use bag by bag, straw by straw

 

Plastic is everywhere. I see it on the streets and roadsides. It is not only aesthetically disturbing, but might for instance, end up into to the tummies of grazing cattle and thus cause damage to the animals and the farmers’ livelihoods. Here in Namibia agriculture, especially cattle farming, is one of the main incomes together with tourism and mining.  Unfortunately, plastic affects our beautiful waters and beaches too. Over a year ago, I had friends visiting from abroad, and it was such a pride to show them my beautiful new home country, with all the abundant wildlife, camping and the bush I absolutely love! They truly enjoyed it too, until we came to my beautiful local beach…I couldn’t focus on enjoying swimming and beach life as I was collecting trash…mostly plastic straws!

That, and the way we so carelessly use plastic woke me up. I mean, on a regular beach day how many plastic straws do we use, if every drink is provided with one? Or better yet, how many plastic bags do we use per year, if we get 4 every time we go shopping groceries? (One could use this and other examples to calculate with kids on a maths class!) A lot of the plastic which ends up into the nature, is single-use, like those straws or grocery bags. One moment on someone’s drink, a lifetime in the sea. So, I have started to ask myself, is this necessary?

I must be very honest, I haven’t even tried being totally plastic-free, I wish one day I could reach there. Now, I am aiming to reduce my plastic use and reuse or recycle the plastic I do use. My posts are mostly related to education in general, but occasionally I also post about personal development. Aiming for more environmentally conscious life is one of my continuous personal goals.

When it comes to reducing my plastic use, I have some very simple and effortless steps that I take to ensure I am doing my part as well as I can, without complicating my own or my family’s life too much. Later, I can gradually add more phases towards a life with less plastic. If you are willing, I am sure you can try these too!

  1. I try my best not to get plastic bags from the store. I have bought a few grocery bags that I can use repeatedly. I know, sometimes one just forgets them home, and as I am totally one of those scatter-brained people, I try to make sure I keep them with me, placing them around, a few in the car and one in gym bag etc. As a great bonus, (at least in this part of the world) one can buy a reusable bag and support a local charity, as many charities and non-profit organisations have their own bags!shopping bags (2)
  1. I refuse plastic straws in the restaurants. As you read about my swimming experience on my very own beach, I got a good wake-up call with them. Since that moment, I have been seeing the plastic straws in a whole new light. I mean seriously, who needs them anyway? We can easily drink our drinks without them, and if need something to mix, we can use a normal spoon. I live in a beautiful holiday town filled with nice cafes and restaurants, and most of those cafes and restaurants bring a plastic straw with your drink, almost without an exception, unless you refuse. (sometimes they still do, it is so automatic!) In fact, according to a campaign called the last plastic straw, the consumption of plastic straws in US alone reaches 2,5 times around the globe in one single day! Isn’t that crazy? If you care about wildlife, just look for a video from YouTube searching for “sea turtle with straw in nose”. It is heartbreaking how the poor animal suffers.
  1. Reusable take away coffee mug. I quit drinking coffee over a year ago, due to issues I had with my tummy. Before I did though, I got a nice cup for myself. Some cafes nowadays may even give you a discount if you bring your own cup.
  2. Fruits and veggies in their own, reusable bags. This is something I really need to focus on still! Here in Namibia we don’t yet have reusable fruit bags in shops, easily available. Therefore, we need to really see a bit of effort in order to do this. Fortunately, many fruits such as bananas won’t even need a bag!
  3. Water bottles. This is also an ongoing personal struggle. I wish more restaurants and cafes would have a water automat, but most here in my town do not. I have had my fair share of tummy issues, and even though our water is safe to drink, it is not something I am used to as I am not from here. So, sadly I can’t drink tap water unfiltered.  Usually I try to bring my own reusable water bottle with me everywhere, but understandably in restaurants it is not always a good idea.

I think plastic use is often so automatic that none of us even think about it. I have been in situations, where I have handed my shopping bags to the friendly person packing my groceries ( I really appreciate those people in shops), only to notice a minute later that they were all packed in plastic bags AND then into my shopping bags! However, there is light in the tunnel, as is for instance the Namibian Miss Earth, Elize Shakalela promoting Plastic Free Namibia campaign. See her video message for Namibia here.

Trying to live a life reducing your plastic use might not be always easy, and there are downfalls (like forgetting those reusable bags home!), but there is a lot of information available online, and communicating and networking with likeminded people is always a clever idea! I joined a local group in Facebook called Zerowaste Namibia and already have received great ideas with regular support and motivation from them.

How have you reduced your plastic use? Please share your tips by commenting and help us all! Have you talked about the importance of reducing, recycling or reusing plastic with your children or your students? I’d love to hear how have you done this.

I invite all of you to join me and at least reduce your plastic use whenever you can. Leave the straws and the plastic bags, it is actually an effortless way to start!

Now who is with me?

Has 21st Century revolutionised reading and writing? Part 2

This is the 2nd part to my previous post, which you can read here.

We are living in an extremely rapidly changing world due to globalisation, fast growth in areas of economy, technology and mobility. A great shift from an industrial world to knowledge societies places a new need for schooling and teacher education. Today we have professions that didn’t even exist ten years ago, and children beginning their school this year will graduate years later into professions we do not know of yet. According to some researchers, the importance of skilled labour does not vanish, although some of these occupations have disappeared on the information age. At the same time, a new set of professions, which depend on information skills, such as problem-solving skills and ICT emerge. [1]
Perhaps you have heard of the concept Digital Natives. Digital Natives are sometimes referred to as those young people, who were born on the information age, who can hardly remember the time before smart phones or internet. They seem to use technology and mobile devices with ease, even those little ones who can’t properly talk yet, have an ability to search for their favourite videos from YouTube. They also seem to multi-task, working on several tasks at the same time. [2]

However, even if their technology use is seemingly effortless, does it mean that they really know what to do with all the information they see, can evaluate it critically, and know how to use internet safely, following ethical and legal guidelines? According to many researchers the answer is no, and some suggest that digital natives are, in fact, a myth, that we are totally overestimating their abilities [3]. For instance, Kirschner and De Bruyckere propose that this myth can be very harmful for education, if policies and curriculums are designed to suit the so called digital natives. This could be very problematic, if the concept simply isn’t real, if it is based on an assumption of the skills these young people may possess, rather than actual scientific knowledge of their true know-how. Sure, they might know how to  use different platforms and apps, but can they actually do anything useful regarding learning, the researchers ask? Kirschner and De Bruyckere suggest that teaching the necessary skills is crucial, not assuming children have them. [3]

Kirschner and De Bruyckere state also, that often digital natives are in addition considered to be “multi-taskers”, but in fact, according to several researchers, are not multitasking, just switching rapidly from one task to another. [3] Has that ever happened to you? I often find myself reading two articles, one at my laptop and one from my mobile device, and ooops, now someone sent me a message through Facebook, which is also open. The question is, do I really focus on any of these tasks? Can I tell you later my opinion about these articles? Can I even explain to you their main concepts? Perhaps most importantly, can I really be present to my friend when I feel a rush to read this article while eying on what is going on the news today?

 

A Digital Native?
Photograph copyright by Paula Virmasalo

 

According to a research conducted with high-school students by Sana, Weston and Xepeda students’ multitasking on a laptop during a class might not only hinder the learning of the particular student, but also distract other students in their immediate surrounding. [4] This is a complex issue. Students might use the technology “the right way”, to support their learning process (for instance, looking for more information about the topic learned) or they might get distracted with something that has absolutely nothing to do with the content. On the other hand, shouldn’t it be also important to learn to regulate one’s behaviour with technology, devices and social media, to understand when it is time for learning and when for socializing, entertainment etc.? [3]

As I wrote in my previous post, the 21st century literacies bring along new possibilities, responsibilities for all of us. When it comes to children and education, it is extremely important to educate them and help them understand the new dimensions of communication, which are putting us on a new situation, as a picture or a quickly made comment can live forever in cyber space. I believe that technology and new literacies can provide amazing possibilities for the future of education and schooling, but it is good to recognise the risks and determine the need for education.

One of the most crucial needs for education are the critical thinking skills, which should be the core of all education, and practicing of them could start from a very early age. However, that is a topic for another blog post, so I won’t go further than mentioning it. Obviously, when thinking about education policies and curriculums for reading and writing, we should also consider much further than just innovative platforms and technologies, we should consider pedagogical practices and the value they may bring along in the big picture of the change. As Lewis [5] points out, teacher training is often focused in the use of tools such as technology, but may fail on the education of new mindsets, forms of communication and identities that come within the new literacies.

Lewis [5, p.236] asks an important question for all of us educators: Do “we want to make school literacy more engaging for students and more meaningful to their present and future lives in a digitally mediated world. If so, then we need to understand the shifts in practices and epistemologies (conceptions of knowledge) that have taken place and consider how these shifts should inform our teaching of reading and writing.”

It is vital to learn about the innovative ways of reading and writing (as well as it is about the traditional ones). We must consider ways we as parents, teachers and educators can help children become informed, critically and ethically aware, responsible, yet creative and courageous writers and readers of the future. Children of today are already building our digital society. We can support, helping them become not only consumers but also producers of content, participating actively on building a sustainable and fair future for everyone.

References:
1. Griffin, P., Care, E. & McGaw, B. (2012). The changing role of education and schools. In Assessment and teaching of 21st century skills (pp. 1-16 ). Springer Netherlands

2. Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants part 1. On the horizon, 9(5), 1-6.

3. Kirschner, P. A., & De Bruyckere, P. (2017). The myths of the digital native and the multitasker. Teaching and Teacher Education, 67, 135-142.

4. Sana, F., Weston, T., & Cepeda, N. J. (2013). Laptop multitasking hinders classroom learning for both users and nearby peers. Computers & Education, 62, 24-31.

5. Lewis, C. (2007). New literacies. A new literacies sampler, 229-237.

Has 21st Century revolutionised reading and writing?

We live in a rapidly changing world, where constant progress in economics, science, technology and mobility to mention a few with their new innovations set a speedy pace for development. A major aspect of the change is that many of us live in a digital world. All of this brings along innovative ways of working, being and living for everyone. I come from a country of Nokia, and back in the end of 90’s, when I was in high school, some of us already had those old and reliable Nokia phones. You know, the ones you could accidentally drop in a sink and still make a call after drying them. My classmates’ father worked at Nokia, and one day these twin sisters came to school with new sort of mobile phones: they didn’t have an antenna. I can still remember vividly how amazed we all were of this new kind of phone we had used to see with an antenna!

Those days, none of us thought that in less than a decade, we would carry our whole life in our pockets and handbags, taking and sending pictures, videos and instant messages just in seconds to the other side of the world. (Well, if the internet connection works). We can do bank transactions, browse casually the internet, e-mail and news whenever we have a moment off, like when waiting for a friend at a café or sitting on a bus on the way to work. In fact, this has become everyday life for many people. Not to mention connecting with our long-lost friends and communicating with people from diverse cultures we have never seen in real life, through apps like Facebook or Twitter. We can also enjoy blogs or video blogs like this, ordinary people’s thoughts about life, or on the other hand, following every single step of our favourite celebrities, as if we were a part of their life! A mobile phone, just like other mobile devices, has and will continue to exceed the traditional concept of phone.

Maybe you are one of those fortunate people to have beautiful, handwritten letters or postcards from decades back, treasured in your family, written by your relatives, parents or grandparents to each other in their youth. Well, times certainly have changed, as the future grandchildren may view short video clips taken by their grandparents, stored in the cloud.

Internet and its different forms, (did you know about the existence of the Dark Web?), social media, modern technology, devices, apps and media we use are constantly changing the way we read and write.  There are numerous (and more are invented as I am writing this), programmes and apps that facilitate fast, effective and affordable or even free communication. This new form of digitalisation constantly alters the ways of communication and even the language we use. Can you keep up with the latest acronyms from internet slang that your teenagers use? Traditionally we have been mostly consumers of media. Today anyone of us can be both a consumer and a producer of facts or fiction. There is information and disinformation, as everyone can make a news site or present their mere opinions as true facts. Can you tell a difference? Are you sure?  The content has also changed: what used to be mostly either text and/or images or video, is now multimodal: text which includes pictures, emojis, videos, audio, hyperlinks leading to other webpages, as well as loads of other features.

Media and Advertising have changed radically too, since today many service providers provide us with personalised stories and images that we are interested in, which is why it is also easy to live in a certain bubble. The service-providers base their decisions on the way we consume: which news and articles we click open, which videos we watch and what sort of services or items we prefer as consumers. Facebook is one good example of a service provider like this. Has it ever happened to you, that you just discussed with your friend about an item, whether in a private message or comment and boom, few moments later it is a suggested ad in your news feed? Advertisements are individuated according to our personal preferences, and often so perfectly masked, that it takes a careful eye to recognize that it is an ad, not an informative article.

Another illusion easily created by social media that I have often been thinking, (especially when living on the other side of the world from most of my family and many friends,) is the illusion of being in touch. For instance, if I follow Maria in Facebook, like her stories and comment them occasionally, as she does to me, does it mean that we actually know about each other’s life?  I personally think not necessarily, which is why we both also try to call each other regularly, or send personal, private messages, audio or text.

Blog post

Many researchers talk about 21st century literacies, “new writing” or digital & information literacies to illustrate how reading and writing has changed and keeps on changing in the 21st century. These form a part of the so called 21st century skills or competencies, a topic rather widely discussed in the field of education these days. [1,2 & 3]. In the future, I will write more about the 21st Century skills as it is a part of my personal learning path.  It is important to notice, that many of these 21st century competencies are not exactly new. In fact, skills such as collaboration or critical thinking skills have for long been crucial for successful citizenship. However, it can be argued, that these skills are newly important, as their dimensions and emphasis have grown significantly due to this major and rapid global change.  [1,2] In fact, some researchers [2] suggest that “nothing has changed, and everything has changed”.

In the old days, there might have been hidden geniuses, people who would create for their own joy and the world possibly never discovered their talent. Nowadays there are ordinary people like me, not necessarily particularly skilful, but willing for one or another reason to express themselves writing publicly. Today it is easy for anyone to let out their creativity in many forms using for instance Instagram (for pictures), Twitter (for witty remarks of the world), blogs, vlogs (video blogs) or other social media platforms for showcasing their innovations in kitchen, fashion, garage or anything one can imagine. The lady from your next door neighbour, who looks like any of us, the one you see every day on the way to work, could have thousands of followers in Instagram or on her blog, who are much more familiar with her life than you ever imagined. Everything is available for us with just a few clicks or wipes, and instantly we can share our thoughts with the entire world.

However, 21st literacies bring along new possibilities, responsibilities and threats, whether we are talking about technology or new ways of working and social interaction. Many of us have been under some sort of a cyber-attack, whether it has been a poorly written spam in our e-mail, or maybe a more personal kind, someone responding to your social media update with vicious remarks of your life or opinions. Basically, anyone who expresses themselves publicly, is vulnerable for opinions and attention from outside, whether it is good or bad. Similarly, all of us should have a responsibility to behave within a certain framework of ethical manners and practices. There is knowledge, skills and, very importantly, values and responsibilities we must learn in order to handle this turbulent change in our living rooms and other immediate surroundings. This could be especially demanding for children and youth, who are not necessarily mature enough, not yet capable to understand the consequences of a photo or a post that stays in the  internet forever and can be shared and screenshot repeatedly. Therefore, all of this indicates towards a major change in the education of children and youth, at schools and at homes.

There are a few special characteristics for 21st century literacies in comparison to traditional literacies. They are occasionally defined through the digital, participatory, collaborative and distributed approaches [3]. If you consider this blog post you are reading, you may find a few these aspects here: this is in a digital form, and even though I am the author, you can participate in the discussion publicly by commenting this post for me and other readers in the comments-section, as well as distribute it widely in just seconds over the internet through your social media channels, sharing you view about it. In addition, 21st century literacies are often defined by abilities such as using technology as an effective tool to access and find information, and analyse and evaluate the information critically. Along with the technology related aspect comes an aspect related to values and attitudes: understanding the ethical and legal issues related to the use of information and communication technology as well as skills to participate and create content in an ethical, respectful manner. [4 & 5]

If you are interested in this topic, click follow, as in my next post my aim is to write more about the meaning of this for schools and educators. I would also love to hear your opinion about this topic, please feel free to comment on the comment box below.

See the part 2 for this post here.

 

References:

  1. Voogt, J., Erstad, O., Dede, C., & Mishra, P. (2013). Challenges to learning and schooling in the digital networked world of the 21st century. Journal of computer assisted learning, 29(5), 403-413.
  2. Kereluik, K., Mishra, P., Fahnoe, C., & Terry, L. (2013). What knowledge is of most worth: Teacher knowledge for 21st century learning. Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 29(4), 127-140.
  3. Lankshear, C., & Knobel, M. (2007). Sampling “the new” in new literacies. A new literacies sampler, 29, 1-24.
  4. Dede, C. (2010). Comparing frameworks for 21st century skills. 21st century skills: Rethinking how students learn, 20, 51-76.
  5. Binkley, M., Erstad, O., Herman, J., Raizen, S., Ripley, M., Miller-Ricci, M., & Rumble, M. (2012). Defining twenty-first century skills. In Assessment and teaching of 21st century skills (pp. 17-66). Springer Netherlands.

 

What do children eat in schools and kindergartens – and why does it matter?

Most of us realise the importance of eating “real food” for our health and wellbeing rather than indulging on the empty calories, added sugar, fat and refined carbohydrates (such as white bread, pasta or rice). However, what many people don’t know of, is the impact that added sugar might have for our brains and cognitive abilities, our abilities to perceive, remember, understand and learn. In other words, added sugar might take a toll on our academic performance!


There is quite an extensive amount of research done with animals, which indicates that increased added sugar intake can lead to problems in cognitive performance, for example memory and learning. According to some studies, it also seems that these effects are far more concerning when it comes to adolescent animals, which could mean that children or young people are more vulnerable for the effects of added sugar. [1, 2, 3, 4 & 5] It is notable, that there might not yet be enough scientific evidence to make general conclusions like these when it comes to humans, but it certainly gives us something to think about, doesn’t it?


Let us think about children, who are not yet capable to make the distinction between healthy and unhealthy, and even if they did, may often tend to either choose the tastiest option, eat what they are offered or what they have learned to prefer.


Speaking about the importance of learning what is a good, healthy snack or a lunch, did you know that the taste preferences we have seem to have been learned? According to researchers, some of our taste preferences are learned as early as while in our mother’s womb or while being breastfed! According to these studies, what pregnant mothers eat has an influence on the flavour of the amniotic fluid and breastmilk, which is how we learn about different flavours very early. These early life choices (of a mother in this case) can carry a long way in the form of flavour preferences and eventually, in maintaining a healthy lifestyle! It is also established, that children naturally prefer sweeter tastes over the bitter ones, and despite the preferences learned very early in life, children can learn to enjoy healthier choices through constant and persistent availability and diversity in diet. [6 & 7] Some might also be learned habits, for example, growing up, I was told that “water is the only drink for the thirsty”. I truly appreciate my mother’s far-sighted wisdom, as still today, I don’t really enjoy fizzy, sugary drinks that much and rather choose to drink water when I am thirsty. Similarly, a child can learn a habit of enjoying a banana or an apple as a snack vs. a potato chip bag.

Ph_KtAQz

Have you ever wondered, what is offered for children in the places they spend most of their week, in kindergarten or schools?

Unfortunately, most of the world is not like Finland, where all children are entitled to a good quality, healthy lunch every single day in their basic education. In fact, in many countries and schools, children do not receive a proper lunch, or the lunch they get may be crafted with budget rather than quality. In the case they don’t have access to such a lunch, doesn’t necessarily mean they wouldn’t get hungry, as learning is challenging work and often hours spent in schools are long.

As a solution, some schools urge parents to pack a lunch for their children or they may have a cafeteria or similar for purchasing snacks or food. Sometimes, this works as a way to have a fund-raiser for a field trip or sports event for instance, by selling products on break, as a snack for the pupils. It seems that too often though, products sold are carbonated, sugary drinks, bags of chips, chocolate bars and so on. What is wrong with these products then? If they are only enjoyed in lesser amounts and on special occasions, there might be nothing wrong with them (please don’t get me wrong, I also love my cake and chocolate occasionally!), but if they enter our daily lives and become a regular habit, there might be a problem.

Perhaps you have also noticed that those potato chips can relief a roaring tummy for a short while, but on a long-term, one ends up being hungry again, sooner than later. This is because they are mostly full of “empty” calories, no nutrients, vitamins or minerals, just pure energy and fast carbohydrates. Most of us are also aware, that the excessive use of added sugar causes weight gain and can lead to several health problems, such as metabolic disorder, life style diseases and so on. Sugar is also very bad for our teeth, as it feeds the bad bacteria in our mouths.

What could be the solution? If you have the power to pack your child’s snack box or lunch, you can make it a good one. Aim for real, unprocessed diet: fruits, berries, wholegrain products instead of refined white flours, real meat vs. processed meat, nuts and seeds instead of candies, water instead of sugary juices or sodas. Read the ingredients lists: If you can’t understand the contents, it might be because it is not real food, but what is sometimes called “food-like-food”: artificial, processed food. I have been surprised many times, as I look at a product seemingly healthy (advertised with words such as “fit” or “diet” and the reality is totally the opposite when I look at the ingredients list. For example, recently I checked a package of “healthy” breakfast cereal: loads of sugar and other, seemingly unnecessary ingredients. I ended up choosing plain oats and mix them with fruits, seeds and nuts. I also make my own muesli. Of course, it is good to bear in mind that sometimes names can be misleading, for example ascorbic acid is in fact vitamin C. However, one can quickly learn a difference between strawberry and artificial strawberry flavour.

If it is not in your hands, what your child can eat, you might still be able to have a say. Could you join the parental boards, meetings and/or contact the principal? Perhaps join forces with other parents who share your concern. There is no need to stop a fundraiser for children to get on a field trip, but there are healthy alternatives to sell too. Perhaps you could come to a compromise and have a coke and chips day on Fridays, if it is necessary.

P.s this article in The Guardian provides great advice for healthy lunch for teachers, but can be used by anyone!

Have you struggled with this issue? Did you find a solution and how?

References:

1. Hsu, T. M., Konanur, V. R., Taing, L., Usui, R., Kayser, B. D., Goran, M. I. and Kanoski, S. E. (2015), Effects of sucrose and high fructose corn syrup consumption on spatial memory function and hippocampal neuroinflammation in adolescent rats. Hippocampus, 25: 227–239. doi:10.1002/hipo.22368

2. Kendig, M. D. (2014). Cognitive and behavioural effects of sugar consumption in rodents. A review. Appetite, 80, 41-54.

3. Molteni, R., Barnard, R. J., Ying, Z., Roberts, C. K., & Gomez-Pinilla, F. (2002). A high-fat, refined sugar diet reduces hippocampal brain-derived neurotrophic factor, neuronal plasticity, and learning. Neuroscience, 112(4), 803-814.

4. Francis, H., & Stevenson, R. (2013). The longer-term impacts of Western diet on human cognition and the brain. Appetite, 63, 119-128.

5. Noble, E. E., & Kanoski, S. E. (2016). Early life exposure to obesogenic diets and learning and memory dysfunction. Current opinion in behavioral sciences, 9, 7-14.

6. Beauchamp, G. K., & Mennella, J. A. (2009). Early flavor learning and its impact on later feeding behavior. Journal of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition, 48, S25-S30.

7. Mennella, J. A. (2014). Ontogeny of taste preferences: basic biology and implications for health. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 99(3), 704S-711S.

Join me on my journey!

Hi there,

are you an educator, teacher, parent, or just in general interested in personal development and growth? Then you can’t miss my blog, as it is about the issues that may be thought-provoking and hopefully helpful for you!  I will write about the topics (quite broadly) related to education, (especially 21st century education) family life and personal development. As I am a new mum, many posts will be related to parenthood, this is a warning! In the beginning my thought was to post more about official, not-so personal stuff, bt as the time goes on, I see that it is the personal stuff that quietly fills the blank!

I am a Finnish teacher and a PhD-student (in education) living currently in Namibia. I decided to start this blog, in order to learn more about the phenomena’s related to learning and education around my life. Sometimes people approach me with questions about learning, teaching and schooling (and how do we do it in Finland). Almost every time, when I don’t have an easy answer, I am happy to dive into the topic in order to learn more and help the person who approached me. That’s my second motivation for this blog: I hope I can help someone pondering with similar questions or challenges.

Writing organizes and clarifies our thoughts. Writing is how we think our way into a subject and make

In the coming months, you may expect topics such as homework, school lunches, and multilingual parenting to start with. Please follow my blog and ensure you won’t miss any new posts. Don’t worry, I won’t overload your e-mail, as I will only post a couple of times per month.

I’m looking forward to sharing my life-long learning with you and eagerly wait for your comments and suggestions. If there is anything at all that you would like me to write about, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

P.s this is my personal blog and all of the opinions represent only me, not my university for instance. All pictures are mine unless otherwise mentioned.