Sixth Grade Study Camp in Mariehamn

English Class sixth graders left Pori at 5:30 am on a snowy Monday morning in May (photo in upper left corner) to go to Mariehamn in the Åland Islands. When they arrived in Mariehamn that same Monday afternoon, it LOOKED like summer, (2 photos on the left), but the wind was bone-chillingly cold. Two days later, on Wednesday, the scenery had changed to the photo in the lower right hand corner. The exceptionally cold weather, however, did absolutely nothing to spoil the sixth graders’ study camp. It was awesome regardless of the weather!

Mariehamn is the capital of Åland, an autonomous territory of islands that are under Finnish sovereignty. Swedish is spoken there so the sixth graders had several opportunities  to practice what they have learned this year in their first year of Swedish language studies. The first evening in Mariehamn was spent exploring and getting a feel for the layout of the town.

After a leisurely breakfast the following day, the pupils and their two teachers headed for the nearby Åland Maritime Museum to learn about the maritime heritage of Mariehamn. First the pupils participated in “Ruby’s Treasure Hunt” which is a set of tasks and challenges that lead around the museum. Pupils learned what a figurehead is, what oilskins are, how big an albatross is and lots, lots more by visiting Ruby’s rat holes throughout the museum.

Clambering up the mast of a square rigger and learning to raise and lower the sails was a very popular activity.

Another engaging activity was the station of knots where pupils could test their knot making skills like real seafarers.

The simulator was a real magnet for pupils. They could practice steering a ship under all sorts of conditions: on the open sea, in a canal, in  fog, near icebergs, in shallow water, with lots of boat traffic and more.

Downstairs pupils learned about the tragic sinking of the Estonia. They also learned first hand how pulleys lighten the work load and the difference between a simple pulley and a compound pulley. Several  pupils spent a great deal of time working on the puzzle challenge of loading a ship so that the weight is evenly distributed throughout the hull. Some pupils stopped to admire the beveled edges of the glass prisms for the light house lights.

After spending the entire day at the Åland Maritime Museum. most of the pupils and Ms. Anneli set off for Mariebad swimming pools and spa. Ms. Anneli managed to snap a couple of photos when the kids swam in the heated pool outside, but they were not there for long! Other pupils chose to play mini-golf.

Dining out together was something the pupils clearly enjoyed. Many pupils sampled brand new foods at the buffet on the ship while travelling to and fro from Mariehamn. Favourites like pizza and hamburgers were also on offer.

On our last morning in the Åland Islands we went by public bus to the Taffel Factory to learn how potato crisps/chips are made.

We watched a short video presentation that told about the history of the Taffel factory and learned that about 70 potato farmers in the Åland Islands supply the factory with potatoes, with additional potatoes coming from Sweden and Finland when necessary. We donned hair nets and filed off to look at some of the operations in the factory. Photographing during the tour was not allowed. We learned that it takes about four kilos of potatoes to make one bag of potato crisps. We also got to sample oven warm crisps! Everyone was given a Taffel chips cap and then, after thanking our guide, we set off for the Taffel Factory Shop wearing our new caps.

While waiting for the public bus to take us back to Mariehamn, all of the pupils played a fast paced game of football in the school yard adjacent to the bus stop.

Four goals were scored for each side resulting in a tie game. Lots of laughter and red cheeks were evident when the pupils returned to the bus stop.

Every waking moment of this study camp was crammed with good spirit and lots and lots of interesting activities.  By any standard it was a huge success. The pupils represented their school, their class and themselves with pride. You can’t ask for more!



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