Förskolan Örnen (Eagle Primary Schaool), in Alby on the fringes of Stockholm, has 130 pupils, 99% of whom have Swedish as a second language . It has a very deliberate philosophy rooted in respect for human rights and democracy and principles of transculturalism inspired by the work of the Malaguzzi Centre in Reggio Emilia. It aims to encourage in children values of openness and curiosity and an aversion to nationalism and other absolutes.
Sense of place is seen as very important to a child’s identity, but usually this is defined by others so, to counter this, pupils are given cameras and invited to explore their neighbourhood and identify places that have meaning to them. They are asked to discuss what makes a place attractive or unattractive, who makes these judgements and why – all at the age of 5 years!
Taking this a step further, staff organised a twinning exercise with an all-white school in prosperous inner-city Södermalm. They collaborated on exploring each other’s local environment and describing their impressions to each other. Very quickly the children found that language was not a straightforward mode of communication as many of the Örnen pupils had limited Swedish – whilst they were amazed to discover that most of the Södermalm children had nothing but Swedish. So they had to evolve many non-verbal means of communication which, will be essential skills for the rest of their lives in a multi-ethnic world.