Minister Saarikko opens Hobby Week and discusses hobby experiences with Espoo pupils—free hobbies offered to pupils in Espoo

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2020-11-11 14:22

Fiona, Kerli, Tuomas and Cecilia, 6th graders from Taavinkylä School, received a special guest today when the Minister of Science and Culture, Annika Saarikko, participated in their class remotely. In the spirit of the upcoming national Hobby Week, the topic of conversation was children’s hobbies.

This year, the Hobby Week, which originally started as an idea pitched by children and young people, is being held for the third time, and marks the beginning of the Finnish model, where hobbies are incorporated into the school day.

The goal of the Finnish model is to find a hobby for every child

In connection with the Finnish model, Minister Saarikko wanted to hear the children’s thoughts and experiences concerning hobbies. The four pupils said that they are currently engaged in bouldering, singing, dancing, badminton, TeamGym and horse-riding. Kerli said she also used to wrestle and Fiona used to ride horses.

“One or two hobbies is quite a good number. If you practise at a higher level, your hobby can be time-consuming,” Tuomas and Cecilia said, when the minister asked them how many hobbies children should have.

“The government’s goal is to ensure that all children have at least one hobby. Your school has excelled at sports, and you are fortunate in that your school, neighbourhood and families offer you the opportunity to engage in various hobbies,” Saarikko stated.

The children felt that the national model described by Saarikko sounded good:

“It’s a good idea for everyone to get to do things they enjoy. You don’t have to spend your afternoons alone and can make new friends,” Cecilia and Kerli said.

Long tradition of free hobbies in Espoo

For several years, Espoo pupils have enjoyed a hobby model similar to the Finnish model. The city, in co-operation with Espoo sports clubs, offers free hobbies all week for pupils of all ages, and secondary school pupils are being provided with free hobbies on Wednesdays for the third year now.

“Everyone gets to engage in activities they enjoy and also improve the things they love about their hobby. Furthermore, doing things together increases the joy and well-being brought about by participation. This is an excellent antidote to experiences of exclusion and loneliness. Hobbies are a wonderful thing,” says Director of Finnish Education, Kaisu Toivonen.

Young people have the opportunity to try out dozens of different hobbies free of charge on Wednesdays, from basketball to fencing and from gymnastics to cookery. Many of the hobbies take place at schools or in their vicinity. Pupils can try out a new hobby every week or continue with the same activity throughout the school year.

“Young people particularly enjoy being able to influence the content of hobbies. The most popular sports this autumn have been futsal, skating, fencing, football and tennis,” says Sports Coordinator Camilo Miettinen.

Taavinkylä School participating in a hobby experiment for primary school pupils

Taavinkylä School is participating in a city experiment, where the Wednesday afternoon recreational model in use in Espoo’s secondary schools is also being tested at seven different primary schools. Taavinkylä School provides free hobbies for 5–6th graders two afternoons a week.

“The school has also offered various clubs and hobbies in previous years, and we have received positive feedback from guardians. We encourage our pupils to take part in hobbies,” said principal Antti Ylä-Rautio of Taavinkylä School, and mentioned the diverse sports opportunities in the area.

“Our school has a great badminton club. The instructors put a lot of effort into teaching us,” said Fiona to Minister Saarikko.

Saarikko says it is important that schools and other parties collaborate to enable pupils to try out various hobbies. Prior to their conversation with the minister, the 6th graders had been running around the school yard in small groups equipped with a football or a basketball, and had tried out gymnastics, karate or the beginnings of electronic construction as a part of a morning event organised as a joint effort of the school and various external operators.

“It is always a good idea to try out different hobbies. Everyone has the chance to excel in a hobby,” said Saarikko, and declared the Hobby Week open.

Hobbies for children and young people in Espoo:

Photo: Helena Heiskanen, Ministry of Education and Culture