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Visiting students from Finland teach kinesiology classes, cheer on the Dawgs

Lauren Leathers

October 18, 2019

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Each week, UGA’s College of Education assistant professor Sami Yli-Piipari teaches health and physical education courses at the Ramsey Student Center. Only this time, it wasn’t Yli-Piipari doing the teaching. Rather, it was a cohort of future physical educators from Finland.

Though an international visiting program, 16 sports education students and two professors traveled to UGA from the University of Jyväskylä (JYU). The visiting students discussed Finnish national core curriculum and the latest northern European trends in school physical education with three of Yli-Piipari’s kinesiology classes.

Studies show that students who study abroad have better grades, experience less attrition, and graduate from college at higher rates than students who do not study abroad. “[The Finnish students] enabled our students to reflect on their teaching styles, beliefs, and more in comparison to the ones of their visitors. This has initiated conversations that are beneficial to our students’ professional growth,” Yli-Piipari said.

Created by the Finnish students, each lesson plan included discussion of physical education objectives, an overview of the sports education degree program, and surprise workouts. Additionally, the students shared general information about their homeland, which was dubbed the happiest country in the world for the second consecutive year by the World Happiness Report.

“Education does not happen in vacuum, but it is related to the society around us,” Yli-Piipari said. “Societal and cultural policies and norms guide our education. This visit has hopefully supported their understanding about issues that contribute, not only students learning, but their profession and society at large.”

Lauri Suomela, 23, is one of the JYU sports education majors, passionate about teaching and being active. He, along with Simo Ruotsalainen, Tea Tuomainen, Armi Seppälä, and Miina Seppälä, presented the lecture about Finnish sports education on Oct. 10.

“We did this visiting program because we wanted to do something special,” Suomela said. “We wanted to go where we could learn new things and show how we do things in Finland.”

Ruotsalainen says that the current goal of physical education in Finland is for students to become physically active and healthy adults with comprehensive knowledge on how to stay that way.

He adds that while each culture and country have a different approach to physical activity and sports, each with their own dynamics and preferences, it is beneficial for educators across the board to expand their understanding of physical activity.

“What is valuable is the knowledge about the widerange of different approaches about physical education,” Ruotsalainen said. “Because knowledge is what enables you to be a better teacher for every group and individual.”

The visiting students gained some intel of their own by experiencing UGA sports firsthand. The group attended two volleyball games and a practice, and last week’s football game against South Carolina. It was the students’ first time attending a football game in person, and it’s an experience they will never forget.

“Once we went over the rules and could just watch and enjoy the game, we felt totally sucked into the experience that the atmosphere and the huge crowd of fans provided,” Ruotsalainen said. “The game going into overtime heightened the experience even further. By the end we'd gotten so into the whole thing that it really felt that it was our team that lost the game. After seeing the game in person, football became part of our daily 'to watch' thing from the hotel TV.”