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Exchange program opens minds


February 5, 2020 Krysta Macdonald, Crowsnest Consolidated High School

In October, a group of Grade 11 and 12 students from Crowsnest Consolidated High School (CCHS) in Coleman traveled to Kitee, Finland. This was the second half of an exchange between the two schools as part of a partnership that’s existed for about 10 years. This past spring, the school and students hosted their Finnish partners.

As part of the program, visiting students attend school, address elementary classrooms, participate in discussions and present to different groups. Due to the homestay nature of the program, for that week students become fully immersed in a family and culture.

This time, the focus was on literacy and community. In the Crowsnest Pass, students visited and highlighted local stories centered on the Frank Slide, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump and the history of the Alberta Provincial Police Barracks in Coleman. In Kitee, students studied a historical entrepreneur and musicians from the area. Students then composed, illustrated and translated (in both English and Finnish) picture books about these stories, which are now being formatted for publication through Amazon Direct Publishing.

An ongoing exchange program with a school in Finland has brought many great learning experiences to students at Crowsnest Consolidated High School.


The Crowsnest Pass has dozens of Little Free Library book-sharing boxes throughout the municipality. When hosting, students designed and built a Little Free Library for CCHS that highlights the connection and partnership between the two schools.

“Doing this program gives you a chance to travel and experience new things and open your mental state more; it helps you see different cultures and really realize it’s not just us, so you don’t just focus on your own little world,” says Grade 11 student Samantha Dyck.

“It was interesting doing the project, but tough speaking in front of big groups, especially when we had to speak in Finnish, since I knew I wasn’t saying it right. I was surprised by just how much fun it really was.”

“The best thing was living with my Finnish family, and seeing differences and similarities,” Grade 12 student Maron Lim.

“I was pleasantly surprised that I could bring that back with me to Canada, that change in perspective.”

This is my third rotation with the program, and the second time as teacher in charge. It’s a lot of work, but so valuable for the students. We see them grow up so quickly during the exchange. They host and they truly care about representing our school and our community. They travel and they stretch themselves beyond their own understandings of school and education and community and the world.

It’s really special to see students who’ve never been out of the province learn to navigate through airports, hear them speak in front of whole schools or address current events in a university setting, watch them cheer each other on, work through jetlag and marvel at cities and languages, and witness the connections they develop with families on the other side of the world.

It’s really a special program. ❚


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