For 10 years students and teachers around Europe have got together to study and teach adapted physical activity to Vierumäki Campus. Adapted physical activity means physical activity for people with special needs, like visual, physical or intellectual impairment or high age. The EUDAPA project focuses on building capacity on the matter in higher education and research to address physical activity and nutrition transition. One of the areas supported by the project is student and staff exchange.
Daniel Gaita attended EUDAPA 2019 on the support of KENFIN-EDURA project, a collaboration between the Kenyan and Finnish governments.
Below some experiences from his point of view and EUDAPA programme manager Jyrki Vilhu.
On the students
Jyrki: Yearly 20 students from European countries are selected to the programme (and 2019 also two students from Africa). The students are mostly from physical activity Bachelor programmes, but there are also students from rehabilitation and social care programmes and also Masters and even PhD programmes (as Daniel is).
Daniel: I can summarise my experience at Vierumaki in 3 major aspects. To begin with, this is probably the longest I have been with a largely international group. We had 7 nationalities among the students; Africa participated in EUDAPA for the first time. There were Finnish, Czech, Belgian, French, Spanish, Kenyan and Zimbabwean participants. In addition, we had even more nationalities among the visiting lecturers. The international networks become very important for professional and academic growth. I look forward to undertaking future collaborative research and consultations within these networks.
In addition, the networks provide good grounds to benchmark against best international practice as one learns how colleagues are doing adapted physical activity (APA) in their home countries. APA now requires to be totally internationalized. Being in Vierumaki has enhanced the collaborations between my university and Haaga-Helia. I look forward to there being a continuous collaboration between the two institutions. The hallmark for the collaboration would be exchange programs for students and staff from the institutions.
On the pedagogy
Jyrki: John Dewey´s “learning by doing” is implemented in the programme. This means: first theory, then planning and implementing a project in practice. Then the practice will validate the theory, focus it and sometimes even partly repeal it. In a typical practical project there is a partner from “real life”, e.g. HUS psychiatry unit or Mikkeli prison. Projects are led by students.
Daniel: Haaga-Helia is a great benchmark in regard to learning by doing. This pedagogical approach is well implemented through various practical classes as well as projects. As a teacher in APA in my country, this pedagogical approach is the one we are seeking to use. By doing it, I have gained more experience in this approach. Running inclusive PA and sports program will require more than a theoretical foundation. It is important that students learn responsibility; they learn by doing it.
On the learning
Jyrki: For me EUDAPA is a continuous personal learning process: how to cope with people from different cultures, how to plan and execute a solid and logical programme, find interesting and essential contents, react to quick changes, host visiting teachers… And also my English is improving every day.
Now it seems that the programme is expanding beyond Europe, this year Africa and there is a planning process going on with Wingate Institute (Israel).
Daniel: EUDAPA 2019 was total fun in learning. There is no space for gloom as one undertakes various classes and projects. My highlights for the spring semester was the 1 week down-hill and cross-country skiing at Ruka, running a 2 day Special Olympics program and the tour to the UK for wheelchair basketball and London marathon and visiting the Paralympics UK organization.
That these programs are student-planned gives a lot of room for groups to decide where learning can be happily experienced. Indeed for me, Vierumäki is a place I look forward to returning maybe in a different role or have students from my university come for the experience.