PAINESDALE - Paivi Hakkarainen was walking through South Range Elementary School where two children attend kindergarten when she stopped and noticed several pieces of artwork by children hanging on the walls.
A Finnish Fulbright scholar visiting Finlandia University for a short period of time, Hakkarainen was amazed to be able to recognize so many last names attached to the artwork.
"I was very surprised when I came here last August," said Hakkarainen, who is in the Copper Country for nine months working with educational opportunities between Finlandia and the University of Lapland. "When I walked in the halls, I saw a lot of names of students and I was shocked because the names were Finnish. I'm like, 'Where am I?' I was positively surprised."
Stacey Kukkonen/Daily Mining Gazette
Left, Paivi Hakkarainen, a Finnish Fulbright scholar visiting Finlandia University for nine months, and Wade Tillett, an elementary education professor from Finlandia University, speak to the Adams Township School District Board of Education Wednesday evening.
With Finlandia University, Hakkarainen has helped develop a program called "Hei Suomi!" (meaning "Hi Suomi") which she shared with the Adams Township School District Board of Education at its regular meeting Wednesday evening.
The plan is to provide South Range Elementary School third-grade students with opportunities to learn about Finnish culture and heritage, as well as the language.
"We want to provide opportunities for third graders to get to know Finland better," she said.
Two education students from the University of Lapland will come to the elementary school to teach the third-grade students. Hakkarainen is working with Wade Tillett, an elementary education professor from Finlandia University to develop a plan to bring over students in a move she called a "really great opportunity."
The visiting students will be found housing and will be supervised throughout the plan, Tillett said.
"Hopefully, we'll have an exchange between them and our education students," he said.
Even after leaving the U.P. in May and heading back to the University of Lapland, Hakkarainen has asked Tillett to carry on the project.
"I see this as a pilot project," she said.
The project is set to begin next spring when the first two students will arrive, Hakkarainen said.