SHADY OAK BEST PRACTICES: DANISH “HYGGE”
Another article on “Shady Oak Best Practices,” our favorite approaches to education and why they work. If friends ask why you send your kids to Shady Oak instead of a “regular” school, refer them to this series—and the science backing us up—for starters.
With cooler months imminent, the first quarter of the school year is a good time to teach about hygge (roughly pronounced “hooga”), the Danish concept of coziness and intimacy. In Denmark and the rest of Scandinavia, where winters are long, cold, and dark, time indoors with your loved ones helps make even the bleakest night a happy time.
Your winters may not be as dark as those in Scandinavia, nor your classroom as intimate as a Danish household, but you can still provide opportunities for your students to enjoy hygge.
Share Hygge-Friendly Recipes
Typical Danish favorites include:
- Smoked fish
- Roast pork
- Meatballs or rice with cream gravy
- Hearty soups
- Scalloped or roasted potatoes
- Coffee cake
- Cinnamon rolls
- Fruit tarts
- Rice pudding
- Apple cider
- Hot chocolate
You can make your own favorite recipes, or look up specifically Danish versions. Bring something to share with the class, and give them copies of the recipe to take home. Or make a hygge lunch as a class activity!
Turn on the Right Lights
Soft lighting is a central element of the hygge tradition. To make hygge-style lighting a classroom experience, pull the window shades (covering them with additional layers if needed), turn off the regular lights, and hold class by the light of candles, glass lamps, and/or holiday-style white light strings. You can even add a Scandinavian “aurora borealis” atmosphere by putting up blue and green LEDs or lava lamps.
Turn off smartphones and other screens. Useful as they are for many purposes, they don’t produce hygge-friendly light.
Turn down the heat, move students’ chairs into snug circles, and provide wraparound blankets as needed. If there are more than eight students, divide them into smaller circles to create a hygge sense of intimacy. Give each group a shared assignment that lets them get to know each other better. They could:
- Make up a story in the round, taking turns adding “what happened next.”
- Decide on a favorite song (or write one!) and sing it to the larger group.
- Play a game like “Pile Up” (everyone takes turns to offer such instructions as, “If you’ve ever traveled outside North America, move two chairs to your left”—and if the chair is already occupied, you just sit on top of the pile).
- Share the best hygge-like experiences they’ve had with their families.
At Shady Oak, we emphasize hygge because it encourages children to appreciate simple pleasures and get close to their friends.