Denmark teacher gets hands-on experience

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 17, 2002

A year ago, Richard and Lisa Tollefson-Larson went to Denmark and other Scandinavian countries to observe.

This year, Skipper Flytkjaer and Anja Foenss came to America to observe.

There are foreign exchange programs for students. This one involves teachers.

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The Larsons' Danish house guests are from Aarhus, Denmark.

Foenss teaches music to music teachers, working in health care settings. Flytkjaer teaches music at a conservatory.

Both are vocalists, guitar players and songwriters in their spare time. Thus, music is both an avocation and a vocation as well.

Before coming to Austin to stay with the Larsons, they spent several days in New York, N.Y. Their Austin stay ends Thursday.

While the Minnesota Department of Children, Families and Learning coordinated the Larsons trip abroad last summer to study teachers at work in Scandinavia. The Danish Cultural Institute arranged the trip by two of their own to America for the same purpose.

As Flytkjaer said, "The arts brought us together."

Foenss and Flytkjaer have observed Richard and Lisa Tollefson-Larson and other Austin Public Schools teachers at work at Ellis Middle School, Neveln Elementary School and Austin High School. They have. observed both visual and music arts classrooms.

"Basically, we have spent the day observing the teachers and students and what they do and then we discuss what we saw and how it might be applied in Denmark and our work back home," said

Flytkjaer. "There are some things that we can use and others we cannot. It's been a very interesting experience and I think we have both learned a lot."

The couple is trying new techniques and a new music styling influenced by African rhythms in the classrooms they teach in Denmark.

Music, they believe, can help facilitate learning in other areas and disciplines.

"Music can help teach so many other things," said Flytkjaer. "We do not teach music just for music's sake. We teach how music can help a student learn about physical and math and other things."

According to Foenss, their teaching involves the students in physical movement and invites creativity at all turns.

The fact that music is regarded as a universal language, something that transcends borders, languages and cultures.

Both Flytkjaer and Foenss believe music education cannot be encouraged enough. Both in the home and in the classroom.

"In too many cases, it is left up to the family," said Flytkjaer. "Some families will encourage their children to pursue music and have the ability to help their children and others will not.

"We hope music can be something that more people will come to realize is important to learning other skills in life and that there are different ways to be touched by that kind of music education. We hope the teachers we teach will be able to do that for their students."

Lee Bonorden can be contacted at 434-2232 or by e-mail at