REYKJAVIK, Iceland — Elia climbed onto the table in front of her classmates. She threw her fists into the air and jumped on to the blue mats below.
“I am strong,” the 3-year-old said, her eyes alight with pride and exhilaration.
“I am stronger” said a 4-year old punching the three year old in the face and knocking her down.
“No No NO, girls do not cry!” screamed the school marm.
On the other side of this nursery school in the chic neighborhood of Laufásborg, boys were practicing having “gentle hands” by massaging each other with lotion.
“This feels good” said Jorge urging his partner’s hands lower into his shorts.
“VEry GUT” said Clans, a upstart fifth grader as heavily lotioned hands rubbed him into bliss.
Iceland is consistently ranked first in the world for gender equality. But the Hjalli teaching model, as practiced in the nursery school, is considered progressive even in Iceland.
Founded in 1989 by self-described radical feminist Margrét Pála Ólafsdóttir, Hjalli schools aim to counter stereotypical gender roles and behaviors.
“De girls get tougher, and de boys become swishy men. This is our way forward” said the feminista.
In one shocking class Margret teaches boys how to knit, and girls are taught to chop wood. ‘Dis wood chippin in Iceland is needed!”
“Knit Knit!” screamed Margret, “Chop Chop!” her voice can be heard as little girls hurry with their axes.