NORWAY: Exploring New Horizons...
Teacher Page

"Kindness can change the lives of people," said Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi in the Nobel Lecture that she was finally free to deliver in 2012. Acknowledging the Peace Prize she had won more than two decades earlier (and had been prevented from accepting while under house arrest), this renowned champion of democracy went on to say: "Norway has shown exemplary kindness in providing a home for the displaced of the earth, offering sanctuary to those who have been cut loose from the moorings of security and freedom in their native lands."

Opening a door to the displaced of the Earth is just one aspect of Norwegian policy toward the world's needy. For decades, now, its small population (5 million in 2012) have used their collective wisdom and wealth to help world neighbors ease suffering, develop human potential, and build peace. In so doing, Norwegians reflect centuries of traditional values. Even in the face of today's rapidly changing world, they remain committed to democratic institutions, to the rule of law, and to one another's welfare. Their experience, profiled in this newly updated unit from Learning Enrichment (LE), offers our students a rich variety of topics for research and reflection.

In the following paragraphs of this page, you'll find material to assist you in developing those topics with students, plus a number of sources you may want to consult, and a special section on sharpening students' Social Studies Reading Skills when they tackle the unit pages designed especially for their use.

This unit will serve courses in history, world regions, government, and contemporary issues (9-12). Among prototypical SOLs supported by the unit are these three, cited from: National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies (NCSSS); National Standards for History (NSH); and Geography for Life: National Geography Standards (GL). Students using this unit should be better able to:

  • "[illustrate] how changing perceptions of places and environments affect the spatial behavior of people" — "How To Apply Geography to Interpret the Past" (GL)
  • "evaluate the extent to which governments achieve their stated ideals and policies at home and abroad" — "Power, Authority, and Governance" (NCSSS)
  • "analyze … consequences of the world's shift from bipolar to multipolar centers of economic, political, and military power" — "Major Global Trends Since World War II," Era 9, Standard 3 (NSH)

Depending on students' needs, you may want to preview some or all of the following terms from this unit: biotech, broadband, constitutional monarchy, deforestation, export earnings, fijord, gender gap, global warming, greenhouse gases, gross domestic product, hydroelectric, mixed economy, myth, non-renewable resource, paid parental leave, and welfare benefits.

The student pages in this unit have been developed around a "widening-circles" approach to the study of modern-day societies. Norway is explored first as a nation, next as a member of a geopolitical region, and finally as a participant in global affairs. Running through all three pages are underlying questions: How has Norway's geography influenced its people's lives? What does Norway offer to — and seek from — the world community today? What "horizons" are left, for Norwegians to explore? You may want to use those questions — as well as the "Ask Now..." questions at the end of each page — to evaluate students' grasp of what they read.

As you introduce this unit to students, ask them to speculate on the kinds of issues and fields of endeavor in which a society might have "explored new horizons" in earlier times, and might do so today. Urge students to watch for examples of such "exploration" in each of the three Student Text Pages in this unit. Here's some additional information about key themes and topics on these pages, plus a few suggestions for exploring them further with your class:

1.   Student Text Page No. 1: "As a Nation." Life in contemporary Norway is introduced through the experience of a young professional woman about to begin her maternity leave. Plus: Norway's social welfare plan — and some of the goals behind it, the country's flourishing mixed economy, national efforts to provide for future economic security, and recognition for Norway's human development policies.

1a. About Trondheim. Tell students that Trondheim (mentioned in the introduction to the "Nation" Page) was Norway's first capital, founded in 997. To learn more about the city's cultural history, they can make a great start at the official Web Site for Trondheim. (On the "City Info" menu, select "Historical perspective" and "Trondheim today," for example.) And, for a different taste of Norway's historic culture, you might steer students to the Site for the Hardanger Fiddle Association of America, where a click on the "Background" link will produce information about a truly unique Norwegian instrument — plus an opportunity to hear the fiddle played!

1b. Gender equality. Students may ask: Does paid parental leave actually promote gender equality? When it's part of a nation's full-court press to achieve such equality, the answer seems to be Yes! In 2007, Kjell Erik Øie, then State Secretary in Norway's Ministry for Children and Equality, referred to his country's parental leave and childcare programs as elements of a policy that also fosters gender equality. Statistics continue to back up that claim. In May 2012, the Better Life Index published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reported that 73 percent of Norwegian women aged 15 to 64 had a paid job, by comparison with 66 percent for the 36 nations surveyed by the OECD. In the same year, the fertility rate for Norwegian women was almost 1.8 — one of the highest rates in Europe.

1c. Economic measurements. In the "Today's Boon" segment, the $265.5-billion figure for Norway's GDP represents purchasing power parity (ppp), the dollar value of the universal "basket" of goods and services that Norway's GDP earnings could buy (within Norway, at Norwegian prices). The CIA World Factbook and many other sources use purchasing-power figures when reporting on a nation's economic status. The Factbook also reports GDP in terms of the official exchange rate between a particular nation's currency and U.S. dollars. Measured thus, Norway's GDP was $477.6 billion in 2011, when Norway's kroner were converting to dollars at the rate of about 5.60 to 1. And student researchers may come across still other figures, based on different forms of measurement. Under the World Bank Atlas Method, for example, a nation's gross national income (GNI) is expressed in current dollars, but is based on a three-year-average conversion rate for that particular nation's currency. However, in Norway's case, such differences do not affect the bottom line. As a 2012 World Bank report demonstrates, Norway's per-capita GNI ranks among the world's top five, whether measured by the "ppp" or by the Atlas method. (See also the Norway Data Page for a profile of Norway's population and economy.)

Suggestion: Charting contrasts. The "Nation" Page focuses on Norway's welfare system and mixed economy. After students have read the page, tell them that the young woman described in the opening lines would also receive a tax-free subsidy for each of her children under the age of 18. More: Along with all other workers in the country's public and private sectors, she would also be guaranteed an annual vacation of up to 25 days, funded by her employer! Encourage student teams to (a) make a chart comparing these and other facts about the Norwegian welfare/mixed-economy system with comparable laws and systems in their own country, and (b) discuss/debate the "plus" and "minus" points on each side. For students who may want to examine comparable systems in other nations, a good start can be made with the entry for "Welfare State" in the online encyclopedia "Wikipedia." For an excellent (though much more detailed) presentation of Norway's welfare benefits, you might want some students to consult the online booklet "The Norwegian Social Insurance Scheme." (2012)

2.   Student Text Page No. 2: "Within Its Region." Life at sea for inhabitants of Norway's earliest coastal fishing villages is portrayed. Plus: the era of Norse Vikings and their journeys, the evolution of Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish kingdoms and their later interrelationships, the emergence of national goals among Norwegians in the 19th century — followed by independence (1905), Norway's economic achievements, and its relations with the EU

2a. Map lore. The value of the "Region" Page will be enhanced if students consult LE's polar regional map of Norway (see the Norway Map Page). To be sure they understand this map's focus, have them consult a globe, and then the map, to locate a particular place on both — Svalbard, for example. Halfway between Norway and the North Pole, the archipelago of Svalbard was opened by treaty in 1920 to the coal-mining interests of dozens of countries — though today it is inhabited chiefly by Norwegians (the majority) and Russians. Svalbard is also the location of Norway's new "doomsday" seed bank, where Norway is freezing and storing plant seeds from around the world, as an insurance against those plants' extinction during any future global catastrophe! Students — especially those in science classes — may be interested in reading about this fascinating project. See, for example, "Pictures: 'Doomsday' Seed Vault Safeguards Our Food Supply" on the National Geographic Web Site. (Follow links to several related articles.)

2b. Indigenous people. Opening lines on this page call to mind early Norse seafarers. But Norway was home to an even earlier culture group, whose descendants — the Sami — still dwell in the country's northernmost parts. For an up-close look at how the Sami are coping with the 21st century, watch the short video of a December 2005 PBS documentary at "Norway: Reindeer Men: Mythic nomads in a modern world." After viewing, you may want to select the link at "Background Facts and Related Links," too!

2c. Early history. Vikings have become such a familiar icon in modern-day sports, cartoons, and other forms of popular culture, you may need to remind students about who the "originals" were. Here's one source: "Eyes On.... Viking Explorers" — a brief, informative Learning Enrichment unit that includes a map of the Vikings' journeys. (Scroll to the end of that unit's Teacher Page for links to student and map materials.)

2d. Northern Europe today. It would be hard to overstate the importance to Norway of associations whose other members share its regionwide interests. Such groups are valuable as bases for scientific and cultural exchanges, and for addressing common regional problems — air pollution and the depletion of fish stocks, for example. This student page mentions the Nordic Council, founded in 1953. Norway also co-founded two other regional associations: the Council of the Baltic Sea States (1992), and the Barents Euro-Arctic Council (1993). Student researchers visiting the Web Sites of these Councils will find maps, membership lists, and a wealth of information about the priorities and projects of these different groups of North European nations. They may also find references to the Northern Dimension, a partnership formed by Norway, Russia, Iceland, and the EU in pursuit of common goals: "to strengthen stability and well-being, intensify economic cooperation," and especially to "promote economic integration, competitiveness and sustainable development in Northern Europe." Invite students who have visited these sites to share the results of their research. Have them summarize the goals of each association, noting any major concern or topic that many or most groups are now addressing (education, human resource management, local industries, etc.). Then ask students to speculate on why the membership of "regional" associations seems (over time) to be expanding in size! What factors might explain that expansion? And: Would including more nations add to, or lessen, the value of membership for any one nation?

2e. European Union. When discussing the ongoing debate over Norway's possible membership in the European Union, inform students about the European Economic Area agreement (1994), under which Norway receives most of the same trade benefits that EU member nations enjoy among themselves. Norway values its relationship with the EU and interacts with it on many levels. As a member of the EEA, for example, Norway contributes generously to specific projects, programs, and research activities benefitting the EU's poorer member nations. For the period 2009-2014 alone, it has pledged a total of $1.8 billion euros ($2.4 billion). Students can explore details about this pledge at the Web Site for the EEA. Suggest that they start by clicking on the outline of Norway on the opening-page map, then the links to "Norway Grants" and "EEA Grants."

Suggestion: Guided reading on Norway's history. In "A Century of Norwegian Independence" (see full citation in "More Sources," below), historian Terje Leiren steers the reader through a series of cliff-hanging moments in Norway's 20th-century history. The article is long. But persevering students will find it an excellent tutorial on the roots and branches of modern-day nationalism, as Norwegians experienced it. The following questions will help students look for the article's main ideas: (a) Describe life in Norway before its people dissolved the Union with Sweden in 1905. (b) How did that dissolution (separation) occur? (c) What policies did Norway's early Liberal and Labor Parties promote, with regard to the nation's resources and its people's welfare? (d) How did Norway's location influence its role in World War II? (e) What world organizations did Norway join after WWII, and what was the reason for joining each? (f) What major cultural changes have occurred within Norway in recent decades? (g) What evidence does the author give to support his statement that, "As a small country, Norway must balance (a) the fear of being swallowed up by a larger power with (b) the need for allies and [for] the protection of a larger organization"? [Letters added and punctuation adapted. — LE.]

3.   Student Text Page No. 3: "In Today's World." Norway's generosity in the face of multiple global pressures is illustrated through its billion-dollar pledge to help Brazil and Indonesia check deforestation within their borders. Plus: the origins (and other current examples) of Norway's "helping-hand" tradition, the guiding principles behind its foreign policies in these matters, and unfolding trends in the Arctic polar region.

3a. National generosity: a policy. Norway's contribution to the reduction of deforestation in Brazil and Indonesia, the focus of the introduction to this student page, is only one example of its generosity to those in need — and of the wide range of needs that it addresses around the world. In addition to promoting green energy and checking deforestation, Norwegian aid flows to programs for poverty reduction, family planning, education, health care.... See, for example, the overview of aid targets outlined by Norway's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in its press release "Norway's Aid Budget Doubled in Nine Years." To place these donations in perspective: According to the OECD, Norway's Official Development Assistance (ODA) in 2011 amounted to 1.0 percent of its GNI (Gross National Income) — well beyond the UN target of 0.7 percent, per nation! By comparison, the USA contributed 0.2 percent of its GNI in the same year. In sharing such data with students, however, remind them that the base numbers (the national GNIs) from which the percentages are computed differ widely. In dollar terms, the USA, Germany, and the United Kingdom ranked first, second, and third, respectively, in the amount of foreign aid that each provided.

3b. National generosity — a hands-on experience. Norwegians are exposed early in life to the idea of helping others. More than 40 years ago, a group of Norwegian teens launched Operasjon Dagsverk (Operation Day's Work) for just that purpose. Realizing how many people on our planet go without an education because of poverty, they selected a country (Algeria), researched its people's education needs, and donated pay from a "day's work" to raise $15,000 for their project. By the beginning of this millennium, Operasjon Dagsverk had spread to several other nations, including the USA, and raised millions of dollars for education projects in dozens of countries.

3c. Challenges for the 21st century. In the segment titled "Paths to Peace," students will find allusions to three types of peacemaking efforts within Norway's various outreach efforts. These efforts include: helping poorer nations to grow an economy without doing environmental harm, promoting dialogue as a way to resolve conflicts, and providing aid to peoples trapped in conflict zones. Ask students: How might each of these forms of assistance contribute (directly or indirectly) to global peace? What's the connection between each goal and the conditions needed for domestic, regional, and global peace? In an eloquent address to the UN General Assembly on September 27, 2012, Norway's Foreign Minister Espen Barthe Eide spelled out the Norwegian view on such issues. See "Leadership Is About Making Choices."

3d. Exploring spirit! One of the threads running through this unit deals with "exploration." Urge students to research and report on some of Norway's great explorers, including Fridtjof Nansen, Roald Amundsen, Thor Heyerdahl, and Liv Arnesen, who — with her American colleague Ann Bancroft — completed the first all-women's crossing of Antarctica (on foot) in February 2001.

Suggestions: Mock conference.... Several of Norway's modern-day concerns — the environment, EU, Arctic zone, etc. — are addressed on this page. Have each student select and research one of those interests (or others, such as oil management) to represent at a conference on "Norwegian Priorities for the Future." After speakers present their position papers, have students vote to decide what Norway's policy priorities should be(!) Time line.... Taken together, the three Student Text Pages in this unit cover a great deal of Norway's seafaring past (as well as its present!). Challenge students to review all three pages for data that might be included in a "marine" chronology of Norway's history, and then have them place each fact on a timeline. (You might want to tell students that Norway's North Sea oil extraction began in the 1970s. Also, remind them to include the ongoing search for offshore resources in the Arctic waters north of Norway.).

Realizing the significant pressure on social studies teachers to emphasize reading skills with secondary school students, LE offers the following tip for use with this unit (see also LE's Page on Reading Skills in the Social Studies):

    Recognizing the specialized vocabulary of writers and commentators in the field of social studies. One of the most challenging goals for any educator is to help students become familiar with the terminology appropriate to his or her field. This unit's Student Text Page No. 2 ("Within Its Region") includes a number of terms with special meaning for students in social studies courses. Here are 20 of them: (1) coastal waters, (2) constitution, (3) democratic, (4) exports, (5) hot/cold war, (6) independence, (7) monarchy, (8) myth, (9) national identity, (10) neighbors, (11) new industry, (12) parliament, (13) progress, (14) regional ties, (15) stable relations, (16) telecommunications, (17) territorial warfare, (18) tourism, (19) trade routes, (20) union.

    1. Depending on the course you're teaching, distribute a list of some or all of the above numbered terms a day or so before you hand out copies of this unit's Student Text Page No. 2. Ask students to reflect on the word-list as a whole and then draw an inference (make a prediction) about the focus (main idea) of the article they will soon read. Possible student predictions, based on the context in which the terms are used in the article: "Norway's Government" (see Items 2, 3, 7, and 12, for example); "Its History" (5, 6, and 8); "Its Economy" (1, 4, 11, 16, and 19); "Its International Relations" (10, 14, 15, and 17). Some items (9, 13, 18, and 20, for example) could support more than one category…. As the subtitle of the page indicates, the focus is actually on Norway's regional relations.

    2. On the same day that you distribute the word-list, assign a different term to each student, with the assignment to research and report on the term's meaning. Emphasize that the explanations you're looking for should relate to some aspect of the social studies (History, Economics, etc.). Thus, simply providing the basic definition of "telecommunications" (exchanges of information over a distance) would not complete the assignment. But providing the basic definition and then relating it to, say, the field of Economics (as an example of a growing industry, or a new career field, or an investment target, or a factor in globalization, etc.) would do the job. Review students' reports in class. Then distribute Student Text Page No. 2, pausing now and then as students read it, to check their understanding of the new terms.

Some of the best current sources on Norway are on-line. "Minifacts about Norway: 2012" provides a wealth of statistical information compiled by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Looking for a more topical approach? See Norway's "official site in the United States. " Select "About Norway," and you'll find links to such interesting topics as "Society & People," "Culture," and "History." The Web Site for the American Scandinavian Foundation is another good online source, with occasional reprints of articles on Norway from the ASF's publication "Scandinavian Review."

Other worthwhile sites include: "Norway", a major article in the CIA's World Factbook and "U.S. Relations With Norway" from the Web Site of the U.S. Department of State.

Finally, LE also recommends the following sources:

Aldridge, Susan. "Blue Biotech Puts Norway on the Map: Prospecting for Commercial Opportunities in Marine Environments." Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News. October 15, 2005. Research in Trondheim.

"Arctic Council." Wikipedia. Established in 1996 to address the common concerns and challenges faced by Arctic governments and the people of the Arctic.... Norway is a vital member of this increasingly in-the-news organization.

Aung San Suu Kyi. Nobel Lecture. Nobel Prize Organization. June 16, 2012.

Brooks, David. "The Hard and the Soft." The New York Times. March 2, 2010. "There must be many reasons for Norway's excellence," writes Brooks, "but some ... are probably embedded in the story of Jan Baalsrud, a young instrument maker who was asked to sneak back into Norway to help the anti-Nazi resistance" in 1943. (A great account of real-life heroism!)

Chowder, Ken. "Norway's Wild Western Isles." The New York Times. June 15, 2003. Page 24. An excellent article on Norway's Lofoten Islands, north of the Arctic Circle.

"Global Pension Fund." Information on the management of Norway's "oil-fueled" sovereign wealth fund — the world's largest, by 2012! (Thirty percent of the Fund is invested in the USA.)

Handwerk, Brian. "Pictures: 'Doomsday' Seed Vault Safeguards Our Food Supply." National Geographic Society. July 2, 2012.

"International Security Assistance Force." Wikipedia. The ISAF, the NATO-led security mission in Afghanistan, was established by the UN Security Council. This article lists the number of troops contributed to ISAF by Norway and other participating nations.

MacDougall, Ian. "Norway, Russia Agree on New Barents Sea Border." The Guardian [UK]. April 30, 2010. "Norway and Russia [have] agreed ... to evenly divide a long-disputed area in the Barents Sea, ... [an] oil and gas region in the Arctic" zone. (An agreement 40 years in the making!)

"Millennium Development Goals." Wikipedia online encyclopedia.

"More activity in the High North." The Norway Post. October 9, 2012.

"News from the Barents Region." BarentsObserver. Excellent source of current information on a part of the world that is critical to Norway's interests and security.

"NOK 100 Million for Clean Energy in Bhutan." Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. October 16, 2012.

"Norway Tops World Sovereign Wealth Fund Ranking List." The Norway Post. October 3, 2012.

Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre. Food for thought.

OECD Better Life Index (2012). Norway.

OECD. "Statistics on resource flows to developing countries." Select "Table 1 - DAC Members’ Net Official Development Assistance in 2011."

Rosenthal, Elizabeth. "Race Is On as Ice Melt Reveals Arctic Treasures." The New York Times. September 18, 2012.

Save the Children. "Save the Children’s Annual State of the World’s Mothers Report Lists Norway as the Best Place to Be a Mother...." May 8, 2012.

Stoltenberg, Jens. "Prime Minister's New Year Address, 2013."

Støre, Jonas Gahr. "Journalism in a Troubled World…." June 4, 2007. Address by Norway's (then) Minister of Foreign Affairs.

U.S. Energy Administration. "Norway." August 28, 2012. Tightly written profile of sources, production, and distribution in Norway's power industry.

Norway Student Text Page No. 1 | Norway Student Text Page No. 2 | Norway Student Text Page No. 3 | Norway Map Page | Norway Data Page

Would you like to see other pages in this study unit? Or visit LE's Home Page?

LE wishes to thank the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for underwriting the costs of producing and distributing the original printed version of this unit. We hope that, in this new electronic version, our unit continues to serve teachers and students in Grades 7-12.

© Learning Enrichment, Inc. Content last updated: December 2012. Page last reviewed: March 2013.