BLOG: Sámi in the Norwegian curricula – a way in through the novel In between worlds


Written by: Anne-Mette Bjøru - The Arctic University of Norway, Alta (anne.m.bjoru[at]

The aim of this blog


Is twofold: to show some aspects of the Norwegian system of Education concerning Sámi, and to share a good reading experience which some of you might find interesting. I think the novel presented here is useful as classroom material, but it is a great read also for those who do not teach - first and foremost to learn about the Sámi and Sápmi.

Short summary of In between worlds

Two teenagers, Sanne and Lemme, disappear one evening on their way home from the dirt bike track. Lemme's bike gets stuck on a rock in the little woods they pass through, and they are attacked by a screaming creature - a myling - that circles around them. Then everything goes black. After, they find themselves in a strange place - the ulda-world - where they have changed into reindeer, and are surrounded by black clouds - the chapadat. They are chased by reindeer herders and wolves, try to escape through the black clouds which almost kill them, and finally get help from Bigga - an ulda-woman, a noaidi, a shaman - who hears their thoughts and talks to foxes and all kinds of animals.

Máret Ánne Sara from Guovdageaidnu has written an exciting thriller! It is mainly aimed at young readers, but also adults will enjoy the fast paced, entertaining and mysterious plot. It connects Sámi belief and mythology, and issues that are central to present-day society and debate; modernity vs. tradition, industry vs. nature, exploitation vs. sustainability, abuse vs. protection and care. If you read Norwegian, have a look at colleague Silje Solheim Karlsen's (2019) article Daggry og mørke i Sápmi. Landskap, identitet og avkolonisering i nyere samisk litteratur for ungdom for a broader discussion of these dichotomies.

The novel gives an insight into Sámi culture and community, and is a wonderful source for learning activities in the classroom - when working with the Core curriculum, as well as competence aims in the different Subject curricula. A brief look into how Sámi is implemented the Norwegian frames for education follows, including an exploration of Máret Ánne Sara's In between worlds as classroom material.

In between worlds as a tool to meet the Sámi in the Norwegian frames for Education

Sámi is included in the various frames for education in Norway. The Education Act (1998) has a chapter on Sámi Education (chapter 6) which states the right to education and instruction in Sámi for Sámi pupils. The Norwegian Curricula for Education consists of two parts - the overarching Core curriculum and each specific Subject curricula. Sámi aspects are included in both parts.
Chapter 1 in the Core curriculum, Core values of the education and training, states this about schools in the Sámi regions: "The Sami school shall ensure that the pupils receive education and training based on Sami values and the Sami languages, culture and societal life" (The Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training, 2020, p. 4). In addition, the Core curriculum also underlines the schools' responsibility in giving all pupils, in all schools and regions of Norway, a good foundation for identity-building through insight into culture and history, including

Sami cultural heritage [which] is part of Norway's cultural heritage. Our shared cultural heritage has developed throughout history and must be carried forward by present and future generations . . . Through the teaching and training the pupils shall gain insight into the indigenous Sami people's history, culture, societal life and rights. The pupils shall learn about diversity and variation in Sami culture and societal life. (The Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training, 2020, p. 5) 

The novel In between worlds may function as a backdrop or starting point for creating learning activities that support the work with the objectives in the Core curriculum. For instance, these excerpts from the book:

 There was chaos in the kitchen. Intestines and their contents, blood, and meat. . . . "Taste it." Rija held a spoonful of fresh blood up to Sanne's nose as soon as she walked into the kitchen. "Yuck! Taste it yourself!" Sanne frowned. Rija laughed and drank the spoonful of blood. Yup, just the right amount of salt (p. 25). It was Sanne's and Lemme's job to take care of the skins from the legs. The shank skins were precious for making warm winter komag-shoes, and they had to be prepared for drying right away, before the meal (p. 26). Freshly cooked blood sausages were steaming on the table. Lemme went straight for the reindeer intestine, held it out to Sanne and laughed. (p. 29)

Here we are introduced to Sámi food culture and how all parts of the reindeer is used, including the shank skins. The example includes a Sámi word as well, the komag. There are other Sámi words throughout the book, and looking into the meaning of the words creates a way of exploring Sámi history and culture. These aspects are further elaborated in longer passages in the book. Here is one example:

 "The ulda-world is just as real as the human world. We live side by side, but we can't see each other. We're connected, but most of us don't know it." She looked over her shoulder. "Until something happens that forces them to notice it." She nodded towards her guests and turned back to her work. "Our people work with reindeer, just like you. They get by the best they can, don't mean anyone any harm. They are in their own world, they don't have any extra powers. They just work and get by. They don't even know about your world. None of them do except me and some others like me." (p. 105-106) "This isn't your world. That's the first thing you have to get straight. Like I told you before, we live side by side. As we always have done, in a peaceful way." [Bigga] stopped. "But your people don't understand that we all have to share, that it is all one. . ." (p. 183)

This comparison between the ulda-world and the human world, presented by the noadi Bigga sets the stage for discussions about Sámi mythology and belief. These are just a couple of examples among numerous, that provide useful starting points for learning activities aiming to meet the goals in the Core curriculum.

The second part of the Norwegian curricula is the specific Subject curricula. Schools in the Sámi administrative regions have their own curricula in most subjects (The Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training, n.d.). This was introduced in 1997 to "help maintain and develop important aspects of Sámi language, culture and social life" (Balto, 2005, p. 87), and allows for an even greater focus on Sámi culture and language in the Sámi regions. However, Sámi is implemented in many of the national Subject curricula. One example is in the English subject curriculum, where a competence aim after year 10 is that "The pupil is expected to be able to . . . explore and reflect on the situation of indigenous peoples in the English-speaking world and in Norway" (The Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training, 2019, p. 8-9).

As In between worlds is a novel aimed particularly at youth, it is appropriate as teaching material for 10th graders. In addition, because it is an English translation it is applicable to the English subject, and the novel has a great potential as teaching material in interdisciplinary projects as well. The main protagonists, Sanne and Lemme, are teenagers which underlines the book's relevance for lower secondary school pupils. These two parts from the beginning of the novel are about Sanne:

She sat on the swing and kicked at the sand. Boring! She stared at the new Converse sneaker she was using to push the sand around. It's totally cool that there are stars on the laces too! I'm so glad I didn't take the red ones with the... (p. 14) . . . Even though it was only the battery indicator that was flashing, she shielded her phone so that her brother would think that she was texting. She was secretly hoping for a message from her friends, to find out what they had bought while shopping and what they had done after she left yesterday. She was sometimes irritated because she was always missing out on something or other, but she understood that of course she couldn't get to do everything, both to hang out with friends and to join the reindeer herding. (p. 24) 

These phrases from the book describe Sanne's everyday life, matters that are common and recognizable for most adolescents; trendy clothing brands, mobile phones and friends, alongside the traditional reindeer herding that is her family's occupation. These are merely a few quotes from Máret Ánne Sara's novel, but give an idea about the books' potential regarding topics for discussion that meet this particular competence aim.

As the examples above show, In between worlds creates an opportunity for the reader to learn about Sámi everyday-life, tradition, customs and belief. Teachers will be able to make vast amounts of learning activities based on the book as the only teaching material, and it caters for interesting classroom sessions about the Sámi. Perhaps also teachers outside of Norway find it useful as a source for learning activities. Certainly, it is recommended to any reader who, through an enjoyable and exciting story, would like to experience the space In between worlds.

The writer works as a lecturer at the Alta campus of UiT The Arctic University of Norway. She is a contact person in both the UNESCO/UNITWIN and UArctic Thematic Network Teacher Education for Social Justice and Diversity.


Balto, A. (2005). Traditional Sámi child rearing in transition: Shaping a new pedagogical platform. AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples, 1(1).

Karlsen, Silje Solheim. (2019). Daggry og mørke I Sápmi. Landskap, identitet og avkolonisering i nyere samisk litteratur for ungdom [Dawn and darkness in Sápmi. Landscape, identity and decolonization in new Sámi youth literature]. Norsk litterær årbok. Oslo: Det norske samlaget, pp. 218-241.

The Education Act. (1998). Act relating to Primary and Secondary education and Training (LOV-1998 07-17-61).

The Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training. (2020). Core curriculum - values and principles for primary and secondary education.

The Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training. (2019). Curriculum in English.

The Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training. (n.d.). Kunnskapsløftet - samisk [The National Curriculum for Knowledge Promotion in Primary and Secondary Education and Training- Sámi].


The book may be ordered online from ARK bookstore, Norway (but not sure if they send abroad):

And from Amazon - books on tape in the North Sámi language: