Thursday 6th September, Day 3, part 1
Environmental Education at Nature School Korento (the Dragon Fly) (EM)
The education system in Finland follows the basic structure of voluntary pre-school, 9 years compulsory basic education, followed by 3 years upper secondary or vocational education. The main difference from the UK system is that children start school around 2 years later and stay in school until they are 18 years old.
As part of our programme we had the opportunity to visit a Korento Nature School in Tampere. This facility opened in 2002 and provides environmental education to 40-50 children a day from schools all over Tampere. Unfortunately, due to resources and space, each child in the Tampere region only gets the opportunity to visit the nature school once a year. The school is state funded and both private and state schools use the facility. It is free for them to use but transport is not provided. We were delighted to learn that many of the classes use public transport to get to the school which is much easier to budget for than coach hire.
Cute pegs with children’s names
The perception we had is that Finns are more connected with the outdoors, but in truth the disconnect with nature we see in Scotland, is increasing in Finland too. Eva Mantyvaara, an environmental education provider at Korento, informed us that teachers themselves are becoming more disconnected with nature, and therefore are not taking their classes outdoors due to lack of knowledge, skills and confidence. Eva informed us that there is a real need for these nature schools because teachers in many schools were relying on traditional paper and pencil learning. This surprised us because this is what has been happening in Scotland and the reason for introducing Career-long Professional Learning (CLPL) as a compulsory part of primary school teacher training.
The facility at Korento was excellent. There were glass cabinets full of natural artefacts, walls covered with ID guides, books, and equipment for children of all ages. The teachers were inspiring, enthusiastic and clearly loved what they were doing.
Glass cabinets with artifacts
While we were there we sat in on a class with children who had additional support needs. The class were learning about Finland’s Everyman’s Right, the code for the outdoors and something the Finnish people are very proud of. Eva, our host, said that this is the basis for outdoor education in Finland; to learn to respect the countryside from the first explorations into it.
Later we met up with the class again outside on the woodland trail where a scavenger hunt using all the senses was underway. The group made their way along the trail, touching, smelling and tasting until they came to a large seating area (with a covered shelter used for outdoor sleeping) and sat around a fire where sausages and popcorn were being prepared.
Making popcorn over the outdoor fire, and Eva answering our questions
Many of the activities provided at the nature school were very familiar to those of us in the group who provide outdoor learning activities. We’ve come back to Scotland feeling inspired and keen to get as many people outdoors and exploring nature as possible.