dinsdag 23 december 2014

"Growing roots and wings to children"

Saunalahti is one of the newest apartment building districts in Espoo, Finland, located by the Kummelivuori hill between Kivenlahti and Kurttila, west of the Kauklahdenväylä road, on the coast of the Espoonlahti bay. The houses in Saunalahti are built to preserve the original nature as much as possible. The houses are built at different heights, so that most have a view to the Gulf of Finland. All houses fit in with each other despite not looking exactly alike. Saunalahti School was opened in 2012. It began in 2008, when 13 architects at Verstas started designing the school. Construction commenced in 2010 and was completed in 2012. The building also houses the Saunalahti library. (excerpts from Wikipedia).

It's been a while that I was welcomed to Saunalahti School with a group of teachers on a study trip (or workaction) to have a closer look at education in Finland in September 2013. This school in particular and it's community was perhaps the best part of the trip and definitely worth a visit whenever you're in the neighborhood. The building fits perfectly in the rough surroundings with lots of wood and rocks. The school is very special and I could feel and see that each and every child was very welcome at this school. It felt like a second home to the students that attended. This was not only a school, but a multifunctional meeting place for the entire community and was open from 6 AM till 10 PM. All stakeholders such as parents were really involved and this school did a great job in being the center of this community. At tis school it is mandatory for parents to come to school at least twice a year to talk about their child. And those sessions are during the day instead of evenings which is common in my country. Both the school and the parents find it very important to do so apparently.
Parents are also involved in the parent council, which has a certain influence on the curriculum of the school, which is created by the team of teachers at the beginning of each school year. In Finland schools do not have to follow the standardized curriculum (if there is any at all?). Students do get a lot of space and are free and able to join lots of different learning activities to develop themselves.

"The inclusive Saunalahti school is a learning and expert community that enables growing roots and wings to children."

The school was very student centered for what I have seen. When we were taken on a tour by the head mistress she would pause the tour for each student that looked if it might need assistance and she would give that assistance. The fact that we - a large group of teachers - were there as well didn't matter at all. Also was pointed out that a very important value at this school is that teachers will point out (little) successes by students, in order to enable more (better?) learning by students.

The school has six values and the first one - of course - is 'focused on the child', while we in the Netherlands either focus too much on the curriculum (standards) or on the teachers and their professional development ... This is one of the main things that I will take home.

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