RCE Helsinki Metropolitan - 2018

SDG`s in schoolculture in Espoo: Our school yard - ecological learning environment
Basic Information
Title of project : 
SDG`s in schoolculture in Espoo: Our school yard - ecological learning environment
Submitting RCE: 
RCE Helsinki Metropolitan
Contributing organization(s) : 
Aalto University
Keinumäki School, City of Espoo
Association for Science Education
University of Helsinki
Focal point(s) and affiliation(s)
Anna Maaria Nuutinen
Organizational Affiliation: 
Keinumäki School
Niina Repo
Organizational Affiliation: 
Aalto University
Dr. Arja Kaasinen
Organizational Affiliation: 
University of Helsinki, teacher education
Marja Voipio
Organizational Affiliation: 
Association for Science Education
Format of project: 
Language of project: 
Date of submission:
Wednesday, October 31, 2018
Additional resources: 
References (I could not upload then)
New Finnish National Core Curriculum for basic education 2014 (OPS 2014)

Millington Janet & Nuttal Carolyn (2013) Outdoor Classrooms: A Handbook for School Gardens, Australia

Sharon Gamson Danks (2010) Asphalt to Ecosystems - Design ideas for Schoolyard Transformation, USA

Koulunpihan mahdollisuudet - opas, Mannerheimin lastensuojeluliitto, (MLL 2000)

Learning Through Landscapes, http://www.ltl.org/uk
Finnish National Board of Education, National Curriculum implementation
At what level is the policy operating?: 
Geographical & Education Information
Address of focal point institution for project: 
RCE Helsinki Metropolitan is located in the south of Finland, on the coast of the Baltic Sea.
Socioeconomic and environmental characteristics of the area : 
Socioeconomic level is quite high
We have clean air, beautiful land...
Description of sustainable development challenge(s) in the area the project addresses: 
SDG index Finland https://www.dropbox.com/sh/10wvvy9dfbl0pkb/AADBZZfwEJmD6GknRlSv9xp7a?dl=0&preview=FINLAND.pdf

- To get ESD program (SDG´s Implementation Plan) to all education levels from Early Childhood care to Adult Education
- To increase competitiveness in a frame of ESD competences
- To research how SDG`s work is managed and implemented in Helsinki Area

Note: PISA scores do not mean that students understand the importance of sustainable development and are comitted to sustainable lifestyle

- To decrease social differences, prevent exclusion in Helsinki Metropolitan Area

- To open systematic common discussion on SDG`s
- To encourage citizens to plan and take part in the SDG`s events
- To coordinate SDG`s work of all sectors

- To build more sustainable Helsinki Metropolitan Area
- To promote sustainable economy
- To promote sustainable production and consumption
- To continue to value environment and protect natural environment (Baltic sea) and biodiversity

August, 2018 to May, 2019
New Finnish National Core Curriculum for basic education 2014 gives guidelines and goals for changing the ways schools operate. The goal is to create a school culture that promotes learning, interaction, well-being and a sustainable way of living. Principles of the development of the school culture emphasise the school as a learning community, that provides opportunities for experimentation, exploration, active learning, physical activity and play. Thesis aims to give practical knowledge how that can be achieved engaging with school yard. (OPS 2014)

Curriculum integration to the school yard - crossing and mixing subject boundaries; art, music, physical education, geography, biology, mathematics, music

Planning the school yard can be a learning process, where many subjects can be touched.
For instance evaluating the existing school ground will give practical and hands on knowledge about geography, map reading skills and natural forces that move through the ground. The process will tech about teamwork, creativity and project based learning.
Different subjects can be taken as design themes to the school yard, only the imagination is really the limit what could be done. There could be mathematical charts painted on the stairs or art projects that teach about ecology on site or music instruments that interact with the wind. (Danks 2010)
Project/Thesis started from the question: how could children develop their relationship to the nature in the school yards? How could nature, that sustains all the life on earth, be brought to school yards in a way that it promotes a sense of wonder and learning? Thesis topic broaden from developing harmonious relationship to nature to study the wide range of possibilities of ecological learning environments. Thesis focuses on existing school yards and how they could be developed to ecological learning environments together with the school community.

Climate change, the loss of ecosystems, extinction of countless species and the unsustainable use of earth’s resources are demanding people to develop new operating models that respect nature. Thesis researches sustainable development of the school yards, their planning, building and maintaining from the ecological and social viewpoints.
Thesis title ”Our school yard” highlights the importance of the school community in the development process of the yard. Every school is unique and the yard could tell the story of that culture.

School yards embody an enormous potential as inspiring learning spaces, that is often underused.
Activities and/or practices employed: 
Pilot project: Keinumäki school, Espoo

As a pilot project to the thesis, Keinumäki school in Espoo started working together with Niina Repo. Repo contacted Anna Maaria (Mari) Nuutinen in Keinumäki school and presented the idea to her and the principal. After they got interested the concept was presented to the rest of the teachers. Ideas started flowing around the possibilities of their school yard. The students were engaged with the map of the existing school yard, where they could mark the pleasant and unpleasant places in addition wishes of what their school yard could be. Four different projects started with the lead of different teachers.

Chess board painting is one of the school yard projects. School has big chess pawns in the storage but they haven’t been in use. The plan is to get the children painting the board to the asphalt and be part of creating something new to there.

After the chess board painting is finished, there are other school yard markings and paintings in the planning. School has big outdoor atrium stairs that are really not in use. The plan is to give them new life with colourful painting that would include mathematical chart as well. The stairs could be used for hopping also. Other markings that were planned are hopscotch and points of the compass.

School wanted to research the possibility of creating frisbee golf track to the yard. Frisbee golf could lead to the forest patch that is part of the school yard and would be great way to get the children to enjoy the nature on site, during the school days.

”Science forest”
Keinumäki school has a small garden on their ground already. There are raised beds for multiple crops such as zucchini and tomatoes. There are also fruit trees and berry bushes. Next to the garden area is small forest patch, which has been used as a learning space by science groups of the school. The idea is to make the forest even more used space for learning, by creating there a path with multiple observation spaces to study ecology. The path could start from the garden and lead to the forest, giving a new layer and teaching platform to the school yard. Students are involved in the designing and creating the path.

Size of academic audience: 
Ecological building materials, Retrofitting, Maker culture (use of natural materials; wood, stones, earth, sand, vegetation; native species, Recycling, upcycling and reuse)

It is ecological to use the elements and resources that the school already has. The evaluating of the existing is very important step. If the school yard has some elements that are not well functioning, could they be improved, retrofitted. This mindset would promote maker-culture and give tools for kids to make and build things. It’s very important mindset to promote, because everyone can be creative. Recycling, upcycling and reuse are the way to save earth’s resources and practical projects from these themes will help students to grow to the sustainable way of living.

The school yard development is ongoing process. It is not supposed to be finished at once, there could be different improvements and projects every school year and it’s a changing and developing platform. School yards should be flexible and promote change and different usages.
Lessons learned: 
Participatory design - school staff, principal, students, parents, people living in the neighbourhood and other users

The whole process of the development of the school yard (designing, implementing, maintenance) should include the school community. Professionals should naturally be included in larger scale renovations and building processes, but it doesn’t exclude the participation. Developing the yard as a community can create inspiring and creative culture to the school community. It could create a sense of ownership and motivation towards taking care of the environment. School community needs to have the real interest for the model, otherwise it will not be long lasting. Project can start from one enthusiastic teacher, but it would be important to form core group around the development project. (MLL 2000)

Learning and enjoying the ecosystems on the school yard - vegetation (native species and plant communities, school garden) water, (ponds, rain gardens, collecting rain water) energy (sun, wind)

Every school should have even a small garden, where students could learn hands on skills about planting, growing food, seasonal cycles and how humans are part of the ecology and how they can affect with their actions. School garden could be great place to teach about geography and biology, why some crops and plants are successful in Northern hemisphere and some aren’t. How does the rainfall affect and how could climate change create new conditions for all of this. School garden could provide food to school kitchen as well and give understanding about consumption compared to self-sufficiency, even as symbolic teaching tool. (Millington & Nuttal 2013)
There are many energies going through the school ground. School yards could catch and store energy, such as water for the garden. Solar energy could be also stored with solar panels. (Danks 2010)

Key messages: 

Creative play and transformability of the spaces
School yards should be inspiring places, where play and learning can happen simultaneously. If the yard is inspiring place to move around, the movement will happen naturally. Nature and natural environments have a tendency to promote wonder and movement. In the modern day hectic society, places where kids can relax, reflect and be still for a moment would be as important to include as sport fields. Not every student wants to play sports and school yard should provide spaces for these students as well. (Danks 2010)

The transformability of the spaces and multifunctionality should be considered when designing school yards. One important principle from permaculture (Design method created by Bill Morrison and David Holmgren, Australia) is that each element should perform many functions. This principle is excellent when designing school yards as ecological learning environments. Thinking of different functions that one element could provide will give a lot of new insight and ideas. Including loose items on the yard that can be used in different ways will promote creative play and imagination. (Learning Through Landscapes)
Relationship to other RCE activities: 
Finnish National Curriculum for primary and secondary education eg. SDG`s implementation
Teacher education , University of Helsinki

Teacher in-Service education, Association for Science Education
school funding


File Name Caption for picture Photo Credit
Image icon metsä.JPG (3.28 MB) Our school yard - ecological learning environment,forest Anna Maaria Nuutinen
Image icon maissi.JPG (2.15 MB) Our school yard - ecological learning environment, garden Anna Maaria Nuutinen
UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
(https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs) and other themes of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)
SDG 2 - End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture 
SDG 3 - Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages 
SDG 4 - Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all 
SDG 5 - Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls 
SDG 7 - Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all 
SDG 9 - Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation, and foster innovation 
SDG 11 - Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable 
SDG 12 - Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns 
SDG 13 - Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts 
SDG 14 - Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development 
SDG 15 - Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss 
SDG 17 - Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development 
Disaster Risk Reduction 
Traditional Knowledge  
Curriculum Development 
Plants & Animals 
Global Action Programme (GAP) on Education for Sustainable Development – Priority Action Areas
Priority Action Area 1 - Advancing policy 
Priority Action Area 2 - Transforming learning and training environments 
Priority Action Area 3 - Building capacities of educators and trainers 
Priority Action Area 4 - Empowering and mobilizing youth 
Priority Action Area 5 - Accelerating sustainable solutions at local level