A Holistic Learning Approach for All the World’s Students in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

School of all students

Two lunchrooms of the school have been changed for the biggest restaurant in the southern part of the whole Finland. Why and how is it possible? Every May the last classes of Kirkkoharju basic school in Finland are celebrating the end of their 9 years of studies. Most of 8 grades have started to plan this day well in advance. It means that they have to first discover a theme to the day. That theme gives them ideas for the decoration and the food that the kitchen staff will prepare. But before decorating the dining halls, the normal lunchrooms, students have to practice how to serve. The teachers of domestic science will be as restaurant managers or butlers. They will give the sign for waiters and waitresses so that all three kinds of foods will be served at the same time.

The main role of celebration are the 9th grades, 15 year old students. This can be the last day they are together before going to the next step – half of them goes to colleges and half to vocational schools. They have also started to prepare this day months ago. Some of them have made their own dresses. Students have made the designs of dresses but also handicraft teachers have helped them to choose the right fabric. With class teacher the students have a possibility to talk about how to small talk with an adult in the table they sit together. They talk together about good table manners so that they can feel themselves relaxed and comfortable.  Sport teachers have taught them different dances.

Everything is ready for celebration. Waiters are waiting with the class of sparkling lemonade. Principal and assistance principal will shake visitors and students hands and welcome them. This is a good day to invite school partners, they can talk with students about their dreams and see how they have grown up to be the good citizens of community.

They toast, they hear speeches, they are valued, there are resected. For many this is the only occasion where they are in the center of a happening together with all their friends. It is an exciting reception for the waiters that all goes well. The occasion is exciting also for the 9th graders, but also for the staff of school.

When we started to build this ceremony many adults said that it will be chaos, students will get drunk and break things! No – they have always behaved perfectly. When you give them the trust and responsibility, they are happy to take it.

After eating, speeches and some program, it is time to dance. It is such a joy to look when students are dancing different kind of dances. Many months of preparations will come true. Well behaving students are ready to their future, with cognitive and emotional competencies – adaptability and social resilience.

How to create the school for all students, so that every student feels that the school is their school?  This is one example among many. What is the culture of your school – does it shape and grown the future-ready kids?

We decided to build a holistic event, where every student will be part of it and where they can learn different skills and values.  The students grow from youngsters to young adults and we support them during their journey!

As part of the Top Global Teacher Bloggers / CMRubinWorld.com / Global Search for Education  http://www.cmrubinworld.com/TGTB,  above is my answer to question of April: A Holistic Learning Approach for All the World’s Students in the Fourth Industrial Revolution


Taking Climate Change Seriously. What are Your Best Tips for Teaching about Climate Change in your Classroom?

As part of the Top Global Teacher Bloggers/ CMRubinWorld.com/Global Search for Education http://www.cmrubinworld.com/TGTB here is how Marjo Rantanen, principal of Kartanonranta school in Finland, writes about this month’s question: Taking climate change seriously. What are your best tips for teaching about climate change in your classroom?

Our dear Planet keeps giving us so much! Are we treating it with the gratitude it deserves? Every teacher in every classroom should a knowledge his and her obligation to make every student aware of their possibilities in keeping our planet clean, safe and well also for the future generations.

Tip #1 Know your curriculum

What are the values in the core curriculum? Do they support sustainable development and eco-social education? The leading idea of eco-social education is to create the kind of life where ecological, financial, social and cultural aspects are valued and the understanding of seriousness of climate change is acknowledged. Is the effort for sustainable way of life written in the curriculum? Luckily, in the National Core Curriculum in Finland these are all found. The curriculum is a good basis but it is what happens in the classroom what makes the difference.

Tip #2 The Importance of Social Studies and Math

Knowing how this planet works is essential in knowing how polluting and cutting down the rain forests for example are affecting it. Some of our students made a case study of the life-cycle of a plastic bag. They made a survey among the students asking how many times a single plastic shopping bag is used? They studied which countries use the most plastic bags and why. They learned how to draw diagrams, they studied what they are made of and how. They learned presentation skills and they raised a lot of awareness among the other students. All that and more out of one little plastic bag!

Tip #3 What does your classroom look like?

Does your classroom have recycling bins for paper, cardboard and general waste? Does the teachers’ lounge? Where does the waste go to after it’s collected? Whose job is it to empty the recycling bins? What kind of tasks do your students have in the classroom?  Is it possible to take your students on a field trip to a recycling centre? Simple questions but the affect on climate change does start from simple things. Are there “Climate Change Agents” in your class or school who can promote these ideas within the class/school? Is all the photo coping essential?

Tip #4 Look for collaborators

In Finland our students get a free lunch every day. And yes, it’s a hot meal served in school restaurants, eaten with the supervision of teachers who at the same time, teach them polite ways to eat and conduct decent conversation. Do the students appreciate this free meal? Apparently not enough. Over one million portions of food goes to waste daily in schools in Helsinki area, only! There must be ways to tackle this! Of course the producers are minimazing the excess by trying to make just about the right amount of food each day. The teachers are constantly explaining why you shouldn’t throw any food to waste. One company who makes the school lunches has even developed a program which collects the excess food and delivers it to those in need; homeless or those in greatest need in our society. Look for someone outside school to work with!

Tip #5 Take part in (inter)national programs

You can also take part in larger programs like we did. Our two year Erasmus+ programm called Innovative and Entrepreneurial Solutions to Climate Change challenged our students to look at political programs tackling climate change in three different countries (Finland, Scotland, Germany). The students innovated and produced their own products which were then evaluated in the “Dragon’s Den” in their country and finally presented to a possible producer. Many of the products tried to find alternative solutions to power supply. See the picture below!

Tip #6 Lead by example

You can start big or small. Your students can bring their own water bottles to school. You can stop using plastic plates or cups in the cafeteria. You can show initiative in the teachers’ lounge by setting up recycling bins. You can start by showing example.

How Are You Promoting Well-being, Health and Happiness in Your Classrooms?

As part of the Top Global Teacher Bloggers / CMRubinWorld.com / Global Search for Education  http://www.cmrubinworld.com/TGTB, this is my answer to this month’s question: How are you promoting well-being, health and happiness in your classroom?

We as educators need to look at the whole education system.  That is the inside of the school and its mechanisms as well as the relationships between the people. We can make small changes with class projects but permanent changes in students’ well-being requires more structural changes. Some think schools are similar around the world, but my experience is that there can be huge differences!

Well-being Through Structures

Well-being, health and happiness can and must be promoted on many levels in the school.

First we should look the school building.  In the early 60s and even later school buildings looked like hospitals. They looked like rectangular prisms with long corridors with similar classroom on both sides. Students moved from one class to another, sometimes without any breaks.

Today we understand better the importance of environments for learning and also how important the breaks between the lessons are. Good school buildings today have modern architecture, with open areas where students can gather together, work in smaller studying places around the building such as the library.  Even in the classrooms one can have different areas for different learning situations.

In Finland our new curriculum added extra hours for sports based on education research. If you move around enough you can also concentrate better and learn more easily. Also the breaks between lessons are important. The younger the pupils the more we have focused on activities outside in the schoolyard.

Well-being Through Services

It is obvious that every child should be provided with free transportation, free lunch and free books during their studying years. In our curriculum you can read about children’s rights to have these services. Students have the right to get personal support e.g. for learning problems.  They can stay in the school nursery during the school day if needed.  In every school we have a special professional group of adults: a psychologist, principal, social worker, class teacher and sometimes the youth police. Their jobs are to do preventive work such as running anti-bullying programs. They deal with issues that class administrators are unable to handle. When issues arise with student the parents and the student take part in the meeting.

Well-being Through Democracy

School is for students and today in Finland students can take part in the decision making process.  When we were developing the new curriculum parents and students were involved in the school planning. Students have their own group “oppilaskunta”, the frat, which shares ideas and carries out activities that create a good community for all. Students in this group get training from the Finnish Red Cross.

Well-being Through Teaching and Learning

Even if all of the above is working well, the student to teacher, teacher to teacher relationships are most important. We are talking about the spirit of the school.  That’s about how students and teachers respect each other, build trust and promote student freedom. The principal of the school has a huge role and every single teacher in their classroom in terms of how they support and develop the atmosphere of the school.

In the beginning of the 7thschool year, I asked students to draw on paper what their feelings and expectations were for the mathematics lessons. I got pictures in which pupils drew themselves sitting alone by the desk, they were all in rows and the teacher was a big figure in front of the blackboard and teaching. There were also pictures, where pupils used dark colors to illustrate “signs of sweating” and anxiety towards mathematics. Those pictures proved to me that I had to make changes in math content, activities and communication and my methods of teaching.

After three years I asked the same students to draw a picture again of a math lesson. In these pictures I could see them working and talking together, smiling and expressing positive comments and including memories from several different learning situations.

Being a math teacher I can talk about the importance of how the subject is taught and how important the teacher’s relationship with is with her students. Every teacher should have some knowledge of attachment theory. It is important to be a caring teacher.  The mathematics teacher plays a key role in the quality of the student’s relationship with mathematics.

I believe that if we pay attention to the importance of our relationships with our students and make Math curriculum more meaningful, we as math teachers could make a huge change in students well-being all over the world.


Normalizing Struggle

As part of the Top Global Teacher Bloggers / CMRubinWorld.com / Global Search for Education  http://www.cmrubinworld.com/TGTB, this is my answer to this month’s question: “Normalizing Struggle”

Who talks in the classroom?

How many questions do students ask in a lesson? Some research says that zero-point-two. Further to this, most of the questions seem to be answered in less than one second. Most being yes-no answers. Teachers talk for 90% of the lesson!

In PISA (2016), students were asked about the frequency with which their teachers use student-oriented or teacher-directed strategies in their lessons. Findings indicate that today, teacher-directed practices are used widely. Across OECD countries, eight out of ten students reported that their teachers tell them what they have to learn in every lesson, and seven out of ten students have teachers who ask questions in every lesson to check that students understand what they’re learning.

It seems that we have still lot to do, not difficult changes, so that students learn to notice that success is a chance for everyone.

Photo: Maarit Rossi

Who cares about small mistakes?

How do we do a better job of encouraging their failures rather than punishing them?  The math lesson at school needs to be a very safe place to make also mistakes. At the best mistakes outcome discussions about different ways of thinking and the students learn to listen to each other. It’s a good experience to see that by making mistakes you sometimes learn even more than just using the traditional ways of working. If the mistakes are dealt with constructive ways, they can strengthen and encourage the students to try new approaches also later on. PISA (2016) showed that the students’ positive attitude towards mathematics and the trust to their own capability is connected with their ability to solve problems.

What can happen without practice?

Last spring you could read from the online-news that the field in Beach Volley SM-tournament will have 300 kg of sand. What? Yes, you read it right. After half an hour the text was changed. The field would get 300 000 kg of sand. Also this spring we read about Trump’s budget failure – 2 trillion’s mistake!

Mistakes made in the classroom are splendid grounds for pedagogical conversations. The mistakes that come up in media are totally another issue. They cause displeasure and shame for those who have made them – they might even involve difficulties at work. Sense of proportion and experience in dealing with large numbers would have helped to avoid this trouble.

Uncertainty area for teacher or for student?

We need to change lot of Math lessons teaching methods. So it is then more question of going to the uncertainty area of the teacher. Usually teacher is in front of the classroom, showing how to work with the new concept and students repeat similar ones in similar way. What if students are active and have possibility to test their ideas and do their mistakes as part of learning process.

Here one example. If you combine estimation and rounding you will get a good learning entirety. You can do it for example like this: Bring to the classroom different amounts of different objects, like paper clips, nails, macaroni, beans, cord etc. Then put the objects on different numbered desks, let the students circulate and estimate the amounts without touching the objects. They make marks on their estimation tables and round the amounts to tens, hundreds and thousands. All the members in the group have to come to a similar understanding about the estimated amounts. When they have checked all the desks every group gets one amount of objects to count. Now they have a situation where they have to negotiate to find a sensible way of doing that.

Photo: Maarit Rossi

This is a very simple way to create a situation where students have to practice co-operation, negotiation skills and how to find a good strategy. After then the groups write down the exact amounts and the other groups practice rounding again. Very often the students notice that the estimated numbers are often too small. They also notice that the estimated rounding and the rounding of the exact amount can give them the same result.

*OECD (2016), Ten Questions for Mathematics Teachers … and how PISA can help answer them, PISA, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264265387-en.


Digital Citizenship

I am honored to be named   in Top Global Teacher Bloggers / CMRubinWorld.com / Global Search for Education http://www.cmrubinworld.com/TGTB. The bloggers on this list have been asked to contribute to Huffington Post’s Education blogs for 2017. This month we look to answer the following highly controversial question “ Digital citizenship”,

My October blog writer is Kirsti Savikko, my sister, Headteacher in Kähäri school,Turku, Finland.

Cyberbullying, Privacy and Safety – learn, connect, create and collaborate –

How do we help instill a sense of global citizenship of civic mindedness and respect on the internet? What are some of the best strategies you have seen in practice in your school communities?

“Should mobiles be behind locked doors during the school day?”

“France is going to deny mobiles during lessons in schools!”

“To deny the mobiles is a way to the wrong direction.”

“The disadvantages of students’ mobile use was measured – equals two weeks absence!”

These are the headlines I read from the newspaper couple of days ago. This conversation has been dwelling many years in the media – in Finland and in many other European countries. Opinions are many – as many as there are researches of the mobile’s benefits or disadvantages.  And it doesn’t make it easier that the results are often in contradiction.

The media barometer in 2011 tells that only a small part of children learn media skills in schools. The basic skills are learned at home, from friends or by themselves. But this is only the beginning – in schools we have to take the catch and deepen and extend these various skills. And most of all guide the ethic and moral skills to the right direction. Cyberbullying is a huge problem – I believe every school fights against it in many ways. The Board of Education published a guide book of how to use mobiles in schools – to make the rules easier and equal in different schools (only available in Finnish and Swedish).

Last spring we had a competition Monipuolisesti Mobiililla – Multifaceded with the Mobile (free translation). All schools were challenged to invent good ways to use mobile in education. http://www.oph.fi/ajankohtaista/verkkouutiset/101/0/monipuolisesti_mobiililla_-tietopaketti_kouluille

In Finland we are concerned about the moral use of the mobile and also about the radiation from the mobiles. Many schools have a MobilePark – where the students put their mobiles during the lessons, voluntarily. In France they are going to collect the mobiles in a locked box and the WiFi is closed– when not in education use. France is very strict that the WiFi is closed in Kindergartens and Pre-schools. In Finland we are not following France’s example but because there is so little proof of mobiles’ or base stations’ health harms we think it’s wise to limit the use – just in case.

Our new curriculum encourages students to use their own devices. You can use the mobile during lessons with the teacher’s permission and by the ways agreed by parents. Students can even use them during brakes – though I think most of the younger students prefer to play and run – but if mobiles are used to bully or they cause other distractions schools have to react. And the teacher can take the mobile.

So not a simple task for schools to first of all 1) teach digital skills to various students – because the skills belong to everyone. The skills develop constantly and they are today’s citizenship skills. And 2) teach ethical use of mobiles.

But as our late well-respected president Mauno Koivisto said: “If you don’t know what’s going to happen. Let’s assume it will go well.”

Mitigating Poverty

I am honored to be named   in Top Global Teacher Bloggers / CMRubinWorld.com / Global Search for Education http://www.cmrubinworld.com/TGTB. The bloggers on this list have been asked to contribute to Huffington Post’s Education blogs for 2017. This month we look to answer the following highly controversial question “ Mitigating Poverty”,

My September blog writer is Kirsti Savikko, my sister, Headteacher in Kähäri school,Turku, Finland.

How has poverty affected students in your school experiences? What can schools do to address poverty?

This subject needs a quick look in the history of Finnish schools. The first public schools were established in 1850ties. The municipalities build them quite lazily because it was believed that the four-year-public-schools only made the children lazy and alienates them from physical work.

In 1898 the Parliament and the emperor accepted a decree that every village should be divided to such school areas that nobody had more than 5 km to school. But there was still no compulsory education.

Twenty years from that decree there was still one hundred villages without a school. In 1901 there was only seven! And ten years from that 68% from the peasants’ children went to school.

Finland got the law of compulsory education after its independency (1917) in 1921. The municipalities were obligated to establish and sustain public schools. In 1948 started the school eating – the schools had to offer free lunch to children every day. Before that the children had taken their own snack from home – which was sometimes difficult especially for poor families. The poor children could also get contribution for clothes from the municipality. We never have had school uniforms in Finland. And if the way to school was more than five km or was otherwise dangerous or difficult – the school dormitories were to be built.


The schools’ social effect was huge especially in the rural areas. In many villages the teacher was the only person who could read and write. They were well respected by the folk. They knew their students and their living conditions best. The social workers got invaluable and neutral information of families from teachers.

By the end of 1977 all public schools were changed to basic education schools – the ones we have today. The four or six years public school + five years of grammar school became 9-year-basic-school. Education and upbringing are the key factors in basic education.  The aim is to support the students’ upbringing as a human and a member of society and teach necessary skills and knowledge. And it is totally free. The teaching is free as is all the material and equipment. And they have a right to free meal every school day and in some circumstances also a free school transport.

The basic education is grades 1-9 (ages 7-16). We have about 3200 basic education schools. Most of them are run by the municipality. Under 2 % of students study in private or in state schools. In basic schools everything is free – the municipality has to provide schools with enough money for material and study visits, class trips etc. The parents can collect funds for special trips – but every student, even if his/her parents can’t provide any money, has the right to participate. The schools must have clear regulations for those situations.

So in Finland we can give equal possibilities in education to all students – in spite of where they live, how they live and the family status. I believe that education is the key for better life, too. I see no difference in “poor family” kids or “rich family” kids in their motivation to learn!