The story of Finnish Active Learning
It was a sunny spring day in 1999 when Eija Leskinen arrived to an interview at a school in Varkaus. After the interview the vice-principal said: “It looks like you got yourself a work partner in Teija Kauppi.” And so it was. At that moment their cooperation started.
They both taught 1st grade during the fall. Eija was also teaching other grades and getting to know the school’s ways and methods was challenging. The growth of the small village school to a school of 600 pupils and 50 teachers was a big change. With the help of Teija, other elementary teachers and special education teachers, Eija managed to integrate into the school. They worked together and shared the joys, challenges and sadness of everyday life. Shared coffee brakes always made their day better. During those breaks they laughed, joked around and created and innovated new ideas together.
With the aid of the Finnish Culture Fund and their colleagues, Eija, Teija and some other elementary teachers started the National Tradition project where all primary level pupils got the opportunity to be introduced to fairytales, stories of trolls and other types of stories, including the tales from the national epic of Kalevala. This project combined different subjects and enabled cooperation between different schools. The cooperation also deepened throughout the project.
Eija and Teija have always wanted to share their ideas with their colleagues. When one of them made a worksheet, she would share it with the others. They would come up with events and projects which made everyone excited. When teachers are willing to support one another and help each other develop their teaching, it helps to manage the strains of everyday working life. Eija and Teija made many discoveries in ways of teaching and in the use of materials. All of these discoveries affect the things they do today. Well, what are these discoveries then?
The pupils had a habit of going to the teacher asking whether they would learn grammar that day. The pupils were used to fun learning activities. If the answer was no, the pupils would be disappointed and would start begging the teacher to teach them grammar. A pupil that didn´t like writing would be writing during the whole lesson with excitement when he had the opportunity to use the scooter board to slide to pick up word cards. He even offered to help the other pupils with writing.
During English class, the boys from the 5th grade would laugh a little at the teacher’s activity ideas. However, during class they would spin the noisy ball around with excitement and learn to say the names of the months in English.
During math class, the pupils would bounce the ball around and play hopscotch. This way the pupils were actively doing math during the whole lesson. If the lessons only included exercises from the book, some pupils would only manage to do a few. However, when the lessons included active exercises, the pupils would stay motivated throughout the lesson. There were multiple occasions where the pupils would shout with excitement when they found active exercises from the corners of the classroom that they could solve together with their classmates. The variation of learning environments and equipment was clearly the core of Eija´s and Teija´s activity ideas. The key to the joy of learning was found!
Throughout the years active learning has become a part of the Eija´s and Teija´s school week. When active learning is properly combined with the subject at hand, it motivates, supports learning and enables the use of different learning styles and makes the school a more fun and exciting place for the pupils. The laughter and noises of excitement from the pupils are the best kind of feedback a teacher could have.
Eija has also studied to be a drama pedagog and was told by her friends in the field to gather her ideas into a book. This is how the successful book Ryhmä toimimaan! was born. Eija had already learned how to make books from writing the books Kuvallisen ilmaisun taito 1 and 2 together with Tuija Karjalainen. Training activities started with the book Ryhmä toimimaan!. Eija was also asked to participate in the creation of the book Ryhmä oppimaan! ,which was edited by Juho Norrena. The subject of the book was active learning.
The vice principal suggested that Eija and Teija would become an educational pair. They would educate school instructors, club instructors and teachers around Kuopio and Iisalmi. They would share their knowledge, skills and ideas. In these training events, the participants got to be active and involved in the learning process. The training, friendship, and cooperation in the school continued for the next 12 years.
However, in the year 2009 Teija received a phone call that changed things. Eija got a job at a school in Heinävesi, her hometown. Teija was confused. Is this how their cooperation would end? What next? What will happen to their friendship? Eija assured Teija that their cooperation and friendship would continue through phone, email and meetings. And so it did. They soon started talking and meeting actively, sharing ideas and supporting each other in work and personal matters.
Eija still had ideas left from her previous book and she had more by the day. The publisher suggested online material. And so Eija called Teija and asked her if she would be interested in an online book or online courses? Their years of working together culminated in Finnish Active Learning. They started gathering ideas for games and activities and also started taking photographs and videos during the lessons more regularly. Eija and Teija also started looking for a publisher and they did get contacted by interested parties. They were on the right track.
While looking for the right publisher, Eija and Teija found Mobie Oy from Kuopio while surfing online. Mobie Oy was also making online learning material so Eija and Teija got in contact with the company and soon they got an invitation to Kuopio to meet the executive. And that’s how it started. On 1st of March 2018 Eija and Teija founded the company Ideareppu/ Finnish Active Learning.
When Eija and Teija were in Kuopio, it was suggested from the start that they would create material also in English. This is how they could introduce their inspiring material and share the ideas of active learning abroad. Eija and Teija seized the opportunity and slowly the material started being translated into English.
This journey as teachers and part-time entrepreneurs has been interesting, exciting and rewarding. Eija and Teija have been learning the use of a new platform online, producing material, photography, programming, marketing, business and so on. They have indeed learned a lot. However, sometimes it gets disheartening. Everything doesn’t always go to plan and balancing one’s dayjob can be difficult. But on the other hand, the pupils in Eija’s and Teija’s classes get to benefit from their ideas and they often have the possibility to learn by playing and movement. Their enthusiasm is rewarding.
Now Eija and Teija have their Finnish Active Learning courses on sale both in Finnish and in English. They create new courses all the time. Eija and Teija have also managed to get a registered logos for their company. Now the teachers of Finnish Active Learning continue training teachers in active learning and are creating new material enthusiastically. What might happen next?