The story of Finnish Active Learning

In a sunny day 1999 in Finland 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.” And so it was. At that moment their cooperation started.

They both taught 1st grade during the fall. Getting to know the big school’s ways and methods after working a small village school was challenging. 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. During the 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 the pupis and the teachers. The cooperation deepened throughout the project.

Eija and Teija became also an educational pair. They educate school instructors and teachers. 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 same school continued for the next 12 years. 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. 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 were used to versatile learning activities while studying grammar. If activities weren´t involved, the pupils would be disappointed and would start begging the teacher to teach them grammar. One 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, for example, bounce the ball around and play hopscotch. This way the pupils were actively doing math during the whole lesson, school books and also movement. 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. 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. 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.

However, in the year 2009 Teija received a phone call that changed things. Eija got a job at a school in Heinävesi, her home village. How could their cooperation continue?  But they soon started talking and meeting actively, sharing ideas and supporting each other in work and personal matters.

One day Eija and Teija got an idea – how about creating online courses together? So their years of working together culminated in Finnish Active Learning. They started gathering ideas for games and activities 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.  That’s how it started with Mobie Academy. On 1st of March 2018 Eija and Teija founded the company Ideareppu/ Finnish Active Learning.

In the meeting with Mobie Academy Eija and Teija were suggested to 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 indeed learned a lot. However, sometimes it gets disheartening. Everything doesn’t always go to plan and balancing one’s day job 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 most of them also in English. They create new courses all the time. They share ideas also on Facebook (Finnish Active Learning) and Instagam (ideareppu). The teachers of Finnish Active Learning also continue training teachers in active learning and are creating new material enthusiastically. What might happen next?