Hei! Sophia and Caroline here! We have been in Finland for a week now and we're loving our time in Oulu. Today we visited Pudasjärvi Log School, the largest log school in the world. This award winning school was built in 2016 and has been nationally recognized. We were taken on a school tour by the school’s principal, who shared the reasons behind the school’s architecture and the school’s philosophy. A reoccurring theme throughout Finland’s school is holistic wellbeing. The principal shared that one of the challenges in Finland’s schools are the school buildings themselves. Many of Finland’s schools were built in 1960-70 and have poor air ventilation, which has translated into a mold problem and student allergies. Finland’s government allocated 25 million euros to build new schools made of wood. Wood is the best building material because it is breathable. Schools consider psychological wellbeing as well. The wood brings in an important element of nature and creates a calming, cozy effect within the traditional minimalistic framework. The spaces were designed to be safe, healthy, comfortable and adaptable for many uses. The school was built with the future in mind. The spaces were designed to be flexible so the building can later be used for other purposes, such as a home for the elderly. The principal passionately believes that learning doesn’t happen just sitting in a classroom. Classrooms are attached to a large atrium that served as a type of community center with flexible seating and games such as air hockey and foosball for students to work and relax during their frequent breaks between learning tasks.
Similarly to their architecture, the school has a pretty simplistic, but inspiring philosophy regarding the education of their students. They believe that their school should be one in which students are able to make mistakes, learn from them, and progress forward. They stand behind the concept that it is crucial for students to be able to make mistakes because that creates an authentic opportunity for the child to learn. Rather than focusing on assessments and how the teacher should measure a student’s knowledge, they focus on creating the kind of space and providing opportunities for students to be successful in their actual learning. In order to do this, they have created learning spaces that break the traditional mold. They have what, in the United States, would probably be considered alternative learning spaces that include a workshop, a fully stocked kitchen, a complete music studios, and other unique environments for students to find what they are passionate about. It was also evident that they believe in the importance of celebrating their students’ accomplishments. For instance, when we arrived at the log school, there were decorations around the lunchroom/atrium in celebration of their ninth grade students who would be moving on from their current building and choosing their next path (in Finland, they may choose to move on to a vocational school at this point).
This school was definitely one that we were impressed by! From their beautiful architecture to their general philosophy regarding education- this was one that we made sure to take note of!
P.S. It looks like we aren’t the only ones taking note! As we were leaving, they had a reindeer outside waiting to greet the German President who was coming for a visit!