once from a Canadian educator, Claire Taillefer (an educational developer from Maple Bear
Global Schools - whom I really
appreciate): “You teach kids, not a curriculum”. Considering that “no one educates
anyone, no one educates himself alone. People educate each other, mediated by
the world (Paulo Freire)”, I feel inspired by so many great ideas, and think that
learning should always be based on people, not curriculum, not lifeless matter.
Siltamäki Primary School: inspiring educational innovation
|Students in the Music Class|
In Brazil, as in many countries, we’ve been trying to improve our educational system. I felt myself very instigated to go to Siltamäki school and check it under my Brazilian educator perception. Although the news was somehow contested and not everything was totally accurate, I thought something special had been found there and I wondered what that was about.
There’s no need to ditch school subjects when there’s integration
No subjects scrapped yet, instead, subjects have been integrated in several ways. Surely, Siltamäki is an innovative school model, as its team has been developing its own way of working. It’s not only about replicating things; it’s about recreating their own beautiful poems and songs enthusiastically, and I mean it literally.
Integrating subjects, using student-centered methodologies or project-based learning approach - none of those are mandatory; even though teachers are inspired to do that. They really do work collaboratively.
Learning is based on people, not in things, but based on the collaborative nature people have.
Distributed leadership & identity strengthening
What I truly believe is that leadership is the heart of that school and what brings successful results. And I don’t mean leadership only as formal leaders, but mainly as “distributed leadership”. There’s no lonely shining star; everyone shines – students and teachers. Everyone is engaged.
|School principal Anna-Mari Jaatinen|
From my point of view, that makes all the difference. Anna-Mari Jaatinen, the school leader, presented their (not her) school passionately, and soon conducted the visitors to observe her leader team with hands on the job. They were excited about that, proud to share so many things they’ve been doing. And, do you really think they’re doing something too complicated and so innovative you can’t imagine? Not really, they’re just doing their best with already existing resources and ideas. However, they’ve been printing their identity in everything they do.
Collaborating is innovating!
A great example of identity building is the fact that the school community made their own song. The song creation process was carried out collaboratively. Students and teachers could create their song using traditional and more technological resources. Everything then was combined, organized and the school’s own song came up. It strongly composes its identity and way of doing education. The music project is continuous; every year new groups have activities and can expand some actions which have been in course (take a look at the Magic Forest Project video below).
I could write so many good things I saw in Siltamäki, a rather small lower-elementary school (grades 1 to 6) with around 240 students, 17 teachers and 7 school assistants… but I’ll highlight some topics I think make the school successful.
What makes Siltamäki successful?
- Distributed leadership empowers school community and inspires people to collaborate.
- There’s a Professional Learning Community and the time they have is used effectively. School-team meets every week and that moment is already a collaborative work, not only informative as traditional teachers’ meetings usually are.
- Teachers and students are proud of what they do.
- Teachers work collaboratively integrating subjects, projects and actions.
- Students are taught to work collaboratively as well. In some projects, older students help younger ones to develop their task, as for example to make short videos.
- Collaboration can be seen and felt in every school chart, door, song, teacher’s speech etc. We can see and feel a symbiotic process going on.
- The school holistic-oriented culture combines integration of co-operation, collaboration, co-creativity and educational technology – the whole school community sometimes has a common project, for instance a phenomena-based learning project or a collaborative music project (in which the whole school is engaged in composing a single song for their school). Projects may last for years, as they can be expanded from one year to another.
- School-team is focused on developing essential 21st century skills.
- Teachers use educational technologies to enhance learning effectiveness.
- Children feel safe. That’s the basis. Then they can learn efficiently.
- Different and modern learning environments: music studio, no-stress room. School is engaged now in implementing the “Future Classroom” (a high-tech classroom).
- Ubiquitous learning – students are motivated to take every chance to learn more, in many situations, everywhere.
- Parental engagement - school makes an effort to bring parents closer by promoting not only meetings but a variety of activities.
Check out some videos the school produced!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NElHknsmeL8 (Joyful learning – school presentation)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxWHEddgSgM (Magic Forest Musical - Project)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUd8TrcoAfg (Kids singing)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4cyFsgJy3Y (Robotalk – students speaking English)
The following video was produced by Diego Lieban (a friend from the VET Teachers group II who is here in Finland) and me! He is a math teacher and he was the one who selected the pictures. Check his perpective!