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German Teachers on a Fun Learning Educator Study Tour in Finland

Excited about the school visit.

In May 2024, we enjoyed an extraordinary journey with a team of German educators as they experienced the Fun Learning Educator Study Tour in Finland. This immersive experience, designed as a follow-up to the Fun Learning Educator online program, proved to be an inspiring and enriching adventure for both the visitors and us hosts. Tailored specifically for the CJD (Christliche Jugenddorfwerk Deutschland) community, the tour combined theory and practice, offering deep insights into the Finnish education system.

We had a chance to do a baseline visit in Germany in January, which was a great way to get to know the organization whose staff we train with and to see their campuses and ways of working.

It was such a pleasure to have Christin, Beatrice, Gina, Antje, and Kristina visit us for this Fun Learning experience that gave us also a lot of food for thought! Thank you for all the sharing and great fun company.

Week 1: Exploring Educational Landscapes

The first week of the tour focused on understanding the broader educational landscape in Finland and the principles of Fun Learning. Educators looked into the development of transversal competencies, exploring how entire communities and cities can serve as dynamic educational environments.

Welcome and Orientation

The journey began with a warm welcome dinner of traditional Finnish cuisine at Restaurant Salve. Sanna Lukander from Fun Academy and Laura Nevanlinna from The Campus Company set the stage for an exciting week ahead.

Interactive Workshops and Webinars

Participants engaged in workshops and lectures on the Fun Learning approach. A standout session, "Learning is fun when it’s fun to fail, or ok to make mistakes," by Saara Viteli, emphasized the importance of creating a positive and supportive learning environment. This was, in fact, the online live webinar of the Fun Learning Educator program that our German friends got to experience from the studio of our Global Master Trainer Saara.

Preparing a lesson.

Cultural Immersion

The guided walk through Senate Square and the city center allowed educators to soak in Helsinki's rich history and neoclassical architecture. Meetings and lunch at the University of Helsinki gave us a feeling for the ethos of higher education studies in Finland. Morning coffee at Hietalahti Market was a very current but traditional experience, and a visit to the Kindergarten Museum Ebeneser gave us an idea of the great inspiration Dr. Fröbel has had on the development of Finnish ECEC.

Trying on uniforms at the Ebeneser Kindergarten Museum.

Using public transportation for most of the visits was a very local thing to doquite conveniently offering reflection and discussion time between destinations. Reflecting on how and when to use public transportation as part of Fun Learning for children who are eager to know how the world works.

Just like locals, using public transportation to get by.

We aimed to see the environment through the eyes of a child; what would children notice, comment on, and observe? It was also fascinating for us, as Finns, to see our cultural environment through the eyes of foreigners. For instance, when we asked where they would start at Senate Square with children, Christin noted that the whole square is divided into grids, so she would approach it from a mathematical perspective. We also noticed the contrast between the Helsinki Cathedral and the Uspenski Cathedral, highlighting different layers of architecture and history. "The pulla (a type of sweet bread) is different from Germany; Finnish cinnamon rolls are delicious," they said, referring to the "korvapuusti" (translates verbatim as a slap on the ear). It’s fun to see familiar things from the perspective of someone from far awayjust as children do. Can we, as adults, recognize children’s observations and start from there instead of our preconceptions?

Korvapuusti = Cinnamon Roll

Hands-On Observations

Visits to the multicultural Lehtikuusen koulu Primary School (public) in Vantaa and Norlandia Pikkukarhu Kindergarten (private) in Tuusula offered firsthand insights into the role of adults, children, and learning environments in Finnish education. These observations sparked lively discussions on inclusivity and the importance of a supportive learning atmosphere. We all paid attention to how calm, kind and respectful the teachers were.

The group had planned a fun activity aligned with the Future Astronaut program for the second-grade class of our host classroom teacher Oanh Pham, and the children loved it: a lesson combining fine motor skills and science on flying! A fleet of origami bats flew in the classroom and then outside during recess! The parts of an animal with wings, and an aircraft became familiar, as well as concepts like thrust. The visiting educators managed to communicate without a common language (some of the children understood English, nobody spoke German). We had the Kip Crew participate in the narraitve in their own quirky wayBeatrice managed to create a Fun Learning story that the children eagerly followed (this required translation services provided by Laura 😁).

Introducing a Future Astronaut lesson.
In the teachers lounge with Oanh.

Thank you, Oanh, and your amazing principal and colleagues for the opportunity for fruitful job shadowing and sharing. We all took away many inspirational thoughts and practical ideas. Also thank you for the lively and informative discussions in the teachers lounge over coffee (fun fact: Finns drink the most coffee in the world).

In the playground of Lehtikuusen koulu, our guests were amazed by the free access from the playground directly to the forest, where children could play in the mud puddlesthe forest was essentially part of the school's yard. The natural environment was strongly present as part of the learning environment and supported fun activities and well-being during breaks.

At Pikkukarhu, we were all inspired by the campus that hosts these young kindergarteners while it also serves as a home for senior citizensthink of all the benefits of such a combination! Thank you to the head of the kindergarten, Kati Koponen-Hendrell, for such a hospitable welcome and for sharing your experiences with us.

Checking out the digital tools at Pikkukarhu with Kati.

Week 2: Deep Dive into Early Childhood Education

The second week took educators deeper into the practical aspects of Fun Learning within a partner kindergarten setting. This hands-on experience emphasized the operational and pedagogical aspects of early childhood education. Fun Academy Global Master Trainer Saara Viteli and her team at Kindergarten Metsäpirtti offered our CJD friends the opportunity to observe Fun Learning in practice and to participate hands-on in the work of this boutique venue. A lot of the learning happened outdoors, which is typical, not only now when the weather was sunny and beautifulMetsäpirtti children learn outdoors also in severe winter conditions, so maybe you want to come back to experience that, too!

Practical Workshops

The educators explored how to incorporate familiar activity elements into sessions combining the Fun Learning approach with transversal skills from the Finnish national core curriculum.

Cultural Visits

A visit to a children’s outdoor museum and Finnish Nature Centre Haltia showcased ways to enhance educational experiences through child participation and planning.

Collaborative Activities

Team meals and sharing sessions emphasized the importance of collaboration among educators and supporting professionals. These activities fostered a sense of community and shared purpose.

Culminating Events

The guest educators had planned a fun baking project that was spread over several days and greatly enjoyed by the children. The educators and children worked together, underscoring the value of active child participation in learning processes. Note that this, too, came about wonderfully without a common language. We are grateful to the amazing staff at Metsäpirtti for being so welcoming, relaxed, and supportivewith the children, of course, but also with our fellow educators from CJD.

Enjoying the cookies they baked.

Exploring the Future Astronaut Program

One of the tour's exciting highlights was the brief exploration of the Future Astronaut program. This theme was emphasized also during a visit to the Heureka Science Centre in Vantaa. The exhibition “Our Journey in Space” provided a great perspective on how such destinations can be designed as experiential settings where the curiosity of children, little scientists, can be catered to in a respectful way with real science. More about the Fun Academy Future Astronaut program will be shared in a future article in this blog.

A Comprehensive Experience

The tour was planned as an analogy of whole-day pedagogy, looking at the whole city as a learning environment. From arrival at Helsinki Airport to the farewell workshop, each day was filled with activities designed to maximize learning and cultural immersion.

Embracing the Finnish Way of Learning

For us, this Fun Learning Educator Study Tour was a success, offering educators a deep dive into the Finnish education system and discussing Fun Learning principles in this context, both theoretically and in practice. The curious and ambitious educators, with lifelong-learners mindsets, left with a newfound wealth of knowledge and practical strategies to share and implement in their own educational settings.

This transformative journey highlighted the importance of holistic development, inclusivity, and the power of community in education. The experience fostered a global network of educators committed to making learning a fun and engaging process.

We are sure this packed program was a lot to digestalthough it was designed with moments of calm every now and then, mindfulness practice, nature walks, a few minutes of massage in the forest, relaxed coffee times, and lunch breaks for sharing in a casual manner. We trust these practical forms of supporting professional development are effective, and they do align with how we wish to serve also the children in our Fun Learning environments; paying attention to overall well-being and respect for our colleagues. As we bid farewell to our new friends, we carry with us many lessons learned in fruitful dialogue during this Fun Learning adventure. Here’s to a future where learning is always fun and meaningful, where child's play is in the center! Check out also some insights in a blog article about a visit of Vietnamese teachers a while ago.

Saara and Christin, diploma ceremony
Saara and Beatrice, diploma ceremony
Saara and Kristina, diploma ceremony
Saara and Antje, diploma ceremony
Saara and Gina, diploma ceremony


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