On my newsfeed this week, I came across this article:
Disclaimer: a few years back when I was working on my master’s, I got embroiled in a big discussion with my cohort about Finnish schools. This was back when memes were still kind of a new thing, but the oft-shared meme about Finnish kids not starting school til they were 7, enjoying long spans of time outside, and how it was illegal to test and track kids based on their achievement– and it was intriguing. Innovation and equity in schools is my North star.
It just so happened that my advisor was a Finlander– as in, she was a Finnish citizen who lived half the year in Finland and half the year in Minnesota. She told me that in her opinion, what they do in Finland could never be replicated here– and not just because of the vast difference in political leanings. She pointed out the logistics of living in a country that is the same size as our state means that the powers that be can have a better handle on things like teacher preparation, mentorship programs, and school design.
So, given that, I’ve always had a little bit of a side-eye when it comes to articles about Finland. However– I couldn’t help but read this one, followed by these others:
Finland’s new approach, as these articles explain, is called Phenomenon Based Learning. Under this approach, students choose an engaging topic or context, and then the teacher curates an experience for them based on this engaging topic or context. Rather than having a class called ‘math’ they talk about what math is associated with this phenomenon they are studying? Rather than have a class called ‘reading,’ the teacher finds real literature associated with the problem.
Hm. Well, that certainly sounds interesting.
This is exactly the way that Schoolcraft teaches. Students are presented with an engaging topic, problem, or idea, and then a semester long study of that ‘phenomenon’ occurs. Take the middle school right now, right as we speak. They are studying “World Conflict.” Last week when I was cruising through classrooms, I observed one teacher talking about advancements in aviation during the 40s. In another, a social studies teacher was going through a timeline of events from World War 2, and helping students choose an event that they might like to study more deeply. In ELA, students were engaged in a class discussion about “What would have happened if the other guys won?,” grappling with questions like– would we all be speaking German? Would some of us maybe not even be here? In music class, groups of students were studying different music styles and trends in the 40s. Need I go on?
Expeditionary learning is the best way to teach, and Schoolcraft is the best place to learn, because of these engaging topics and ideas. Students graduate with a sense of the world that you cannot glean from studying in isolation. It is our goal to get our kids out into the community as much as possible, where they can learn from all that is around them, from each other, and from themselves.
So– in case you were planning to move to Finland in order to take advantage of this innovative new approach, worry not. Check out the Northwoods, and join us on our adventure.