A School That Is Loved By Children

It’s no secret that most children don’t like school. The summer holiday is a time when school is the last thing on their minds. You might be surprised to hear that we’ve found a school that children love. They love coming back to it and they even attend during the holidays. If you have a feeling that this school probably isn’t in Slovakia, you guessed right. It’s located in the country of a thousand lakes, Finland.

This exceptional school is located in the town of Espoo in Finland, south of Helsinki. We can easily call it a prototype of modern education. The school’s unique architectural design helps form a creative environment that, in turn, helps pupils towards higher academic goals. The school serves not only children but also the entire community. Many foreign visitors have said that if they were to be reborn, they’d like to be a child in Espoo.

Espoo modern school
A view of the school from the outside. Any passerby can stop and watch the pupils work. Photo by Egert Kemerik.

Teaching is a sign of prestige

The Finnish school system offers more than just academic assistance. Health, dental, and advisory services are certainties that help uphold a good standard of living. All of these things have made the Finnish education system very progressive. It has been awarded the leader of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). In Finland, being a teacher is a very popular jobSaunalahti, the school in Espoo is built to support modern pedagogic ideas. They put great emphasis on new education methods and cooperation and also on the development of physical and artistic capabilities of their students. The building itself is built to help with these efforts by offering a space for interaction.

Daylight is great for learning

The Espoo primary school is a unique in the country. Its story began in 2008 when they began building the structure. Two years later, the building was completely finished and opened its gates to its first students. The unique building was designed by VERSTAS Architects. One entire side of the three-floor building is formed by a glass wall that allows any passerby to see inside. The architects had to be careful so that the building doesn’t throw a shadow over the school yard. According to principal Hanna Sarakorpi, staying within the budget and within the physical parameters was the biggest challenge. The architects wanted to give the children as many hours of natural sunlight as they possibly could, especially during the dark part of the Finnish winter when daylight hours become extremely short.

School of the future
The multipurpose dining hall is the heart of the building. It has a podium which serves the town’s community during festivals. Photo by Egert Kemerik.

Interesting facts about Saunalahti:

  • School workshops are open to the public. People can look in through the glass walls and see the pupils work. If the pupils want privacy, they can pull the curtains closed.
  • Every space in the school, inside or outside, is a potential place to study.
  • The school library also serves the public.
  • The way the building is constructed and the large school yard entice the students to spend their breaks outside.
  • The school yard  is divided to best serve children of several age groups. The youngest children can enjoy sunlight before noon, while the older pupils can use the part of the yard that has sunlight until late afternoon.
  • The sports areas are used not only during school hours but the local community uses them in the evenings and during the weekends.

Glass walls between classrooms

According to the principal, children love exploring the large school yard or sitting on the window panes and reading books. Glass walls between classrooms allow children to cooperate and work in groups. Stairs and corridors in different parts of the school have their own unique colors that serve as signals to children. Different colors of the walls and the furniture help them navigate the school easily. Smaller children won’t get lost in the building because they know that they should stay in ‘their own color’ (orange, green, blue, and pink).

Basic principles of Saunalahti:

  1. Education is for the children – each pupil has their own ‘CV’ with their knowledge, needs, and interests. Individual study plans are developed together with the parents.
  2. Integrity and fairness – bullying is not allowed in the school. Children are always taught to treat each other fairly and with respect.
  3. Diversity and equality – each student is unique. Children are taught to support each other in their diversity.
  4. Sustainability – Saunalathi is an eco school that teaches its students about the environment.
  5. A sense of community – great emphasis is put on fellowship, cooperation, and sharing of ideas.
  6. Holistic approach – the schools is interested in engaging and developing the whole person.

Cooking a meal even after class is over? No problem!

Apart from the regular 1st to 9th class, the school also has so-called “home areas” which include a day center for 66 children, a kindergarten, an area that offers after-school activities, and a center for young people with a small library. Parents can also use these home areas after school to cook food together with their children or just rest together. In the evenings and during the weekends, the school is used for activities that connect various groups of people. The gymnasium is open to the locals  who can use the sports areas and the school yard. All of this has turned a school into a community center where people can meet, a place for education, sports, and culture. The school is connected to the future central square of the new, still growing, residential area of the town. Its open nature makes it a part of the lives of many people.

A synergy that benefits everyone

Architects of Helsinki have managed to create a school for 750 students of all ages, ranging from preschoolers to teenagers, that is also a community center that became the heart of the area. “The building is in use all throughout the day. Everyone in the community can benefit,” says the principal, Hanna Sarakorpi.

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