The Vantaa Nature School is administrated by Vantaan ympäristöyhdistys, the environmental association of Vantaa, and financed by the board of education of the city of Vantaa. Established in 1991, the Vantaa Nature School was the first Finnish speaking Nature School in the country. It is situated about 20 km northeast of Helsinki in the small village of Sotunki in eastern Vantaa. The school operates in a century-old former village school, which was renovated using volunteer work in 1992 to match the needs of the nature school. The teaching takes place outdoors as the area provides excellent and wide forests to be used for environmental education.
The nature school staff consists of two teachers who take care of teaching, administration, maintenance, cleaning and other work in the school. There are also volunteers and trainees who participate in the work from time to time.
Each year, school groups can apply to take part on it’s annual activities. 15 to 17 classes are chosen to attend the activities that take place four times every scholar year; these visits last a whole school day without any cost. Last year, my class (6th grade, 12 year old kids) was lucky to take part on their activities and we were able to visit their full day workshops.
Two of the visits were held during the autumn season, another one in winter and the last one in spring. We practically spent the whole day outdoors experimenting the nature with all our senses. Before each visit, we had already had teacher meetings, were the nature school teachers gave us details of each visit, teaching us the theoretical concepts involved in each visit- we were also able to meet each other and learn from each other’s experiences.
In the first meeting we investigated bugs by using magnifying loops and we learnt how bugs survive in colder weather. We found many kinds of spiders, flies and worms hiding underneath the stones, even though the weather was a bit chilly. The second time we visited the Nature school we were given a lecture and we participated in a hands on workshop on photosynthesis. We learnt how the ecosystem functions and pays attention to food chains. After each visit we continued our learning process at school and home.
The third visit happened in the winter when the countryside was all covered in snow. We found several tracks of animals and birds and learnt how they survive during this season. On our last visit we were taken to the swamp. Crossing the swamp was the most memorable visit for the most of the pupils. It was exiting but safe with experienced teachers with us.
Article written by: Tiina Kähära, Scientix Deputy Ambassador