The Yrityskylä learning environment sparks interest in LUMA subjects

Nothing is boring to school children if it can be done in an active way, in an environment that feels real and when it is applied in practice.

Maths is interesting and chemistry is fun, when you consider them from the perspective of vitamin D.

But how is it possible to get sixth-graders so filled with enthusiasm? All you need to do is to take them to Yrityskylä to teach them how society works in terms of working life, the economy and entrepreneurship. During the 2021 LUMA week, which is dedicated to mathematics, science, technology subjects, the young learners at Yrityskylä focus on mathematics, science and technology themes and professions.

“The goals of the week, to increase pupils’ interest in the LUMA subjects, are present in the Yrityskylä learning programme throughout the year through tasks and professions related to these subjects,” says Hanna Pääkkö, Regional Manager of Economy and youth TAT, which organises the Yrityskylä activities.

Mathematics, environmental studies, biology, geography, physics, chemistry, computer science and technology all come to life through various activities, observations and experiences. According to Pääkkö, learning-by-doing helps puts theoretical knowledge into practice.

Appreciation of the pharmaceutical industry is increasing

Yrityskylä partners with many companies and organisations. Orion, which has been involved in the initiative since 2017, is playing its part helping to boost sixth-graders’ enthusiasm. Pääkkö explains that a script is created together with the partner, and in this case a mini-Orion has been built at Yrityskylä with the support of educational experts.

“A pharmaceutical company has a range of responsibilities, which have been introduced to Yrityskylä. Children have been able to try their hand at developing, manufacturing and marketing vitamin D and monitoring its quality. They have also learnt about alkalis and acids,” Pääkkö says.

Before the day spent at Yrityskylä, teachers also receive training and pupils can find out more about the companies in advance during lessons. Recruitment for the different positions takes place at school and each pupil can apply for the position they want.

“The principal often plays the role of employer in a pupil’s first ever job interview. Pupils also have the chance to prepare for their Yrityskylä career.”

Pääkkö stresses that including LUMA subjects supports more in-depth learning when pupils gain solid practical experience. For example, Orion and its various professional roles were very popular: one pupil said they had learnt to value what the pharmaceutical industry does. The pupils also came to understand Orion’s role as a company that has significance for society and they particularly appreciated the company’s environmental work.

According to Pääkkö, 80 per cent of the sixth-graders said that the things they learnt during the LUMA week will help them in the future.

“Best school day ever”

At Yrityskylä, pupils act as responsible consumers, citizens and employees, as members of Finnish society.

Yrityskylä, which has one learning environment for sixth graders and one for ninth graders, is located in Espoo, but its operations are nationwide: up to 80 per cent of the sixth-grade pupils participating are from elsewhere in Finland. The chance to experience a day in the life of an adult is of interest to children.

“Pupils learn about a profession through experience and gain different perspectives. They notice that skills learnt at school are also useful for working life. Based on the feedback, pupils are extremely enthusiastic about the experience: one pupil said that the day at Yrityskylä was the best school day ever!”

Pääkkö has also found that parents are impressed by the impact of the day, when their children come home and start pondering societal questions. The experience affects them on many levels.

“One participant said that they now finally understand why mum and dad are always so busy at work.”

Yrityskylä will not be defeated by coronavirus

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Yrityskylä is currently operating on a hybrid model: some pupils visit the premises in Espoo’s Nihtisilta as usual while others participate remotely from their schools.

“We follow strict hygiene rules. The children and staff wear masks, and we ensure that social distancing is observed. We have developed a gaming platform for schools, which pupils can use to navigate through their day as a professional, completing tasks similar to those at Yrityskylä. We have also included interactive and functional tasks that are completed together with other pupils.”

Schools are sent the materials in advance, but pupils do not get to wear Orion’s white roleplay coats or to manufacture vitamin D for real at school. However, the pupils do get to find out more about the industry and discuss its rules and mechanisms.

“Pupils do have the chance to carry out a vitamin D survey on their classmates. We follow the same themes that we would at Yrityskylä.”

The future of Yrityskylä looks bright, and not even a pandemic can put a stop to it.

“Our strengths are the enthusiasm of the participants, our national and regional collaborations and solid educational background. We will never run out of energy and enthusiasm,” Pääkkö concludes.

Text by Tarja Västilä

25 February 2021