Day 1 of the Québec-Finland educational expedition: going outside to learn

The Finns are particularly close to nature and this is also true in the educational activities offered to the pupils. Learning outdoors means first of all arousing the pupil's curiosity and making him an actor in his discoveries. It is learning that begins informally and then, thanks to the teacher, is linked to the training program.

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ATTENTION! The English translation is automated - Errors (sometimes hilarious!) can creep in! ;)

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Our collaborator Marc-André Girard is on an educational expedition to Finland and the documents here!

I had already met Saara Nissinen four years ago, during my first visit to Savonlinna. She had hosted me at the University of Eastern Finland. For the start of our journey, we chose to start on familiar ground and we saw Saara again.

If you are an avid École branchée reader, you have already met this elementary school teacher and doctoral student in education. She and I had do a podcast on the importance Finns place on nature, especially the forest as a learning environment.

This time, despite the fact that Finland vibrates to the rhythm of her national holiday, Saara made herself available to us and she made an appointment with us in one of the Finnish experimental forests, at the National Institute of Natural Resources. , in Punkaharju. We walked a few minutes before arriving in a superb log shelter whose facade overlooks the immense Saimaa lake. We made a fire and Saara served us a glass of glögi (hot and sweet drink) very hot. In short, we had not even started our discussion that we were living the Finnish experience to the full!

Go outside to learn? It's simple!

We know that the Finns are very close to nature. This necessarily influences their pedagogical approaches. Indeed, for them, going outside is natural (bad pun)! I questioned Saara between two sips of glögi : "Yes, but going out to do math, how is it"? His answer: it's simple. We guide the students, they find something in their environment that interests them and we give the necessary meaning to the educational activity. It is up to the teacher to make the links with the program and to orient the students' discoveries so that they are contextualized and circumscribed in the program imposed by the ministry and the city (we will come back to this in another article later) .

According to Saara, going into the forest is allowing teachers to feed on the wonder of students to build their own course. This opens the door wide to educational differentiation, where the course is built according to the interest of the students to converge on the teaching intention of the teacher. During this time, the young people discover their environment, understand its complexity in order, in the long term, to learn to respect the environment better.

Take a typical Finnish example: shoeing a reindeer. Unlike a horse, it is undesirable to do this. It hurts the beast and makes it suffer. Young people go to meet these animals, but this is not to learn that shoeing a reindeer can be dangerous in itself. Indeed, shoeing a reindeer is not on the program (!). However, speaking of this specific theme, it is about animals as a whole, biomes and ecosystems while also addressing global warming. These last themes are on the program.

In other words, going outside doesn't require a lot of planning. We must trust the students to bring questions and objects that will allow us, as educators, to nourish the lesson and ensure that they learn informally first and then formalize this learning. . Saara's face lights up: for her, it is a real pleasure to hear young people marveling in nature and seeing them having fun with what it offers them.

A school naturally open to its community

Finally, leaving school in the open fosters networking with the community on two levels. First, it makes it possible to make contact with experts related to the visit, in this case those from forestry. These experts contribute to the students' learning process thanks to cutting-edge knowledge. Second, the community also means the sustained participation of parents. As in Quebec, they can accompany the students and act in support of the teacher. As the Finnish school is naturally open (which we will happily take advantage of in the coming days), parents are always welcome. Saara, smirking, recounted that parents participate, among other things, in school trips in a natural environment and that when they have an impediment or an unforeseen event, they apologize and appoint a replacement: a neighbor, a grandparent. or a family friend. After all, it takes a whole village to raise a child, right?

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You can also contribute to the financing of the Expedition (until December 22):

(Editor's note: The École branchée is happy to be a media partner of this expedition! Note that we are not, however, associated with the fundraising campaign.)

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About the Author

Marc-André Girard
Marc-André Girard
Marc-André Girard holds a bachelor's degree in social studies education (1999), a master's degree in history education (2003), a master's degree in education management (2013) and a doctorate in education (2022). He specializes in school-based change management and educational leadership. He is also interested in the 21st century competencies to be developed in education. He is a principal in a public high school and gives conferences on educational leadership, pedagogical approaches, change in schools and the professionalization of teaching. He has participated in educational expeditions in France, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Morocco. In September 2014, he published the book "Le changement en milieu scolaire québécois" with Éditions Reynald Goulet and, in 2019, he published a trilogy on the 21st century school with the same publisher. He is a frequent contributor to L'École branchée on educational issues. He is very involved in everything that surrounds the professional development of teachers and principals as well as the integration of ICT in education. In March 2016, he received a CHAPO award from AQUOPS for his overall involvement. He is a recipient of the Régent-Fortin 2022 scholarship awarded by ADERAE for the significant contribution of his doctoral studies to the development of practice and knowledge in educational administration.

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