Comfortable, homey and functional
There are now three types of new facilities in the school. The Virtual Nature Classroom makes it possible for students to concentrate on studying in peace and quiet, in a manner that suits their individual needs. There are many soft seats, blankets and even stuffed animals in the classroom, all in line with the nature theme. There is also a green wall with plant installations, making the environment calmer.
“Nature is also brought into the classroom in the form of a soundscape and on a large virtual display. Our desks can be moved around, and they have been manufactured by a local wood artist, Miikka Kotilainen. Studies show that wood as a material brings well-being to its surroundings,” Lecturer Minna Ursin says.
The general upper secondary school is located on the Joensuu Campus, which has been under several construction projects in recent years, diminishing nature from around the school.
“Bringing back elements of nature to the school has been an overarching theme. The Virtual Nature Classroom also allows us to reap the benefits of nature while studying,” says Forsström.
In the lobbies and corridors, on the other hand, there are spaces dedicated to the four seasons, which have been designed for working in small groups and for giving student guidance and counselling.
“These small spaces that support interaction were designed together with teachers and students to reflect our favourite spots in nature during each season,” Ursin explains.
In the early stage of the project, student teachers, too, were given a chance to describe spaces that would be functional for their needs. Calmness, comfort, homeliness and good lighting were highlighted in the hopes, and all of these were taken into account in the group facilities.
The teaching and training facility PedaLab, on the other hand, is a room with very little furniture, designed to facilitate learning by doing, as well as embodied learning.
“There are several displays and the possibility to use virtual glasses, as well as furniture that allows a wide range of groupings. By the wall, there is also an area for working in small groups, which can be adjusted to different needs,” Ursin says.
In other words, students can immerse themselves in learning in a multi-sensory manner. This allows a versatile use of the brain’s learning mechanisms.
“At the same time, we are looking to gain experiences of how, when and in what context immersion can promote learning, thinking, understanding and motivation.”