Diverse learners benefit from the science education cooperation between Yrityskylä and the University
The task of Juniversity, Tampere University’s college for children and young people is to familiarise children and young people with the University, different disciplines, and the nature of research. According to Senior Specialist Laura Salkonen, there is a desire at the Juniversity to show children and young people what a university is and to inspire enthusiasm and interest in science through, among other things, hands-on learning.
“In the field of science education, the idea is emphasised that providing different experiences and peeks from different disciplines along the school path can support a young person’s ability to choose the right direction of education for themselves in the future,” Salkonen says.
Tampere University has its own space in the Yrityskylä learning environment in Finlayson area, whose design has involved not only Yrityskylä’s experts, but also staff from education, marketing, and the faculties. Yrityskylä is a learning module for pupils in the sixth and ninth year of comprehensive school to provide experiences about working life, economy, entrepreneurship, and society. The learning module that has received an award as the best education innovation in the world consists of training for teachers, learning materials and Yrityskylä’s lessons at school, and experiential days in the learning environment.
The aim of the activities is for young people to be enthusiastic about working life, to be able to manage their own finances, and to want to participate actively in society.
The Yrityskylä concept received further reinforcement in June when its supporters Junior Achievement Finland & Economy and youth TAT combined their operations. Junior Achievement Finland & Economy and youth TAT have combined their operations to the JA Finland.
A peek into working life in a miniature society
The Yrityskylä learning environment's concept is to take young people into parallel reality for one day, where they are able to do business and have active impact like adults. During the school day, students will be introduced to working life in a variety of occupations in Yrityskylä’s learning environment, a society for schoolchildren, a miniature city with public administration, university, commerce, banking and numerous businesses. In addition to working in their own professions, pupils act as responsible consumers and citizens as part of Finnish society.
“Our aim is to help young people find their thing and create a positive image of the work for them,” Laura Lautanen, Senior Specialist (Pedagogics) at Yrityskylä Pirkanmaa, says.
According to her, Yrityskylä with its activities has established itself among young people and have become an important high point for them. Every year, about 6,000 schoolchildren visit the Yrityskylä in Pirkanmaa. About 85% of all pupils in the sixth and ninth year of comprehensive school in Finland participate in JA’s Yrityskylä's activities. Thus far, 50,000 pupils in total have visited the miniature villages.
Reforms for the implementation of Yrityskylä are in the offing. Since the start of the upcoming academic year pupils apply for a job in advance through an application and perform tasks related to their role at the school. They will also be paid their first salary in the classroom. The Yrityskylä instructors hope this will stimulate savings.
Artificial ears and cell cultures
Juniversity has activities on all the three University campuses, but the hands-on learning mainly happens in the science classroom on Hervanta campus. The science classroom is learning environment like Yrityskylä where students or groups come to work in hands-on science workshops.
In Lautanen’s view it is wonderful how science education may reach children and young people also through the Yrityskylä.
“The presence of University in Yrityskylä makes the University more approachable to young people and prompts them to consider what they might study in the future. This is how we can make the university visible in their lives from an early age, and it is great,” she mentions.
Salkonen says the collaboration between Tampere University and Yrityskylä is currently seeing the second academic year of the three-year term. For the upcoming academic year, for example, the Juniversity’s working group has planned what they want to tell children and their families about the University in a job search application.
Among other reforms, Tampere University’s facility and core activities in the Yrityskylä have recently been updated. Pupils in the sixth year of comprehensive school in the Tampere region can work in the professions of laboratory expert, researcher-teacher, guidance counsellor and rector.
The tasks at the University’s workstation are currently focused on biotechnology and biomedicine. Researchers in the fields have assisted in the planning of the job descriptions. The main task of pupils has often been to introduce new customers to the use of a 3D printer. The little specialists are able to print a purple tinted artificial ear and get to make cell cultures.
“The pupils are often rapturous of the cell culture results of the cell,” Lautanen says with a smile.
Hands-on shifts motivate diverse learners
A visiting day to Yrityskylä is easy to fit into the school’s official curriculum. It brings variety to a normal school day. Both at Juniversity and Yrityskylä, it has been noted that hands-on learning motivates pupils with special needs. A pupil who has not been getting well at school or who is always restless in classroom situations is hard-working, focused and interested in Yrityskylä or in a workshop.
“The work in Yrityskylä is practical and the pupils perform tasks according to their skill level. Work is not evaluated in a school-like manner, but the most important thing is that everyone goes out to try. This type of learning is perfect for those who experience ordinary school days as challenging,” Lautanen mentions.
Teachers are often amazed by the performance of pupils with special needs in Yrityskylä. Pupils with special needs take responsibility for the tasks and take care of their job. Almost without exception, all young people are responsible and view their duty as a task of honour.
“Encountering each student without prejudice feels liberating to them and gives them space. In Yrityskylä, each student can have their role, be themselves, and discover that there is more than just their diagnosis or speciality,” Lautanen notes.
Children also may have a very distant and demanding image of a university, especially if the family background is not academic. The encouraging words of the teacher and the experiences that increase self-efficacy in Yrityskylä are the first steps to the path of science. According to Salkonen, the threshold for a child or young person to apply for studies at a university can also be lowered in the long term, for example, by visiting and sensing the atmosphere on campus:
“This way the child discovers that there are just ordinary people walking around in the corridors of the University,” she notes.
It was AWESOME!!
It even made me think that working at the University might be my thing!
It was fantastic to work at Tampere University. Best of luck to future research!
– Feedback from pupils in the sixth year of comprehensive school on working at Yrityskylä at Tampere University
+358 50 447 9335
laura.salkonen [at] tuni.fi
Senior Specialist, Education and Learning, Tampere University
+358 50 572 9600
laura.lautanen [at] nuortennyt.fi