The Suomenlinna Project: Sustainable world heritage learning through a phenomenon based approach

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In Agenda 2030, cultural heritage is emphasized as a facilitator of sustainability (UNESCO, 2015). World heritage is seen as a platform for developing and testing new approaches to demonstrate the relevance of heritage for sustainability. How human activities influence all dimensions of sustainability becomes obvious, when world heritage sites become learning environments. World heritage sites act as a bridge to learning. Integrating sustainability into world heritage processes encompasses capacity building across a wide range of fields (UNESCO 2015).
In 2017, the Swedish teacher education at UH started a new learning project that took place at Suomenlinna world heritage site in spring 2018. In three days 40 primary teacher students trained phenomenon based learning. Simultaneously, the pilot was followed up by research and data collected by videoing, student responses in form of so called “exit tickets” and blog texts. All since the first pilot, the evaluation and planning of the continuation of the project has taken place. The second season of the project will be realized in spring 2020, and the education will then be reshaped by experiences from the pilot. The pilot has also been useful in the reshaping and fine-tuning of the of the project’s aims.
The Suomenlinna project basically aims at contributing to sustainability transformations of societies by means of inter- and transdisciplinary research and education. The project co-creates knowledge through research, experiments, living labs and best practices for national and international policy, private sector and civil society. The project team answer the call as faculty members to take action to manage the complex and urgent sustainability dilemmas in the Antropocene epoch with climate change as a big threat. This happens by testing of learning methods that empower the students to take actions and find solutions, instead of becoming discouraged by the planet Earth’s contemporary and future dilemmas. With sustainability as main focus, phenomenon based learning as the method and the world heritage as both target and environment, the Suomenlinna project becomes an unique teaching and learning experiment that will promote the aims of the national curricula, but still more important the aims of many of the Agenda 2030 goals. Ecological, economic and social/cultural issues become learning topics through the phenomena.
The national core curriculum for primary education (Opetushallitus, 2014) calls strongly attention to sustainability, but also to phenomenon based learning. The curriculum suggests sustainable development as topic for interdisciplinary learning. Likewise the curriculum points out a role of basic education to promote a diverse cultural understanding and valuing of cultural heritage. However, there is a lack of research and theory building as well as teacher education in sustainability education (Wolff & al., 2017) and also in phenomenon based learning (Wolff & al, forthcoming 2019). Even if UNESCO is developing world heritage education, this is also lacking in the teacher education at UH.
The project group is a team of experts in various fields of education and includes seven university lecturers/researchers with different disciplinary backgrounds and teaching responsibilities: Hannah Kaihovirta, PhD, docent, university lecturer in art and physical education, Pia Mikander, PhD, university lecturer in history and social studies education, Marjo Savijärvi, PhD, university lecturer in Finnish as second language education, Birgit Schaffar-Kronqvist, PhD, university lecturer in
didactics, Anna Slotte, EdD, docent, university lecturer in education, Kirsi Wallinheimo, EdD, university lecturer in foreign language education, Wolff Lili-Ann, EdD, docent, university lecturer in science education. All the group members belong to the research community Diversity, multilingualism and social justice in education, which focuses on diversity, multilingualism, minority perspectives, and social justice in education and teacher education. Racialisation, ethnicity, gender, social class, special needs and sustainability are prominent components in the research. Some of the team members are active in interdisciplinary sustainability research projects and networks and other focus more explicitly on equity research. The researchers of the group use a variety of research methods ranging from ethnography, discourse analysis, quantitative analysis to video ethnography and photo elicitation.
Beside empirical and intervention studies, the Suomenlinna team also work with development of basic theories. Interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches are central, and the team is exploring the theoretical frameworks of phenomenon based learning through the philosophy of Husserl and other phenomenologists as well as through various views of cross-disciplinarily, especially transdisciplinary approaches. A part of the research on cross-disciplinarily is the research on and development of co-teaching among the project group members, but also co-learning including teachers/students as well as students/students.
The Suomenlinna team collaborate with the Governing Body of Suomenlinna and will develop cooperation with schools and other stakeholders. UNESCO, EU and the Association of Cultural Heritage in Finland have a great interest in the improvement of world heritage education, and the project team is searching for new national and international partners and frameworks for sustainable world heritage educational research and development work.
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