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Growing Young Minds: 3 Innovations Bringing Nature Into Education


As the 21st century marches on, bringing with it a tide of new technologies, we can often find ourselves immersed in nostalgia – longing for a simpler time of grazed knees and mud pies for our children. But modern learning environments aren’t just focused on the latest iPad or how to utilize virtual reality for learning, they’re actually increasingly nature orientated too. Here are 3 innovations that prove incorporating nature into contemporary learning environments can make for a powerful match.


The Sapling Academy

Watering flowers, turning compost and harvesting crops in the greenhouse. This isn’t an idyllic Sunday morning, but another busy day at The Sapling Academy, in Jyväskylä city, Finland.

Surrounded by beautiful natural landscape and with a nearby greenhouse, children discover how to plant and harvest crops, learn to compost, raise animals and even keep bees! In the true spirit of sustainability, none of these talents go to waste. Students learn to market and sell their own grown plants, honey or flower arrangements.

This holistic, interdisciplinary approach proves that environmental studies and entrepreneurship can go hand in hand, and that it’s never too early to learn such vital skills.


Learning from animals

At Vesala Secondary School in Finland, students are crazy about critters. Learning with animals since 1991, now almost all of the school’s extra-curricular activities and learning revolve around taking care of animals and greenhouse plants, with students caring for on average fifty a week!

It isn’t just about cuddles with cute animals though. By caring for living creatures, students learn valuable transferable skills, including developing compassion and responsibility. Working with the animals brings together people of all ages and backgrounds from the school, which strengthens the feeling of community, increases wellbeing and boosts student satisfaction. Who wouldn’t want to learn here?


Fuji Kindergarten

Unique and thoughtfully designed, this Japanese kindergarten has nature at its heart. The roof is a circular, endless playground that allows children to run and play freely in the open air. Open learning spaces are flooded with natural light, fresh air and the noise of joyful play.

Forget taking the stairs. Here, trees rise up through the centre of classrooms, which students can use to clamber to the next level. The tree canopy creates a rooftop aerial playground that inspires children to test their boundaries, take charge of their play and to cooperate with others. There’s endless opportunities to explore, run and socialize in this naturally child-friendly environment.