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Sustainable Future for the Whole School

Heating the school using renewable energy sources

Integrating sustainable future into the school culture using a student-centered approach to discover innovative energy solutions. Sustainable future encompasses energy production and collaboration with the power company Helen Ltd, but it also includes social and cultural sustainability.

Finland 100


HundrED has selected this innovation to

Finland 100






March 2017
Almost 300 children of all ages have learnt to recognize how energy for heating is produced and used in their school. Production data can be used in a variety of exercises in different subjects such as math, physics and mother tongue.

About the innovation

What is it all about?

A sustainable future means a future that is ecologically, socially and culturally sustainable. Everyone is responsible for building a sustainable tomorrow. We can take part in many ways to secure the wellbeing of our planet and ourselves.

The “Sustainable Future for the Whole School” model explains how you can begin to change the world starting with your own school. Teachers and students become more aware of their own possibilities to make a difference as well as their energy consumption habits, for example.

The theme is carried through the project using a multidisciplinary approach and versatile methods. Students of all ages are encouraged to participate and create their own questions and search the answers to aspects of energy use they find interesting.

The overarching theme is heating, which cuts through the subjects of energy and the different aspects of sustainability. Heat is something that does not only occur through production and innovative energy solutions – it can also occur between two people from a social point of view. This is why cultural and social sustainability are integral to the model during the next school years. The school will launch many initiatives in the fall of 2017 that focus on strengthening the students' cultural identity with different projects concerning the Finland 100 Program. In addition, the students learn to use their strengths to foster wellbeing and learning with the Finnish Huomaa hyvä (“Notice the good”) strength-based pedagogy.

Sakarinmäki Comprehensive School has partnered with Helen Ltd as a pilot school since 2013. The goal has been to experiment with innovative energy solutions and the students and teachers have brainstormed how to utilize them for learning purposes since the inception.

The school worked together with Helen Ltd to update the building's heating system to run with renewable energy sources. About 80% of the school's heating comes from geothermal and solar power after installing a geothermal power system, a boiler, solar panels and thermal energy storage. Due to the use of biofuel, the heating comes from 100% renewable energy sources. The collaboration with Helen Ltd has been fruitful because it has allowed the school to see for themselves how energy is produced.

The heating system and integrating energy issues into their teaching has garnered plenty of positive attention for Sakarinmäki comprehensive school. Renovating the heating system brought the school an honorable mention at the 2013 “Vuoden uusiutuva energiateko” competition (“Renewable Energy Act of the Year Awards.”) The heating system is also nominated in the international District Energy Climate Awards held every two years.

Impact & scalability

Impact & Scalability


We produce our own heating, but waste only positive energy.


The model imparts knowledge on the cultural and ecological dimensions of a sustainable future.


You can adapt this model to your own project using Helen Ltd's data, if desired.

Implementation steps

Let's Get Started
The school should appoint a sustainability teacher coordinator.Teacher coordinator

Themain responsibility as a teacher coordinator is to ensure that the project moves forward. At Sakarinmäki school, the teacher coordinator is a teacher of natural sciences and the school board and principal are obviously also committed to supporting the project.


At the start of the school year, it is important to encourage every student to participate in the planning of modules for sustainable future. This ensures that sustainable future is a cross-curricular theme for all grades. You should also pick a more specific common theme so you can hold various events on that theme. The sky’s the limit! You can design any type of sustainable future module.


Sakarinmäki comprehensive school is launching a Finnish theme to honor Finland's centenary. The celebrations end in a Finland 100 festival and also represent the aspects of cultural and social sustainability. In addition to empowering students in understanding cultural identity through Finland's centennial year celebratory projects, students learn through strength-based pedagogy how to manage themselves, develop their weaknesses and harness their strengths to benefit their own wellbeing and learning. The objective of positive pedagogy is to make every learner aware of their abilities and strengths and meet their potential. Children and youth's strengths should be based on real observations. Positive pedagogy aims to prevent and facilitate. Schools can teach strong character skills in various ways. They help the mind to bend and not break, even in a crisis. Facilitating refers to the school being a cornucopia for positive communication and humanity. The school fosters individual and communal wellbeing and a sense of security. Constructive feedback, working tenaciously and learning to enjoy it open positive development paths into the future. Strength-based learning is not a strict teaching plan, it is a practical, cross-curricular pedagogical philosophy. It provides exercises and games for every subject and the teacher can choose the ones that fit their needs.

Teachers should study the national core curriculum's grade-specific objectives and learning contents. They form the basis for the project created together with students. Every grade has different objectives and contents but the goal is same for everyone: introducing sustainable future education into the school culture.

While the national core curriculum sets objectives for the grade-level, you can bring learners of all ages together in phenomenon-based learning projects, for example. The goal is to plan a teaching continuum that is cohesive and clear.

Sustainability student team
The teacher coordinator runs a Sustainability team of students. The team should have regular meetings where they plan and promote sustainability projects at school. This team works to improve school satisfaction and environmental issues.

The team should consist of 8–12 volunteer students. Typically younger students are more interested in volunteering than older students, however, it is important that the team has students of all ages.

You should plan the school year's environmental projects at the beginning of the year and assess the situation in the classrooms during the year.


Sakarinmäki comprehensive school has committed to these projects:

  • Recycling textbooks and borrowing supplies from local schools, if necessary.

  • Using recycled materials in crafts and visual arts.

  • Avoiding making copies and using electronic devices in internal and external communications.

  • Turning the lights off.

  • Tracking bio waste in the cafeteria.

Student-centered projects on energy consumption
Students team up and create their own projects on sustainable future. This allows change in school culture to come from the students' needs.

Go through the project's central concepts with the students and think of your objectives and what skills and knowledge the students should learn and with what methods. Think of concrete examples or cases that relate to the students' everyday lives. These help the students to design their research questions, the project's theme and framework accordingly.


First graders at Sakarinmäki school measured the temperature of their classrooms and compared the results to outside temperatures. The class analyzed why there is a difference, how the room or school building is heated and how the heat gets out. The students used the school's floor plan to determine where the power displays, solar panels, geothermal pipes and oil storages are held outside and inside the school.

The 3rd graders got to make a small-scale study on weather and seasons with energy displays that show real-time data.

The 6th graders, on the other hand, studied their own homes' heating solutions and how they differ from the school's solutions. At the same time they thought about new ways to save energy. This allowed them to research water consumption and energy production at home.


You can collect all theories and conclusions on an electronic platform. This allows you to build a database year by year for the students so they can see their progress as a continuum. ePortfolio and Google Classroom are suitable options for collecting the theory, results and solutions you've accumulated as well as the project's different stages. Electronic platforms allow students to work flexibly in groups and teachers to track, comment and assess the progress.

The school's heating solution using renewable energy
Contact your power supplier and discuss different heating solutions for your school.

The power company Helen Ltd collaborated with Sakarinmäki comprehensive school to build a heating solution based on renewable energy sources. The school is powered by solar power, geothermal power as well as biofuel in the heating plant.

The school installed geothermal heat pump boreholes and solar panels to achieve a heating system running on renewable energy sources. They also renovated the existing heating plant.

  • Geothermal heat pump boreholes are 300 meters deep. They hold pipes containing bio ethanol that absorbs geothermal power from the ground. Heat pumps then transfer the heat to the school's heating system. Geothermal heating produces 275 kW of power.

  • The school has 16 solar panels, each 2 meters high and 5 meters wide. They produce 150 kW.

  • The heating plant uses renewable biofuel. It is in use when geothermal and solar power are insufficient to heat the whole school, usually in cold weather. The heat is transferred through a water circulation heating system. The maximum power of the plant is 1500 kW so it heats the school easily.

Teachers and students have integrated these new energy solutions into the instruction. The whole school can track heat production in real time on displays around the school and the internet, for example. This data is used in many classes including math and natural sciences making learning concrete and relating it to students' everyday lives.


At Sakarinmäki, grade 7 physics and chemistry deal with thermodynamics and at these lessons students study the school's heating system. Ninth graders use the data collected in statistics lessons.

Making the school culture visible in everyday activities in practical ways
A sustainable future means so much more than a physical change or making teaching more concrete.

At its heart, Sustainable Future education means a shift in a student’s mindset. This new outlook guides learners as they make decisions and choices in years to come. This is why building a continuum out of the project is imperative.

Changing the school's culture requires continuity but also planning, patience, motivation and commitment – from the whole school.

In order to make this model reality in practical ways, you must exhibit a positive drive and an understanding that while you engage in various tasks and projects, the goal is to understand and apply the themes studied. Remember that when you motivate teachers and students, they should leave with a feeling that this is an opportunity to make a change locally and globally not just extra work for them.

We recommend that you divide the responsibilities differently every year in your execution/annual planning. This allows everyone to participate and the work is not solely on the shoulders of individual teachers/board members.

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