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Paperitehtaan raunioista eurooppalaiseksi kouluksi
Start date: Jun 1, 2015, End date: May 31, 2017 PROJECT  FINISHED 

From the Ruins of a Paper Mill into an International School Hirvelän koulu lower secondary school Erasmus+ project Hirvelän koulu lower secondary school is located in Voikkaa in the city of Kouvola. Voikkaa has become known for its paper industry. The paper mill was in operation for nearly 110 years (from 1897 to 2006). For many decades the mill was the flagship of Kymmene corporation. However, since the merger of Kymmene and United Paper Mills Ltd. in 1996, investments to the mill ceased. Hirvelä comprehensive school has 185 pupils, 24 teachers, and 11 members of other staff. The school offers teaching to lower secondary school students, which means grades 7 to 9. In addition, the school has two teaching groups providing special needs education (20 pupils in grades 6 through 9). Hirvelä lower secondary is a small school in a remote part of town where multiculturalism is not much to be seen. The purpose of the Erasmus+ project is to increase the school’s teachers’ cross-cultural competence. Today’s working life emphasizes networking within and outside a country’s borders. One important goal is to convey to the pupils as well as the adults the understanding that we belong to Europe, a continent that is small in size but large in population. The need to update language skills as well as to gain courage to use a foreign language, in this case English, has come up in Hirvelä lower secondary. The same need for skills and courage lies in the pupils. The new national core curriculum for basic education, which has been compiled in 2014, includes the following sentiment: Pupils get experiences on the significance of interaction to their own development. They will improve their social skills, learn to express themselves in diverse ways and to conduct themselves in different situations. The teaching supports the pupils’ growth and development into versatile and skillful users of both their native language as well as foreign languages. The pupils are encouraged to interact and express themselves even with limited language skills. Every teacher needs tools to cope with their work load. Cooperation with a European peer group is one way of doing this. Thoughts and working methods, operational models and teaching methods are similar on the one hand but on the other hand so very different in different cultures. Hence, one goal is to discover new teaching methods, which in turn will help manage everyday work. Professional development brings forth new energy. A project carried out by the whole school community will add to the personnel’s team spirit and develop the school into “our school”. A pleasant atmosphere and a feeling of togetherness make everyday work as well as implementing new ideas and working methods easier. This in turn will increase the pupils’ study motivation and make going to school even more agreeable and comfortable. A new national core curriculum will be implemented in Finland in autumn 2016. Our goal is to acquire practical tools for updating the institution’s own curriculum from the point of view of internationality and multiculturalism. The new curriculum will entail the requirement for an increase in internationality in education. Eight teachers from Hirvelä lower secondary have chosen to participate in job shadowing and in-service training courses: the principal/religion teacher, student counselor, special education teacher, special education class teacher, English teacher, two teachers of mathematics, physics and chemistry, and a Finnish teacher. All teachers strive for professional development and hope to network with European teachers and develop the school into an international learning environment. Hirvelä lower secondary wishes to receive teachers for job shadowing from Poland. This is when the whole school takes part in welcoming the guests to its everyday life and introducing them to nearby areas. Both activities contribute to the participants’ knowledge of the educational systems, curricula, and practices of different European countries. We will gain information on several topics, for example the integration of special needs pupils into general education, the ways of using information technology in teaching and functional teaching methods, which are also included as objectives in the new Finnish core curriculum. The teachers of Hirvelä lower secondary will befriend European teachers and be encouraged to use English in communicating with them also after the meetings during job shadowing and in-service training using different means of communication, for instance social media. In addition, language skills, courage, and professional development will increase through giving lessons during the job shadowing period in partner school. Attitudes towards being European will most likely become more open and coherent. Hopefully, in the future, Hirvelä lower secondary school will foster citizens who are open to new things and to Europe.
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