Turku Phoenix-school is a free and democratic learning environment for children in pre-school and grade school. Democratic school is different from regular grade school in two ways: 1) the students have a tangible way to influence in the way their school work and schooling environment is organized, and 2) learning is based on each student's individual interests.
Adults are always responsible for creating a school environment which is safe and promotes self-guided learning but the school community decides on many school-related issues. These include school rules, excursions, in-school activities and visiting lecturers as well as the use of monthly school budget. These decisions are made in a weekly school meeting.
Work in Turku Phoenix-school is conducted in small multi-age group, which allows genuinely individual contact between each student and the teachers. The small group also allows the students to interact between each other in a way that encourages self-guided learning, social responsibility and collaboration. All school activities are designed in a way that supports individuality and involvement of each student. We believe in nurturing the joy of learning and discovery in every child. The school curriculum is prepared together and every child have the freedom to choose which courses and classes he or she participates in.
The school operates in an ecologic environment in Koroinen, in a rural setting still just a few kilometers from downtown Turku. Turku Phoenix-school is the first democratic school in Finland but we are part of network of over 100 European democratic schools. Our school is both politically and religiously independent.
Why a different kind of school?
The world around us has evolved at a much faster pace than the school as an institution. To counter the present and future challenges, we will need our youth to become active and independent individuals who are capable of quickly assimilate new information and use it in a creative and open-minded way. We will need individulas who are not afraid of constant change and collaborating with all types of people.In a democratic learning environment a child will not only learn the traditional academic skills but also becomes a master of skills that are paramount in the world: perseverance, debating, democratic decision.making and responsibility. We firmly believe that school should make every possible effort to cultivate the joy of learning and motivation in every child. It is time for the school to bravely embrace new ideas and concepts that can help us improve the future of the entire society. This is the mission of Turku Phoenix-school.
Ordinary day at the Phoenix-school
The duration of each school day varies from 3 to 6 hours. The day usually begins with a morning circle where we review the schedule and events of the day. On "meeting days" the day begins with school meeting, which is an assembly of staff and all students. All essential decisions about the school are made at the school meeting where every attendee has a vote and all are equal. Every participant has the right to make suggestions to the meeting agenda beforehand.
Turku Phoenix-school employs a curriculum based on the open space -principle. This means that both teachers and students can influence on the contents of the curriculum. Each student has the right to suggest or request a course or lesson to be included in the curriculum. The school meeting decides which courses are provided. In addition to the courses suggested by the students, the curriculum also includes the lessons provided by the teachers/trainees/volunteers. In addition to the lessons, also the excursions and field trips are included in the weekly schedule.
In addition to the lessons, every school day includes excercise, outdoor physical activity, play and occasionally also rest. The schedule is designed to be flexible so that each child is able to study and work at the pace that best fits their motivation - if a child is actively working with something that they find interesting, we do not force them to stop and change subject.
Approximately every two weeks we attempt to make a field trip to a place or activity that the students find interesting. We have made excursions to nature reserves, museums, theatre, archeological excavations, veterinary clinic and many more.
The principal teacher at Turku Phoenix school is Emmi Hiivola, who is grade-school teacher at the final stage of her teacher studies. Emmi's instructor is a qualified teacher. In addition to Emmi, there are regular volunteers and trainees working with her. We also collaborate with the Phoenix-day care groups.
Here's how Emmi introduces herself: "I am 29-year-old Bachelor of Arts (education) and I am currently finishing my MA thesis. I will be completing my teacher's studies soon, majoring in social sciences and ethics. I was born and raised in the seaside town of Naantali but I have been living in Turku since 2007. My hobbies include music, theatre, dance and arts&crafts. I love to relax in the nature. I also try to find time for youga and taiji. I find the principles of the democratic school close to my heart my sincere hope is that together with my students we can create an inspiring and stress-free environment to learn and live.