Behind the Blackboard Helsinki was conducted in the Helsinki City run Keinutie Primary School at Kontula district of Helsinki City, Finland. 12 students from class 6 participated the workshop.
Kontula is a suburb in eastern Helsinki consisting of many City tenant housing complexes and culturally rich base population. In the Keinutie Primary school the amount of students speaking foreign home languages is among highest in Finland. In the public and state funded basic comprehensive school system in Finland guardians can freely choose the school for their wards. This school choice system has increased segregation of schools in areas with population from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Due to above average amount of foreign speaking population and city tenant housing complexes in the Kontula area of Helsinki the Keinutie Primary school belongs to a group of schools in Helsinki with high segregation risk.
In the time of the workshop the Finnish basic comprehensive school education was in the transition process towards new curriculum emphasizing phenomenon based learning, a constructivist form of learning that gives preference to multidisciplinary understanding- and implementing the learned knowledge. Teachers salaries in Finland are relatively good and motivating. The power distances in the Finnish society are low, which on the one hand gives students more possibilities to choose their individual path but on the other hand can in the comprehensive school context lead to undisciplined class behaviour. The Finnish culture is secular, very individualistic as well as socially estranged and reserved.
In the beginning of the workshop the workshop facilitators conducted an e-survey for the participating students in order to find what communal problems the students face in their class. From the research the participating students got an idea to run the research for all the students in their school to study the challenges facing the whole school community. The students developed the questions from the survey they participated in further, and ran the research for the classes 4-6 in their school. The survey was found good student-led method to map out the problems of school communities and was therefore integrated as a permanent part of the workshop method for upcoming productions of the Behind the Blackboard project.
Many social issues raise up in the students survey. The most biggest concerns among all of the students of their school were arguments between the students, name-calling and ”backbiting”. In order to deepen their study on the problems the students formed small groups and made videos dealing with the social problems inside their school community. These videos were screened and discussed together with all the workshop participants. Including the videos reflecting group discussions and mind-mapping were used as a medium to find out solutions for the problems.
As a result for solving the problems of their school community the students developed an artistic intervention where they designed slogans related to the problems found in the survey and printed them on one thousand balloons. The balloons were distributed inside their school, and also to larger audiences outside the school environment. The campaign was conducted in two parts and it was decided to take place on May Day, which in Finland is a nation wide festival traditionally promoting workers rights but nowadays more focused on celebrating the beginning of spring. The festival is usually celebrated by balloons, picnic and carnival costumes. Almost all citizens take part to the festival by celebrating it on the streets and parks of cities. In this way the students used a traditional festival celebrating customs to spread their message in- and outside the school environment.
Distributing the balloons to the students and teachers of the school took place in the morning of the May Day transforming the school environment to wild children festival. The event exposed the school community´s many times silenced problems for all students and teachers of the school.
Students wanted also to create awareness of the elementary school´s communal problems among general public and media. To achieve their goal the students made a press release and organised a demonstration on the May Day afternoon where they distributed the balloons to general public in one of the busiest public transport hub´s of the city – Helsinki University Subway Station. By doing so the students spreaded the balloons carrying the slogans about problems of the Finnish elementary schools to streets, squares and other May Day party spots of the city generating awareness about the problems of the Finnish education system.