School on Wheels goes abroad

After touring schools in Central Finland, Kiasma's School on Wheels plucks up courage to go abroad.

The first stop was Vilnius, or rather the geo-graphical centre of Europe, where the School was invited to participate in a Nordic-Baltic seminar organised by the Europos Parkas sculpture park. Together with School on Wheels teacher Minna Turtiainen we gave the seminar participants a biology lesson on the eagle owl, and afterwards Minna led a workshop on making biological portraits. Taking a biological look at old and new art, the lesson was conducted to the sound of Lithuanian interpretation which provided ample proof that the eagle owl is not part of the avifauna of Lithuania. Nevertheless, the recognition and imitation of the owl's call OO-hu went quite well.

School on Wheels was presented in Vilnius along with other hands-on art education projects. The School's biology workshop explored issues of human identity and depiction by comparing por-traits made in different epochs and by discussing the importance of identification. After the lesson the participants made a bioportrait of themselves based on biological identifiers. The main target audience of the seminar was art educators, for whom the workshop gave a demonstration of our teaching methods. The spontaneous feedback was quite positive. The participants especially liked the relaxed atmosphere of the performance-like lesson with its entertaining way of transmitting information, and also our novel perspective on portraiture.

In June, the School inflicted its biology lesson on the participants of the Two Way Travel seminar at the Tate Modern, another European art centre. Organised by Engage, an international association for art educators, the seminar focused on moving and touring art projects, which included a Spanish art bus that toured a province to advertise the opening of a new museum, and a Scottish travelling gallery that rural and urban communities can book for a limited period of time. Composed of British art and museum educators, the audience praised School on Wheels' entertaining 'instruction' and the way different subjects were integrated into the lesson. The lesson also sparked off a discussion about regional equality and the choice of age groups for art education projects.

School on Wheels' principle of integrating multiple subjects was next presented at the annual seminar of the Engage association in November. Again the venue was Tate Modern, where the topic of discussion was co-operation between schools and museums, especially in the area of school curricula. This time, we told the British museum educators about OPS, the Finnish acronym for curriculum. Then we introduced them to KOPS, the particular instance of OPS as adapted to Kiasma´s School on Wheels. The concept of multiple subject integration promoted by KOPS is supported by the new national curriculum in Finland, which provides for multiple-subject instruction through the use of thematic entities. Similar ideas to support creativity and new approaches in art are found also in Britain, where the government and various organisations have made several initiatives and started funds to promote innovative projects in schools and museums.

-Kaija Kaitavuori
SISW (Senior Inspector, School on Wheels)

Kiasma's School on Wheels is a national project implemented by the support of the energy company Vattenfall Oyj.