Finnish adventures: Turku & Helsinki

These pictures summarizes our last days in Finland. We visited Turku and went back to Helsinki for three days. It has been an amazing experience in this beautiful nordic country.

IMG_0081 Finnish Fortress Suomenlinna, Helsinki

IMG_0052 Landscape from a historical island in Helsinki

IMG_0028 Ancient cannons from the Finnish fortress Suomenlinna in Helsinki

IMG_5243Abroad students enjoying the tour around a 16th century castle in Turku.

IMG_9680 View from the Market Square in Turku

IMG_9725 View of the 16th Century Finnish castle in Turku

IMG_9760 Touristic ship at the harbor in Turku

IMG_9797Lutheran church in downtown Turku

IMG_9974Panoramic view of the city of Helsinki

IMG_9942Sunset at the beach in Turku

IMG_9916Finnish sailor in the Baltic sea in Turku

IMG_9827Panoramic view of the city in Turku

by – Sergio Zapata – student

Farm Stay in Porvoo and Turku Arrival

We arrived late Saturday afternoon to a beautiful and quaint farm near the city of Porvoo. This farm also doubles as a bed & breakfast, so we had plenty of places to sleep! The purpose of our farm stay was to complete the service portion of our trip. The group completed many tasks including raking, cooking, building a fence, mucking stalls and cleaning the stable, and helped to care for the animals.

This is a picture of the main house – where we prepared & ate all our meals.
This farm was the first in Finland to have llamas! This one is peeking out to say “hello!”. (photo by Candace Grennie)
A view of one of the donkeys, the barns and the main house. (photo by Candace Grennie)
Relaxing on the porch after a long day of work on Sunday.
The farm had 11 donkeys! (photo by Candace Grennie)
Some of the crew hard at work raking on Sunday.
A fun photoshoot with our rakes as the sun begins to fall lower in the sky. Do we look like real farmers yet?
On Sunday we celebrated 3 special days! Caroline, Clarice, and Nikki enjoyed blowing out one candle and sharing their cake with the whole group.
In addition to raking, the group also helped a professional chef (named Mika, wearing the black vest in this photo) prepare our delicious meals.
In addition to raking, the group also helped a professional chef (named Mika, wearing the black vest in this photo) prepare our delicious meals.
The biggest project we did was building a fence to create a riding ring. The group painted boards& posts, and then constructed the fence with directions from our hosts.
The biggest project we did was building a fence to create a riding ring. The group painted boards and posts, and then constructed the fence with directions from one our hosts, Heikki (pictured here in the tan shirt).
Our host, Auti, testing out her new riding ring with two of her horses.
Our host, Auti, testing out her new riding ring with two of her horses.
On Monday, the group got to go into town for a little bit and went on a walking tour of Old Porvoo. Here, they are learning about a church that has been in the same place for over 700 years.
It was a beautiful day to be outside. The group loved soaking in the sun and the 50 degree weather! This is a famous view in Old Porvoo.

On Monday, we packed up and headed to Turku, our final destination before our return to Helsinki. Our first task in Turku was to walk 3 kilometers to the famous Turku castle that sits right on the edge of the river. At the castle, we completed a “conquer the castle” activity where we performed tasks in small groups that helped us to learn about what different people’s roles in the castle were.

This is the view of one of the sides of the castle. The castle was built in the late 1200’s and is still in use today. They even still host state dinners in the King’s Parlor!
Practicing needlework – an important skill for women of the castle!
Playing a guessing game where we had to guess the medieval spices just from smelling them.
Playing a guessing game where we had to guess the medieval spices just from smelling them.
This group is playing the history game that included questions about how long the longest siege of the castle lasted (9 months!), and at what time Finland became part of Sweden (late 12th century).
This group is playing the history game that included questions about how long the longest siege of the castle lasted (9 months!), and at what time Finland became part of Sweden (late 12th century).


We are excited to explore more of our last new city in Finland and we are hard at work finishing up our final assignments!

With love,


Reaching Rigor In Finland

By: Shelby Barner

Throughout our time in Metsakartano we have participated in many fun, exciting activities. Some may say that we have been just playing around, and I have heard many questions of, “Where is the school piece playing a part?” Well, throughout all of these exciting activities we have all been finding the deeper message and understanding behind each of them. These activities are allowing us to truly “focus on the process and not the product,” and we are applying all the same qualities that we find in doing papers, projects, PowerPoints, etc., to what we are doing now. Also, I think we are far more engaged, from looking around at all of us.

As I took a step back, I remembered a man by the name of Tony Wagner, who we learned about during our time on campus. Tony Wagner “currently serves as an Expert In Residence at Harvard University’s new Innovation Lab and as a Senior Research Fellow at the Learning Policy Institute, founded by Linda Darling-Hammond in 2015. Prior to these appointments, Tony was the first Innovation Education Fellow at the Technology & Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard, and the founder and co-director of the Change Leadership Group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education for more than a decade. His previous work experience includes twelve years as a high school teacher, K-8 principal, university professor in teacher education, and founding executive director of Educators for Social Responsibility.”[1] In short, he has participated in many educational positions that have allowed him to conduct research on how students will become successful in their everyday lives. He began this research by talking “with several hundred business, nonprofit, philanthropic, and educational leaders” in order to understand what “skills young people need” in their life (careers, jobs, etc.).[2] He found throughout his research that “students need to master seven survival skills to thrive in the new world…And these skills are the same ones that will enable students to become productive citizens who contribute to solving some of the most pressing issues we face in the 21st century.”[3]

When looking back on what Tony Wagner says, and what we have been doing throughout our time at Metsakartano, I thought I would explain how each one of our activities and the seven survival skills fit together.

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

Throughout life, critical thinking and problem solving are consistently used and practiced. People are trying to “continuously improve their products, processes, or services,” which results from “the ability to ask the right questions.”[4] There is that constant improving and one has “to be rigorous: test…[ones] assumptions, don’t take things at face value,…[and] don’t go in with preconceived ideas that…[one is] trying to prove.”[5] This thinking will allow people to be successful if they are always trying to achieve and grow. Throughout our time at Metsakartano, we used critical thinking and problem solving in many of the activities. For example, because we were able to go back to the felting and jewelry room this allowed us to continue improving on new or old projects. There were also times during these two activities that things wouldn’t go as planned, so there was the question of “What might you do now,” or “You think you’re done, or you know you’re done?”[6] These questions, and being able to fix certain things with projects, really allowed critical thinking and problem solving to be put into play.

Collaboration and Leadership

There are many leaders that step up in life, and in those moments they need to know how to work well with others. In these instances, without people behind them, there would be no leader. Teamwork is also created in large group settings, and there is a common trust between each individual. The teamwork that is created can then lead to a common goal. During our stay, we had many leaders in every activity, as well as leaders in the group that would step up in different instances. Some individuals found their calling and then were able to help others too. By this I mean that people were able to step up in some situations and others in other situations because people have their strengths and weaknesses. Within the different activities that we participated in, the leaders “led by influence, rather than authority.”[7] This is a huge benefit when in collaboration with a group because people will follow if they know and agree with the common goal. Our group is a big team and with everyone in this group there are a lot of different thoughts and ideas, but we work well together because we are all open and are working for common objectives throughout everything. Also, when people are invested in an activity then it allows the group to follow that investment and enjoy it. For example, Justin was hyped about every activity and because he achieved in many of the areas that we participated in he continuously helped us all. There were many other instances that this occurred with other individuals as they found their strengths throughout the activities.

Agility and Adaptability

Every day there are things that are continuously changing and in those moments you have the choice to continue to grow and push on, or to stop. One “has to think, be flexible, change, and use a variety of tools to solve new problems. We change what we do all the time.”[8] This is a constant thing and valuable to be aware about. When we got to Metsakartano, there was a schedule, however as the days progressed, it changed based on many different factors. Also, throughout all of our lessons that we were teaching on different subjects, we as teachers continuously were having to adapt to what was occurring or the needs of the group. For instance, one of the days the power went out and the group that was presenting had to work without power and adjust their lesson. Also, when the weather was horrible another group had to bring their nature lesson inside.

Initiative and Entrepreneurialism

When looking up the definition of initiative, it states, “the ability to assess and initiate things independently; or the power or opportunity to act or take charge before others do.”[9] When looking up the word entrepreneurialism, it is defined “as starting new businesses, or getting involved with new ventures or ideas.”[10] In both of these there is that choice or decision to act and give of yourself. Obviously we aren’t creating businesses, however, we were making fires, there was self motivation for craft projects, volunteers to clean up our living space, and putting on a talent show and Club Metsakartano. Specifically, out of these, the talent show and Club Metsakartano was put on by our very own: Maddi, Kyla, and Emma. They took initiative to create these amazing activities for all of us. They didn’t have to do this, but they did, and everyone absolutely loved them! They created memories that would stay with us.

Effective Oral and Written Communication

Communication is a way of life. Every day results in communicating with other people, either oral or written. In Metsakartano, we had the opportunity to communicate with a few Finnish people (shout out to Teemu, Sauli, and Ville), our leaders, and our peers every day. When teaching lessons, doing hot seats, messaging in Viber, and participating in any activity communication was used. During our lessons, which were taught in pairs, the communication between the two had to be spot on in order to co-teach. Hot seat is another thing that we have been doing throughout the trip, which is where one person is in the “hot seat” and then everyone in the group is able to give them “I appreciate” and “I urge” statements without the person responding. This is wonderful communication for each individual because it allows us to take the feed back that we had received in order to grow, or continue doing what everyone appreciated.

Accessing and Analyzing Information

“There is so much information available that it is almost too much, and if people aren’t prepared to process the information effectively it almost freezes them in their steps.”[11] People are being flooded with information left and right nowadays and if you aren’t retaining it and using it properly then people won’t be able to continue to grow and expand their knowledge in that field. Also, with too much information, people tend to not use it to the best of their ability.  In Metsakartano, information was being thrown our way in all of the activities. We learned the step by step processes on felting, blacksmithing, jewelry making, whittling, and other activities. Within each of the activities there was information that we needed to follow and if you weren’t prepared to listen then it would be difficult to do the activity. Blacksmithing especially, there was an entire process that was needed and on top of it there were safety rules that needed to be followed.

Curiosity and Imagination

Throughout life people are continuously coming up with new, innovative products that are bumping the old way out and drawing people in with the new. This is a day to day thing, that we see in our lives. For example, commercials, products, etc. are being created in order to meet the public’s expectations. All of these different things are coming from individuals that are having to be curious and imaginative. When looking up the definition of curiosity, in Merriam-Webster Dictionary, I found, “the desire to learn or know more about something or someone; or something that is interesting because it is unusual.”[12] Then I looked up the definition of imagination, which stated, “the ability to think of new things.”[13] Both these definitions are very valuable because there is that genuine search and interest that is going into both these words. People are creating things “to be beautiful, unique, and meaningful.”[14] During our time in Metsakartano we were challenged to become curious and imaginative in many different instances. When participating in felting, creating our own lessons, and jewelry making (naming only a few) we had to have our thinking caps on. They gave us the materials to succeed, but we had to figure out what we wanted to make. Our imaginations went flying. We were let loose to do what we wanted and there weren’t any restrictions.

In the end, we learned so many valuable things throughout our time in Metsakartano. Each activity pushed us to grow in many different ways and it taught us the true meaning of rigor. Instead of memorizing the information, putting it into practice, and then forgetting, we learned that process is the key. When you focus on the process and not the product then you are learning throughout the entire time rather than working towards an end goal.






[5] Ellen Kumata, consultant to Fortune 200 companies

[6] Teemu, Metsakartano staff member





[11] Mike Summers, Vice President for Global Talent Management at Dell



[14] Pink, D. (2005). A whole new mind: Moving from the information age to the conceptual age. New York: Riverhead Books, pp. 32-33.


Lessons, Games and Culture

The forest mansion that we have called home for the last two weeks has come to an end.  We have watched the snow melt off the roads and around the bottom of the trees, seen the northern lights, and been scared to death by singing ice on the lake.  Life has been pretty good here.  With just the trees and Teemu to guide us, we have really hit our stride as a group and become one cohesive unit.  The days are packed with lumberjack games, Finnish games, fires, coffee, and laughter, lots and lot of laughter.

Wednesday started with Finnish games in the morning.  The first one was called Tar Cookers, which we now jokingly use as an insult.  It was very similar to the American game we have all grown up with, Duck Duck Goose.  The person originally known as the goose, was now the tar cooker.  They had a hat in their hand and had to walk around the outside of the circle and when the time was

Kyla nearly completing her circle as a tar cooker
Kyla nearly completing her circle as a tar cooker

right, drop the hat behind one person and walk a full 360 degree circle back to the hat without the person who the hat was behind noticing they had the hat behind them.  However, if someone who did not have the hat behind them turned around to check if the hat was behind them, they were the new tar cooker.  The kicker was that we could not look down.  You could turn your head only to your shoulders but that was it.

Another game we played was called Mirror-another game similar to an American game: red light, green light.  The “mirror” stood at one end of the parking lot and when their back was to the group, everyone ran, as fast as their legs would carry them.  When the mirror turned around, it was their job to call out anyone and

Racing to the mirror

everyone that they saw move.  Now some people got tricky and sneaky and would hide, crouched down, behind someone taller than them and would tip toe while the mirror was turned toward them so as to gain some good ground.  When it was my turn to be a mirror, it was great fun.  However, it gets very nerve wracking when you have at least three people running, or trying to run to you from two feet away, but you constantly turn your head until someone finally tags you.


Lauren explaining to the students the next step in our activity.  Photo: Cameron Martindell

Student Lessons continued with a lesson from Lauren Fulton and me about trees!  The students learned to identify Birch, Pine and Spruce trees.  Do you know the difference?  I’ll tell you!  Birch has the white peeley bark.  Pine has
redish brown bark and the branches don’t start till higher up and spruce looks like a Christmas tree!  Candace and Caroline followed with their lesson on Every Man’s Right.  Every Man’s Right is the Finnish right to respectfully use land and resources.  We got to make forts!

Emma and Maddi peaking out from the turf hut.  Photo: Katie Swarts

For dinner that night we trekked to a turf hut where Teemu had made loimulohi (pronounced loy-mah-low-he).  It means glow cooked salmon.  There were also potatoes, beets, salad, and of course…you guessed it – bread and butter!

Fancy dinner platter. Photo: Katie Swarts

The loimulohi had sat on wood planks for about 4 hours cooking in front of the fire.  It was wonderful, so perfectly done.

For dessert we enjoyed a Finnish specialty, Lettu (pronounced let-two.  Make sure you enunciate both “t”’s).  But let me be clear about this: they are not crepes!  We were instructed to put jelly and whipped cream on them and fold them like a burrito and enjoy.  They were delicious as well.  We concluded our night with a testimony meeting.  Emma Dixon shared readings, reading by the glow of a headland and fire.  It was a very authentic and enriching experience.  Testimonies of healing were extremely inspiring to everyone.

Caroline (left) and Megan (right) enjoying some lettu. Photo: Katie Swarts
Salmon cooking on wooden planks in front of the fire. Photo: Katie Swarts
Emma sharing her readings by headlamp. Photo: Katie Swarts

Thursday morning consisted of three more student lessons.  Nick and Sierra gave a lesson on the signs of spring.  We all got to be kindergartners!

One of the groups explaining their signs of Spring. Photo: Katie Swarts

They quickly realized teaching college students as kindergartners is much harder than teaching actual kindergartners.  Lunch was early because we were going to have a power outage at noon for two hours.  Serigo and Emma taught their lesson after lunch about the science behind the Northern Lights.  They were troopers working with no power, which meant no projector.  Ashley and Maddi finished the lessons for the day with a reflective writing piece about our time at Metsäkaratno.

The afternoon ended with a lovely dip in a hole in the frozen lake.  Teemu instructed us how to be safe, which involved calm movements and lots of breathing.  We went from the sauna to the water several times.

Photo: Katie Swarts
Photo: Katie Swarts
Gage having a zen moment before submerging himself. Photo: Katie Swarts
Shelby in shock after submerging herself. Photo: Katie Swarts


The evening wrapped up with dinner, a debrief and much gratitude for Lauren, snack-of course, and a talent show.  Everyone performed in some way.  We had some improv, some signing, a little ukulele strumming, some dancing and of course there was tons of laughter.  The pièce de résistance of the night was the Northern Lights.  They made a beautiful and stunning appearance for our last night in Metsäkaratno.

Max & Ross performing for the talent show. Photo: Sergio Zapata Cornejo
Gettin artsy with the Northern Lights. Photo: Cameron Martindell







Friday morning started with the last two student led lessons.  Max and Ross taught about Finnish mythology.  Their lesson involved us acting out parts from the Kaleavala, which is an epic poem comparable to the Iliad or the Odyssey.   Kyla and Kara followed with their lesson that helped us recap what we had learned in Metsäkaratno.

Megan racing back to her team. Photo: Cameron Martindell

The afternoon followed with some Olympics set up by Teemu.  We were split into teams of 5 and had to compete in 5 different events.  There were team names and everything!  The games wrapped up with a ceremony that included tons of gratitude for all the guys have done for us these past two weeks.  They have not only selflessly given all of their time to us, but they taught us what Finns are really like – patient, kind and always loving.

Photo: Cameron Martindell

Friday ended with 20 loving goodbye hugs to Lauren Hinchman as she embarked on her trip back home to Principia College.  We all cleaned, packed and prepared ourselves for the 6-hour bus ride to Porvoo.

Post-Olympic Group.  Shot Photo: Sergio & Katie

Saturday consisted of the 6-hour bus ride to Provoo.  We made it to the farm!  First impressions from a few people:

Kyla: “It’s an actual farm.  What do you do with donkeys?”

Maddi: “Its surprisingly classy”

Ross: “pleasantly surprised”

This is a beautiful place just 30 minutes from Helsinki owned by a couple with a son and daughter.  There are two cats, birds (first time we’ve seen birds in several weeks), horses, donkeys, llamas, chickens, and dogs!  One donkey is allowed to roam around the grounds freely.  She opened a door and invited us into the chicken coop, which also happens to be where she finds her snack, as well as where the llamas have a little place under a roof.  The bedrooms have a rustic, homey feeling to them.  Dinner was a wonderful home cooked meal of cabbage casserole and rye bread.  The weather is supposed to warm up and we are all very excited to give of ourselves and enjoy some times on a farm.


Written by Katie Swarts

Travelogue 4/3-4/5

By: Megan Selby

Hello from Metsakartano! We have been here for a week now embracing ourselves in “the nature” and to me it already feels like home. Although we have done some new activities such as ice fishing, Finnish lumberjack traditions, or felting it has been full of adventures and new experiences.

April 3rd – We started off our Sunday morning with a beautiful Sunday Service put on by First Reader Geoffrey Hibbs and Second reader Sergio Zapata Cornejo. As previous bloggers said, the church services have been a great breath of fresh air. I have been very grateful for the different readers each week who share a part of themselves in a deeper way through Christian Science.

After church we went right into jewelry making. This is where we were able to get creative and go any direction we felt inspired to go. Teemu, our intelligent and versatile program guide instructed us in the ways of jewelry making. The basic steps were to file, saw, and cut to create something unique and meaningful to each of us. It was a way to be creative and let our own visions go anywhere we wanted them to go. We were doing this all out of soap stone or animal bones. I loved how open ended it was. People made beautiful necklace charms for their friends, family and themselves.

In the afternoon we were in groups going through three different stations, blacksmithing, lesson planning, and solo time. Matti, a blacksmith himself, was our teacher for today. He was very helpful because he had to manage the entire group. He helped us make fire sparkers made out of iron. This is where we would take a 4 inch ribbon of iron and heat and pond it to try and form the shape he sketched out for us. Everyone’s ended up looking different and unique. The process was to heat the metal and form a shape. You had to get the right temperature which was when the iron would turn orange. That’s when it was easy to shape into something different by hammering it against an anvil. While taking turns, there was someone pumping air into the fire place making the coals heat up and stay hot. It was a good workout. There was a standard outcome that Matti had for us but overall everyone’s was unique. I love how “failing” is okay here. It’s the way of life and how you learn to be better. It’s all about the atmosphere you give off to others and how you approach someone about their work.

During the lesson planning time we needed to design a place based lesson plan with a sustainability focus. We gained experience collaborating on lesson plan ideas, practiced communication skills, wanted everyone in the group feel valued and heard, and design a place-based sustainability lesson. This was a great time to sit by the warm fire talking and really thinking about what we have been learning from the fun but very impactful activities. My group talked about doing a lesson plan for 3rd graders on zero waste and how important it is to have a mentality of not wasting. It was a good way to put what we are learning into words and collaborate with our peers.

Solo time was where we went into the nature and were alone with our thoughts for two hours. It was a personal journey where we could reflect. I personally went right by the lake side where it looked out into the distance of endless frozen lake and forest. I was able to reflect and think about what I have been doing this past month and really be in tune with my thoughts. Although I was distracted I was able to feel a sense of peace and awareness of the environment around me. I thought about my past, my life currently, and my future. I have so much to be grateful for because of the experience we have already had on this trip. It’s so inspiring to think that sitting outside for two hours in the cold is a way to really reflect. I moved a couple different times because it started to lightly snow and I didn’t want my journal I was writing in to get wet. I realized that everything you do you have a choice. It’s the choice that you make that can affect the outcome.

The night didn’t end! There was a clear sky and bright stars out, do you know what that means? NORTHERN LIGHTS!!! It was going to be a high chance of seeing the Northern Lights tonight which was extremely exciting for everyone, because almost no one has ever seen them before. A small group of us went out around midnight through the woods onto the lake. While standing there we were all chatting because of the excitement and the thought of the unknown. Colors and shapes started to form in the sky, still faint but obviously more than what we ever seen happen in the sky. While watching the Northern Lights people were crying, holding hands, smiling, laughing, and enjoying every moment. It was honestly such a moment of pure gratitude for where we were. As the night went on there were many different groups going out watching and taking photos. I, along with everyone else, was so grateful to see something so unique and special. Sometimes we need to slow down in life and realize the beauty we have around us.

Sunday Service
Animal bone being carved to make a charm
Cutting the soap stone
Matti, our instructor for blacksmithing
Once being taught, Kyla taking action by hammering the metal to form the iron
The final product, which looks like a mustache but is really to start a fire with a flint stone
Lesson plan time around the fire, knitting, collaborating, and discussing
A beautiful view from solo time
Northern Lights
Northern Lights with the bright stars

April 4thLike previous bloggers have said there are some group members who have spent a lot of time outdoors and in camp settings and others who are very out of their comfort zones. Although that has seemed to stop nobody.

Today was our “free” day where we could choose to stay back and get assignments or anything we needed to catch up on done, so 7 of our group members stayed back for the day while the rest headed out on a journey into the wilderness.

The morning started off by gathering in a circle outside, where we met Huck and Mikka, our two nature wilderness guides. Huck talked to us about our circle of disturbance and circle of awareness. He made us realize how much we are capable of seeing and that we need to take advantage of listing and seeing around ourselves. After we were all ready to go we got our snowshoes and skis and stuffed into three cars and drove to the furthest destination where the trail started. The adventure started off with another circle talking about our splatter vision (using your full range of vision), and recognizing the space around us.

Throughout the trip we stopped a lot along the way talking about fungus, trees, and survival tips being in the woods. There were many questions, thoughts, and realizations being made. Along the way he gave me a map and told me to find where we should go because we are “lost”. He intentionally took us the wrong direction so that we could use the map and sun to find the direction we needed to go. Looking at the map I was able to see the direction we needed to go because of the hill we had just went over and how we needed to continue to go forward and slightly right. Walking through the woods leading the group I had finally found the red mark on a tree showing us the direction we needed to go in order to continue on the path. I love how supported I was when everyone was trusting in me to find our way. After hours had gone by we finally made it to the Giant’s Cauldron, which is a beautiful rock formation. We headed back a similar way to where we came from and drove to a new location where we would be having lunch around the fire that we all made. During our campfire he challenged our thoughts about our life style, sustainability, and nature. He made us question and think for ourselves. It was nice to be by the fire so we could all defrost from the wet and snowy journey we were just on. After a yummy meal of pizza, sausages, apples and pasta salad a smaller group decided to continue on skiing back to our home place in Metsakartano.

Our second half of the day continued, but instead of snowshoeing we went skiing. During this portion of the day Mikka lead us through the wilderness exploring and helped us from all the falls we had. Mikka loved photography and taught us a lot about wilderness skills. I had the pleasure of hanging out with him in the front of the pack racing him through the woods but ended up falling on my face or butt half the time. He is such an intelligent guy. We continued with learning about how to track animal footprints, identify trees and wood and what was important in preserving the nature around us. Skiing was a little harder but we had a blast! Lauren and Sergio were a huge entertainment when it came to going up hills on skis. The second half of the day was filled with love and lots of laughter. This was a good way to end our time in the wilderness. Total we had an 8 hour hike through the wilderness!





April 5- Today we had a journey called “nature awareness” which were led by the same two guides, Huck and Mikka. They both have expertise in wilderness survival skills as noted before. I loved what Huck said about what his job was, “the bridge between the modern world and reality”. It really put into my thought about how important it is to love nature. I do love nature but I sometimes take it for granted.

Once we were done recapping on similar startups before we went out, we started to walk on the road for a little into the woods with no talking but only observing. I started to notice things around me, shapes, sounds, living things, and my thought being distracted by those around me. It’s crazy to think about how distracted we get from people and objects around us.

Throughout the day we did little activities that were ways in teaching material. He found out last night that about half the group were studying education and wanted to relate what we were going to do today to that. So he created small lessons to teach us about nature. It started off with Shelby Barner hiding somewhere in the woods. We had no idea where we she had gone, so we needed to follow her tracks to go find her. We got to a location and circled up and only a few people had seen her. She was hiding under a tree in the snow with a cover over her that blended in with the ground. It’s interesting how distracted and unaware we are from things around us. Color and shape plays a big role with blending in and fitting in the woods. It takes very little to make yourself invisible. It reminds us that we have to listen and notice the things that we can’t see or aren’t overt. When you feel comfortable you can learn. Nikki Gamrath, our professor on the abroad stepped in and related it to the ZPD of education. ZPD is the difference between what a learner can do without help and what he or she can do with help. You don’t learn when you are way outside your comfort zone. If you are put in a too easy of a situation you aren’t being pushed. You need the right easy medium. She also related it to ethnographies which is a way to notice things professionally.

We did another activity called the human camera. Where one person has their eyes closed and the other guiding “the camera” and taking a picture. Once the guider has a perfect snap shot of what they want “the camera” to see they pinch “the camera” on the shoulder in which the person opens their eyes for 2-3 seconds. Then you would do it vice versa to your partner. When everyone was about one we came back together and closed our eyes to vision the picture we had just taken. As our eyes were closed he started playing a flute. This activity makes you recognize how much something can take a part in your life, and what you can notice. It also allows you to see more beauty around you which you may have missed, requires you to pay attention and be aware of the forest around you, and makes you trust one another.

We had some other activities in which we became more aware of the nature around us. Overall games and activities give you a whole different perspective of the world. It’s a great way to get students back into earth. After a long afternoon of snowshoeing and skiing we headed back to a campfire where we had some chaga mushroom tea. This was a good way to end the time we had with Huck. He shared some personal thoughts about how people are born in the sauna. The first thing you build in the house is a sauna because you can sleep there, make food, take a shower, and be warm. Huck is a very devoted individual when it comes to being in the nature, he has a Ted Talk and has his own website, He also has another Ted Talk coming soon, so stay tuned.

snow skiing 2

snow skiing 1

Shelby after hiding in the woods
Our human camera in action, Ross (the guy on the left) the camera, and Geoffrey (the one on the right) the photographer

snow skiing

Chaga mushroom tea

For the evening we ended with a debrief about the past couple days since people did different activities. Showing our appreciation and gratitude for the moments we have had, whether they were silly or not.

I love being here because it reminds me of my childhood, living in Massachusetts and being a counselor at Adventure Unlimited in Colorado. From the snow, beautiful wildlife, and activities centered on the outdoors, it’s the perfect way to spend time away from the city and nicer places we have been staying previously. It’s a great way to be given time to reflect and not focus on outside world issues or things your friends/family have been up to but rather a time to fully embrace our family we have created and the place we are in. We have only continued to learn more about the Finnish culture and outlook of Finland by being present in the moment. I have realized we need to take a step back and take what we have in and realize everything doesn’t have to be go, go, go. These past couple days have been a good journey of learning to love what you’re doing and to go with the flow. Our group is flexible and always willing to try new activities.

Thanks for everyone’s continued thoughts and support throughout our abroad! We feel the love as we go about our day. Thanks for reading!


Being in Finland for a month now we decided to have superlatives on mostly likely situations.

  1. Most likely to live in Finland?
    1. Ross
    2. Kara
  1. Most likely to cross country ski across Finland?
    1. Nick
    2. Clarice
  1. Most likely to sing while hiking?
    1. Ashley
    2. Emma
  1. Mostly likely to build a fire?
    1. Justin
    2. Maddi
  1. Most likely to be found in the sauna?
    1. Max
    2. Lauren
  1. Most likely to be journaling?
    1. Katie
    2. Shelby
  1. Most likely to throw a snowball?
    1. Gage
    2. Megan
  1. Most likely to be matching?
    1. Caroline
    2. Kyla
  1. Most likely to be taking pictures
    1. Sergio
    2. Candace
  1. Most likely to be knitting?
    1. Geoff
    2. Sierra,

Working our way through the Finnish Cottage Industry

By: Ross Johnson

As Americans, our experiences in felting, jewelry making, bone carving, and blacksmithing seem like once in a lifetime opportunities, but for our Finnish teachers they are common and ordinary tasks. Every single person we worked with seems to have some base level knowledge on how to correctly felt wool into shapes, or the relative strength of bone to soapstone, or how to correctly heat a blacksmithing fire. All of these experiences got me thinking; what role does the cottage industry play in Finnish life and how influential in Finnish history are these more handcrafted products?

First let me describe my interpretation of cottage industry. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary a cottage industry is “a system for making products to sell in which people work in their own homes and use their own equipment.” This is present in American history just before the industrial revolution began to churn the wheels of production.

Finland, conversely, began its cottage industry after World War 2. [1] After being thoroughly devastated from the Russian assault in 1940 and conceding some of the most resource rich land they owned, the Finnish economy was severely crippled. To reinvigorate the populace, the Cottage Industry Production (CIP) Committee was formed. The main directive of this committee was to organize and facilitate both training sessions for subsistence farmers, and “creating a sense of cultural continuity through the means of domestic craft practices.”[2]

Finland was then wrapped into an era dubbed the “Great Famine” when the resources normally used by the general population were hit by inflation and crop yields fell. To support themselves many farmers turned to crafting to survive. The government realized the void that could be filled by the cottage industry and sections of the department of agriculture and the CIP committee became tightly intertwined. The joint committees began “ arranging funding for the central and regional associations, and began collecting statistics about the post-war situation of cottage industry production. It had also suggested that the state should assume control over the collections for the Cottage Industry Museum as well as the range of cottage industry schools in the country.”[2]

The welfare state of Finland also began to find its roots in this time and the cottage industry benefitted from the political climate of the nation. The exchange of cultural values expressed as part of the initial vision of the CIP committee was used as reasoning for state funding. “Hence the committee sees it to be necessary to treat practitioners of income-generating cottage industries as practitioners of traditional folk crafts and thus belonging to the sphere of cottage industry . . .” This protection of hand crafts led to its proliferation amongst both rich and small Finnish households which in turn began to reflect itself in the school systems.

So far in every university program we have visited and in the teacher training schools, handcrafting is respected and an influential part of the learning process. The 3rd grade students we observed in the Lapland teacher training school woodworking classes were just as, if not more, proficient in tool use and techniques as any high school level class in the States. Though, even with all this history of the need for crafts to survive, the process, rather than the end product, is still the more important part to the Finns. In this age of instant gratification the patience, perseverance, and persistence it takes to craft something with bare hands is a rarity. Crafting is also relaxing, therapeutic, and meditative at the same time. We have been fortunate enough to have been given the slightest of exposures to this world thanks to our adventure in Finland.


[1] Kraatari, E. (2016). Domestic Dexterity and Cultural Policy The Idea of Cottage Industry and Historical Experience in Finland from the Great Famine to the Reconstruction Period [Abstract]. JYVÄSKYLÄ STUDIES IN EDUCATION, PSYCHOLOGY AND SOCIAL RESEARCH. Retrieved April 5, 2016.

[2] Finnish Cottage Industry and Cultural Policy: A Historical View – Nr 01 – 2013 – Nordisk kulturpolitisk tidsskrift – Idunn – tidsskrifter på nett. (n.d.). Retrieved April 05, 2016, from

[3] Group, T. (n.d.). Sustainable Crafts. Retrieved from

[4] Department of Teacher Education. (n.d.). Retrieved April 05, 2016, from

What Does a Finnish Education Mean for College Grads?


Halfway through our studies here in Finland and we have been able to get a good glimpse of the future prospects for college grads in Finland. As many of our readers may know, Finland has been mired in a deep economic recession for the last several years that has been characterized by “the gross domestic product […] fail[ing] to grow for four years,”[1] and youth unemployment hovering between 22% and 23%.[2] The implications of this economic recession on college graduates have been noticeably felt.

As a college senior who has been looking into my options after college, I am similarly interested what Finnish college grads plan on doing after graduation. Interestingly enough, conversations about this topic have been easy to come by, and have not been what I expected. After studying the Finnish education system for several weeks on campus, I came to Finland with what I now know were slightly inflated expectations. While the education system deserves high praise for its success, it has become quite apparent that there are still some issues to be worked out in other parts of society.

During our first week in Helsinki we had the opportunity to speak with Eeva-Kaisa Linna, a senior advisor at the Finnish National Board of Education. In our conversation with Ms. Linna, I caught my first glimpse of some of the issues that still need to be worked out. When I asked whether or not Finnish university students valued their education, she responded that, “many of the current university students do not value their education or take their studies seriously because it has become increasingly likely that they will not have jobs after school.”[3] Upon further questioning, Ms. Linna admitted that the state-funded education is often taken advantage of because students have the ability to stretch out their studies for seven years or more and many students receive a stipend. And harping back on her previous statement, why would they leave to enter a job market that has very little future for them? This conversation really got me thinking about what I would do if I could not find a job right out of college or did not attend graduate school.

I had another excellent chance to explore this subject in Rovaniemi. While visiting a teacher training school, I had the opportunity to chat with one of the teacher trainees, Jessi. When I sat down with Jessi my primary motivation was to figure out why she decided to be a teacher. She explained that being a teacher in Finland is a highly respected profession with a good likelihood of being employed. Since the government regulates how many teachers are trained, most graduates of the program find themselves with a job right away. However, when I asked Jessi if she had always wanted to be a teacher, she said that she had not and her decision to do so was partially motivated by this potential for employment. She had originally studied forestry, a popular area of study in Finland due to the large forestry industry, but knowing that her current prospects for employment were slim, decided to apply for the teacher-training program; a sentiment that was shared by other teacher trainees in Helsinki who described the job market as “terrible.” When I asked about whether she had considered starting her own business instead of seeking employment at an established company, she replied “absolutely not.” Furthermore she explained that her father had started his own business when she was young. She recounted that her father’s decision to open a restaurant was a complete failure. He put in twice the hours of his previous job, took a substantial pay cut, and gave up all of his vacation time in order to run a restaurant that was subsequently unprofitable. I was curious as to why the business struggled so much, so I asked. Jessi responded by saying that she believed that it was the stringent regulations and astronomical taxes that kept the business from reaching its full potential. To put the situation in perspective, the earned income tax rate on a sole-proprietorship in Finland is on a progressive scale starting at 33%, almost double the starting tax rate for small business in the U.S.[4] And to compound that, Jessi explained that it can take up to two years just to acquire the permits to open the doors of your own business. In short, being your own boss in Finland is not very enticing.

This conversation had me wondering, what do graduates do if they do not find a job, start their own business or continue their studies? One answer came here at Metsakartano, where we met Sauli, one of our guides for this portion of the trip. Sauli is a student studying tourism and working at Metsakartano to fulfill a school requirement. I had the chance to talk with him about his post college plans, and as you might guess he was not optimistic about finding a job. He explained that the tourism industry in Finland is not only small but has taken a big hit since the worldwide recession in 2008. As he believes he will not find a job in the current economic climate, his plan is to wait it out by travelling. While I think it is incredibly cool that he intends to visit Morocco, I cannot help feel sorry for him because of his predicament.

To kind of wrap up these ideas, I would like to remark that I am surprised. It is shocking to me that a country that places innovation in education so highly on its to-do list, has had such restrictive policy concerning the development of small business. While critics might argue that the tech giant Nokia was able to prosper in this environment, why couldn’t any other company? I would reply that no company hits it big overnight. It takes years of preparation, development, and hard work to take an unknown small business and make it a success. In my experience, success in enterprise comes from being creative, making something that no one has ever seen but can change someone’s life. This kind of success is achieved in Finnish schools, but as I see it, could use a little help in Finland’s small business world.


-Nick Boyd


[1] Petri Sajari, “Finnish economy is still paralysed,” Helsinki Times, last modified December 14, 2015, accessed April 2, 2016,

[2] “Finland Youth Unemployment Rate,” Trading Economics, last modified April 2016, accessed April 2, 2016,

[3] Eeva-Kaisa Linna, interview by the author, Helsinki, Finland, March 7, 2016.

[4] “Income taxation – companies and organisations,” Vero Skatt, accessed April 2, 2016,

Not Just About “Catching the Fish”

By: Clarice Bruch

Greetings from Metsakartano! We’ve been here for almost a week now. In case you’re wondering why you’ve missed seeing our shining faces on Instagram or Facebook- on the night of our arrival, with encouragement from Lauren, our professor, we decided as a group to take a break from posting on social media.  This is to promote a strong sense of community and place. From what I’ve seen, I think it’s been a great change of pace for everyone.

March 30th Wednesday was our second full day in Metsakartano, and already it felt like we were beginning to find the rhythm being here. Which, is probably exactly what Lauren had in mind when she planned this section of our abroad. Her class, Pedagogy of Place, is all about place, and the effect it has on people, specifically as learners. And learning we have been doing!

Some of our group members have spent a lot of time outdoors and in a camp-like setting (we have four Eagle Scouts in our group!), and others are very far out of their comfort zones, trying a lot of new things. That being said, I don’t think anyone had much prior knowledge about Finnish lumberjack traditions, which is what we learned about on Wednesday morning. Building on our previous knowledge about the forestry industry in Finland, we learned about the physical strength, ingenuity and creativity that Finnish lumberjacks had to have in order to survive in pre-industrialized forestry industry. Our program guide, Teemu, (the guide mentioned in the previous post who has been here for 10 years) explained that logging by hand is not practiced anymore because it is much more expensive and dangerous compared to today’s mechanized methods, but that these traditions are kept alive because it is such a big part of Finnish history. They fell out of common practice in the late 50’s when logging started to become much more industrialized.

We practiced balancing just like lumberjacks used to balance on their logs that were floating down the river. We tried two-man sawing and even learned some of the competitive games that lumberjacks invented in their free time. These were silly games such as trying to make your opponents lose their balance, or how many times someone could jump over a stick in their hands. The purpose of these games were, in essence, to keep all of the lumberjacks alive: as 15 to 20 big, macho, men were living together in a cabin for months at a time, (not to mention all equipped with knives and axes,) they needed ways to prove their manliness without fighting and possibly hurting each other… it sounds like these games were a way to keep competition friendly and lighthearted during the long months of work. Not to mention to stay entertained! Just another example of the intelligent foresight and common sense prevalent in Finnish culture.

Teemu and Ville, two of our program guides, explaining what it means to be a lumberjack.
Shelby assimilating into Finnish lumberjack culture, featuring a flannel and showing off her muscles carrying an old-fashioned chainsaw.
Caroline found her calling as a “lumber-jill.”
Justin and Geoff “leg-wrestling”, attempting to prove which of them is the manliest lumberjack of all.

After lunch we had four hours of felting! Who knew any of us could felt for four hours… but we did! We met two other “learning facilitators”: Hanna and Tanya who were both full of joy, enthusiasm and patience. They emphasized that this was a time period of ‘experiential learning’: as Hanna said, “use your hands and your brains to learn.” Soon after the introduction, we were getting into all colors of wool, and creating all sorts of things from felted balls, to bags, to bowls… some of us even learned how to spin wool into yarn! I think all of us gained a greater appreciation for the beautiful handicrafts that fill the gift shops here in Finland. It took a lot of time, patience and dedication, but the time passed with bubbling conversation, laughter, and even some singing as we worked. After cleaning up, Tanya led a simple yet profound debrief of the afternoon. Many of us were surprised by how drained and tired we felt- but how often in this day in age does one dedicated 3+ hours to a project? We deduced that we had put a lot of effort and dedication into our projects, and learned as we went!

Nick learning how to use a spinning wheel. (We’ve started to call him Rumplestiltskin.) (…Not really)
Can you say felting, felting, and more felting?


After what felt like a well-deserved dinner enjoyed in the main lodge, we hiked about a kilometer  up a snowy path to an old lumberjack’s cabin for our Wednesday night testimony meeting. We learned the cabin had been built in the early 50’s, and it was a really interesting way to tie everything we had learned from the morning. All of our services up until this point had been cozy, and this was no exception: in this quaint wooden structure, in a room overlooking the frozen lake, we sang hymns, listened to readings and shared testimonies. I have been exceptionally grateful for the strong sense of community our church services have had.

Heading into the cabin for church!

After church and a uniting debrief of the last few days, we enjoyed a snack, brought by our lovely guides, Ville, Teemu and Sauli, including freshly baked bread, chocolate, and of course: coffee! In addition to bringing us delicious sustenance, our friendly Finns had also heated up a traditional wood fired sauna for us! We all headed over and were sweating before we knew it! Many of our group had been in saunas previously in the trip, but this was the largest and the first one that was wood fired- definitely a memorable experience! “The abroad that saunas together, stays together!”


March 31st Thursday Morning after breakfast we went to an inside gym for some time on the climbing wall and archery! It was a fun, active morning with a “choose your own adventure” feel. When we weren’t right up on the wall or shooting the bow and arrow, we all enjoyed chatting and supporting our group members.



Then we began the first of our student-led lessons! For Lauren’s class, we all designed a place-based lesson with a partner. This lesson included fun activities like indoor hockey and javelin throwing! After lunch we enjoyed class-time with Lauren leading, and another student-led lesson focused on art and design inspired by nature. We have a great classroom in our dorm building including giant bean bags, a big screen projector and a ferocious bear painted on the wall.

The painted bear. (Great doodling inspiration.)
Indoor hockey!

A bonfire on the snowy lake-front greeted some of our group for whittling after dinner. One of the perks of Metsakartano, we are enjoying is their after-dinner snack, fondly dubbed as “second dinner.” After snack the evening activities varied. Some went back down by the lake for some sauna time. Others knitted, worked on homework, read, watched a movie together and did other things to unwind and enjoy each other’s company.


April 1- All of Friday was met with anticipation- it was April Fool’s Day, after all, and we were all expecting to be pranked, (by each other and possibly Teemu. We wouldn’t put it past him, at all! We suspected something sinister behind his blonde hair and sing-song voice.)

The morning was an early start for ice fishing! After breakfast, we headed out onto the frozen lake with some vital equipment such as seat pads, ice-drills, dead maggots (for the fish) and chocolate cookies (for us). Teemu showed us how to drill the hole and send the line through the ice for the best chance of catching fish. But, he also explained that catching fish is not the only reason one goes out ice-fishing. In fact, he said that in the 10 years he’s lived at Metsakartano, he’s never caught anything while ice fishing here- and we are all now tied with his personal record. (We also didn’t catch any fish.) However, we were able to experience firsthand the peace and beauty of sitting out in the middle of the lake. We also shared laughs and quality time sitting out together. He even hand delivered chocolate cookies while we were waiting. (And they were delicious- no pranks yet!) We ended our morning outing by roasting sausages on the campfire. So even though we didn’t catch any fish, we were full and happy when heading back to our house.

In case you’re wondering, ice-fishing fishing poles are tiny!
Drilling through the ice. It was over 3 feet thick!
Come out little fishies! Emma and I tried serenading the fish to persuade them to bite, but they were a tough crowd.

IMG_4831 IMG_4835 IMG_4838 IMG_4843 IMG_4845

Sausage probably tastes better than fish anyway…

After lunch we headed to a classroom for a “sustainable development panel”, and met a surprise: bowls of chocolates next to a sign: “No April Fools! –Teemu”… a little suspicious at first, we decided nothing was wrong with the chocolate and still weren’t pranked. (Maybe Teemu is just that nice!)

Our sustainability panel included Jari, the director of Metsakartano and a special guest: environmental educator and trainer Janna Hilkula. There they answered questions and led discussions regarding sustainable development and education’s role in it. One of our meaningful conversations led by Janna was about what we really “can’t live without.” We then articulated our ideas about true needs (versus “wants”) with enthusiastic songs, dances, and poems… these were met with thunderous applause. We were all excited to participate, as this activity is not unknown to students of Principia’s own Nikki Gamrath. A huge takeaway for the group is the importance of joy in education, and how vital it is to learning.

Another student-led lesson followed, which included sitting out and appreciating one’s surroundings. This tied in very well to the sustainability panel we had just finished. Dinner was second-only to the after dinner snack: Finnish pancakes! Yum! Another relaxed evening followed, and still no pranks yet! Unless you count the delicious surprise chocolate, or the fact that some closet doors were opened… We invited Sauli and Teemu for Star Wars, and a group of us enjoyed the movie all together. (Teemu even made us all popcorn- classic Teemu!)

A surprised awaited as the credits rolled: group members Kyla, Maddi and Emma rushed in and told us to put our shoes on! We timidly and cautiously followed them to the building next door to find… a dance party waiting! They even had disco lights flashing in “Club ‘Kartano”. We danced the night away- but not too late (we needed our rest for a big morning of felting!) As I tucked myself into bed- content even though I hadn’t caught any fish and tired from dancing- I felt grateful that everyone’s pranks were more delightful surprises than anything. I guess we were on guard for nothing- perhaps Finland’s culture of trust is becoming engrained in all of us. (Unless you count Sierra and Max’s door-opening scheme… nice try guys!)

I think one of my favorite things about Friday was the idea that it’s not all about “catching the fish.” Yes, it literally applied to our ice fishing adventure, but is also a metaphor we can take away for life on a larger scale. How many times do we go into an activity with distinct expectations, and when they’re not met, we feel disappointed? How much more present can we be, and how much more could we get out of an experience if we acknowledge the importance and value of the process? Just some food (or bait) for thought.

April 2- Well rested, we headed to felting after breakfast on Saturday. We had already spent four hours working earlier in the week, and here we reunited with some of our projects that needed time to dry. Many of us had left on Wednesday feeling tired, and it was exciting to re-visit our projects with fresh eyes and to see the fruits (or felts) of our labor. Some of our creations: hot pads, garlands, little gnomes, felted animals, coin purses and wizard hats.

A collection of our creations!

After lunch we met our guest blacksmithing expert: Matti. In the afternoon, we started a rotation of three stations. Some went blacksmithing, some had a class with Lauren and some went for solo time in nature. I was in the latter group, and walked across the lake for a quiet afternoon of reflection in the snowy wonderland. I heard good reports from blacksmithing and class time as well!

To probably no one’s surprise, after dinner (and second-dinner), most of us are sitting around the fire- playing cards, sending emails, journaling, etc., which is where I’m writing from now. It’s been a great first week at Metsakartano, and we still have many things to look forward to coming up!

Homework time by the fire!

I love that being here has given us all a change to slow down a little bit. After the excitement of the city and our arctic resort, we are now being given the time and space for a bit more reflection and quality time without a lot of outside distraction. We are continuing to learn more about Finland and Finnish culture through the handicrafts and skills we have been learning. Something I will take away from this section of our trip is how important process is, and how easily it can be overlooked. I believe everyone in our group will be able to think back to a frosty morning out on the ice, and remember that it’s not just about “catching the fish.”

Thanks for reading and for everyone’s continued support! It means a lot to us as we continue to travel. 🙂


From Remote to Even More Remote

Emma Dixon, reporting live from Metsakartano. Not sure what Metsakartano means? Well in Finnish it literally means “forest mansion”. So, here I am, reporting from the forest mansion in rural Finland.

The past three days have been a flurry of reindeer, bus rides and the whittling of spoons. Sunday we started strong waking up early in order to pack up and move out of our fancy log cabins. We stored our belongings in the lodge and after a hearty breakfast of cereal and bread we headed out for our Reindeer excursion! It was a long 5 minute walk to the reindeer farm, and once there we layered up with snow suits, gloves, hats and lots of blankets!

Bundled up in very fashionable snowsuits!
Bundled up in very fashionable snowsuits!

We were paired up and then directed to the sleigh where we would enjoy our lovely reindeer ride. We sat and experienced a relaxing reindeer ride (they prefer a slower pace) while also viewing the beautiful rural Lapland; snow, Birch, Pines, Spruce, and reindeer butts for about 45 minutes.

Lovely view
Lovely view
Enjoying great company and cozy hats.
Enjoying great company and cozy hats.
Simple, beautiful landscape.
Simple, beautiful view.

I was really grateful for the ride and the time we had to bond with our sleigh parters. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to be able to be pulled across the snowy Finnish landscape behind actual Finnish reindeer. After our meander of a ride, we regathered in a huge teepee and enjoyed, yes, you guessed it, hot blueberry juice and coffee around a fire pit.

Post reindeer, warming toes
Post reindeer, warming toes.

As soon as all of us could feel our toes again, we headed back to the lodge for a classic lunch of Salmon soup. Now, you may  be wondering: “Hey! Isn’t it Sunday? Did they forget to go to…” No we did not forget church, please, what kind of abroad group do you think we are? We simply settled on having a nice afternoon service since the reindeer excursion took up our morning, it’s Easter after all.

Special room, special people, special service.
Special room, special people, special service.

We cant forget that today is Easter, which means its the 27th, which means that tonight is the night we get to sleep in GLASS IGLOOS! Yes, you read that right, GLASS IGLOOS. Any regular Pinterest user has scrolled past pictures of these special igloos and pinned one in their “travel here someday” board, so our excitement was validated. For those of you who do not know what Pinterest is, it is merely the most artsy of social media places, where users can post their dreams on pin-boards (very exciting, I know.) Anyways… we had to wait a full two hours before checking into our dreams, so, a lot of us kept busy by having a classic snow day adventure at a nearby sledding hill. We shredded down the icy hill on plastic sleighs that were too small for most of us, had snowball fights, made snowmen, snow-angels and so on. Looking on, it seemed like a scene out of a classic christmas movie. It was perfect.


Not easy to look this good while sledding down a hill!
Not easy to look this good while sledding down a hill!
Frosty, is that you?
Frosty, is that you?

The time flew by, and soon enough it was time to check into our igloos and spend the rest of the day and night not sure how to treasure our moments of “living the life.” The Igloos were pretty darn cool to say the least, and surprisingly, very warm inside. Many of us, exhausted from our long day of hard work (play), laid down on our beds after our initial amazement of being inside a glass igloo and didn’t get up until summoned to dinner.

Yes, you can post this on your Pinterest board.
Yes, you can post this on your Pinterest board.
Ecstatic to have arrived!
Our coolness levels boosted 100x after spending the night in glass igloos.


After dinner we had the night to ourselves (and our igloos). Some people went on walks, some relaxed, and some hung out in the sauna. As the night came to a close, many of us kept our eyes out for the Northern Lights, and while the most we saw was a faint green something or other through the clouds, we are keeping our hopes up to see them sometime this week. Overall our stay was special. I can’t speak for everyone,  but I sure felt like a princess and it truly was a dream come true.

The next morning we rose early for a travel day down south to Metsakartano (the forest mansion). Our trip was a whopping 8 and a half hours. We left after breakfast and arrived just in time for dinner (couldn’t have planned it better myself). Lucky for us the bus had wifi, so a lot of us were able to work on homework, while most of us slept, read, ate chips and browsed the internet. We stopped twice, one being at the busiest rest stop I’ve ever been to. So busy, a few of us just went back to the bus to use the bathroom. We finally found all the people that live in Lapland! Once we got to Metsakartano we were reunited with our professor Lauren Hinchman, who will be leading the program this upcoming week. We had a debrief with Lauren, and we were all very excited to be gifted with real, authentic Finnish knives! Don’t worry, we will be learning how to care for our new precious possessions in the day to come. For now we will just go carve our names into every nook and cranny of this place (totally joking, we wouldn’t dull our blades doing such nonsense). We then settled in for the night and got a solid nights sleep before a day of new adventures.

Nikki and Lauren!
Nikki and Lauren!
The cool way to wear knives.
The cool way to wear knives.

Tuesday(today) was long and fun! We started strong with a nice metaphysical preparation for the day, and of course breakfast. After breakfast we met Jari (pronounced Yari), the Metsakartano manager. He gave us a tour of the camp, and explained the sustainable practices of Metsakartano. We visited the biomass furnace and waste management center. It was exciting to connect what we have learned in Sustainable Development to what Jari was explaining. All in all, Metsakartano hopes to have zero carbon emissions in the next couple of years. The only thing stopping them is Caroline’s lens cap, which she sadly dropped into the depths of the biomass furnace room.

Biomass furnace! RIP Carolines lense cap
Biomass furnace! RIP Carolines lens cap

The rest of the tour showed the beauty of the camp. The camp is alongside a frozen lake, reminding quite a few of us of our own camp experiences. Surrounded by countless snowy Birch, Pines and Spruce, it is hard not to feel a connection to the beauty of this place.

Walking on lake while being overwhelmed by the beauty of this place.

After the tour and after lunch, we had an afternoon full of activities consisting of fire building, knife care and use, and a brief seminar of how to pack a bag for a two day backpacking trip. It was a ton of fun, we spent about 30 minutes at each station perfecting our whittling skills(carving wood into things), fire building skills, and learning what to bring on a short backpacking trip (lots of chocolate, some water and a sleeping bag).

Cutting wood for our fire practice!
Cutting wood for our fire practice!
Deciding whether to pack more chocolate or a sleeping pad.
Deciding whether to pack more chocolate or a sleeping pad.

The best part was getting to know our 3 different teachers, one of whom has lived at Metsakartano for almost 10 years! The other two are here just for a couple months. One is studying tourism while the other is here to fulfill his civil service requirement, or as he put it “avoiding the military.” We then transitioned to class time with Lauren. This time was spent mostly on catching Lauren up on our past weeks in Finland. We shared special moments, what has stood out to us, compared different locations to each other and discussed our plans for the upcoming week. After our meeting we were all very ready for dinner, and rightfully so after a day of hard work and learning how to survive in the wilderness. We happily ate our meal as a group and chatted away with our new Finnish friends.

Katie whittling something very pointy out of wood, perhaps a chop stick?
Katie whittling something very pointy out of wood, perhaps a chop stick?

After dinner part of the group went down to the lake to practice their whittling skills by a camp fire. Making spoons, knives, spatulas and whatever else our elementary whittling skills would allow. We were shown how to use embers to burn a spoon, and laughed as our guides made a lot of Finnish jokes we really did not understand.

Like I said before, the past three days have been a flurry, but no doubt a highlight of the trip. We got to ride in reindeer pulled sleighs, sleep in magic ice igloos, and arrived at one of the most beautiful places we have been yet. I am eternally grateful for this opportunity, and can hardly believe we are half way through.

-Emma Dixon





What Do Education and Sustainability Have To Do With Place?

The top of our beautiful resort- Kakslauttanen  Photo: Nick Boyd
The top of our beautiful resort- Kakslauttanen
Photo: Nick Boyd

12295506_10153338074570740_8316232365303174595_nYesterday, we left behind our glass igloos and traded them in for a dorm style cabin, beginning our ‘camp’ stay at the outdoor youth center, Metsakartano, in Rautavaara (about 300 miles northeast of Helsinki). Our professor, Lauren Hinchman, greeted us as we pulled in after a 8 1/2 hour bus ride (don’t worry, we had wifi). This week, Lauren will be our main teacher continuing our study of the Pedagogy of Place (one of our classes). While in Metsakartano, Lauren will guide us through our exploration on place in Finland. As you all know, one of the main objectives of this abroad is to find the connection between education, sustainability, and place. We have come to the point where we have gained enough insight on these topics to start making big connections.

The view from our walk today
The view from our walk today

Throughout our trip, we have all been keeping journals to document and reflect on our journeys. These journals come with us to group debriefs, guest lectures and to bed. They have become dear friends to each of us. Nikki assigns check in assignments for us to synthesize our experiences. Our last check in asked us to compare our experiences at the University of Helsinki and the University of Lapland and to reflect on how we have seen sustainability fit in to it all. As I came to this question, I was shocked that I didn’t have a big conclusion ready to jot down the second I looked at the assignment. We have spent hours learning about what makes the Finnish education system tick and how the Finns work to preserve the environment around them, but how do those two come together?! Time for some serious thinking, which is easier said than done when on a bumpy 8 1/2 hour bus ride- wifi wouldn’t help me here. One common theme we have talked about is how education can instill sustainable practices in children from a young age. However, I felt like there was a greater connection that I was missing. Place, the other aspect of our program, is a hard theme to forget. After our days spent felting, in the sauna, teepee building, and drinking hot blueberry juice, it is hard to ignore the importance of Finnish culture and tradition in all aspects of life. Then I wondered… could place be the missing commonality between sustainability and education? Let me explain.

When speaking with Finnish sustainability experts throughout our trip, they have emphasized the importance of using what they have in Finland. We have learned not to ask questions like, “How can other countries use Finland’s sustainable resources management?” because they will explain that their system works for Finland because they are well versed in what Finland has and needs. In order for other countries to be sustainable, they need to gain an understanding of the needs and resources of their own country like Finland has gained for themselves. Hence, there is no rule book to the perfect sustainable country. It comes from knowing what a country has and working to responsibly enhance those assets, whether that is people, energy, economy, trees, oil etc.

When speaking with Finnish education experts throughout our trip, they emphasized the importance of knowing their people and place when designing their current system. We asked, “How can other countries learn from what the Finnish education system has done?” The answer was peculiarly similar to that of the sustainability gurus. They said, “Know your country and people!” Not only does embracing their place allow them to make effective educational policies but it also directly effects the classroom. We have seen, in primary and secondary education, that school and place are integrated throughout many subjects. For example, while in Lapland we saw art projects in third grade hallways based on the Northern Lights. We also witnessed the importance and respect surrounding craft education at the University of Lapland, something truly unique to Finland. Over and over, we experienced the acknowledgment and use of place as an important factor in Finnish education.

Now, this may seem like an over simplification, there are many more factors that go into a successful education and sustainable development system (ex. government, population, economy, equity) however, as someone highly interested in the connection between these three factors, it is a connection worth making. From what I have experienced on our trip, sustainability development and education systems become more effective and efficient when crafted through the lens of place.

This week, we will be truly focusing on Finland as a place- looking at its culture, traditions and people. At this point, it is impossible for us to just focus on one aspect of our abroad- our sustainability and education hats (as our professors say) are stuck on forever. Our quest for connections is not over yet! This week we will get an even greater picture on what it means to be a Finn and I can’t wait to continue our study while whittling, hanging in the sauna, fire building and just bein’ a Finn.

Happy Tuesday! Kiitos!