Peer-teacher trainings and peer-taught lessons were held for four days with different groups of youth and adults. Photo: Jari Kivelä
Aalto Researcher Elina Koivisto expected to see misery and despair at the refugee camp, but she returned from Jordan moved and full of admiration.
'The camp is, of course, a dismal place, but regardless of this, the people were unbelievably energetic and productive. They were incredibly intelligent, some even well-educated, and full of potential to do whatever they wanted if just given a chance', she recounts her experiences at the Za'atari refugee camp, where a team from Aalto University piloted the Koulu School peer learning model with Demos Helsinki and Finn Church Aid.
The model is based on two core ideas; anyone can teach once they identify their special topic, and five essential elements are enough for a good lesson. These five elements are activation, theory, motivation, interaction, and application. Last August, the model enchanted visitors at Burning Man, which is known as a temporary community of co-creation and creativity, and six months later it was piloted with a Nepalese students and teaching officials.
At the Za'atari camp, Ms Koivisto and other members of the team first spent three days building an inspiring learning environment with the camp's residents. After this, peer-teacher trainings and peer-taught lessons were held for four days with different groups of youth and adults.
'Due to the local culture, boys and girls were taught in separate groups. The objective was to keep group sizes at a maximum of just over twenty students, but the students were so excited, that many brought their friends and parents, too, so we ended up running the trainings for more than 60 students at once’, Koivisto reminisces.
Five essential elements are enough for a good lesson. Photo: Jari Kivelä
One of the main principles of Koulu is ‘Everyone has something to teach’ and it encourages everyone to discover their skills and knowledge. Then, the curriculum is co-created by its participants. Due to this, the scope of lessons was extensive ranging from football to mathematics and knitting. However, the harsh reality was strongly present, too.
'One young peer teacher taught mediation of disputes. During rap lessons lyrics dealt with a mother's death and how it feels when bombs fall nearby.'
“The feedback we have received on Koulu School has for the most part been extremely positive. Those who attended the program felt that teaching lessons was an empowering experience. Many said that the experience helped them forget their fear and gave them positive energy”. According to Ms Koivisto, the greatest challenge with regard to the school's future is in how the Finnish team could make themselves obsolete.
‘We want to design Koulu School into a method that supports the youth in fragile contexts. Moreover, it should be scalable, so that it can be easily sent anywhere in the world and implemented by the local people. Now, we are analysing the data and feedback from the pilots in order to develop the concept further and work together with Finn Church Aid to integrate the method in their programmes’, Elina Koivisto explains.
Researcher, Aalto University
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