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Learn about art, bats, and empathy at Helsinki Biennial

Helsinki Biennial has been produced in cooperation with many operators in the city. One of the most natural forms of cooperation is the one between the biennial and the City of Helsinki’s Education Division (Kasko). Content aimed at schools and communication about the offerings for teachers are carried out in cooperation.

“Helsinki Biennial offers schools a unique art experience in an environment in which nature and history come close together. The setting is excellent for learning in a genuine environment. The central aim of the visit’s learning materials is to open up and wrap these possibilities in such a form that learners can get more out of their visit. We also hope that the ready-to-use learning materials and tips will help teachers so that it would be as appealing as possible to arrive at the island with a pupil group”, says Curator of Education Sonja Taimiaho.

The cooperation between Kasko’s professionals and the biennial’s audience engagement work has been especially practical in the creation of the biennial’s mobile learning game. The pandemic has forced us to work on the shared creative project remotely. The game, built on the Seppo platform and aimed at pupils from the 4th to the 6th year of comprehensive school, will, however, be finished on schedule and available for schools to use when the new school year begins in August. In the capable hands of a diversified group of professionals, the game’s content will be naturally connected with both the biennial’s artworks and the schools’ curriculum. The island’s art and bats will find their way also to the youngest learners in the form of a learning game aimed at early childhood education. Day-care centres can use the game also without anyone having to visit the island.

“The Education Division has used the Seppo platform already for several years. It was natural to build these mobile learning games on a platform that was already familiar to educators and learners. The game project was conducted in good cooperation between city divisions, and content production enabled education professionals to use their expertise and learn new things about art at the same time. In the game, Helsinki Biennial’s works of art and the Vallisaari environment are closely linked with the curriculum of many subjects”, says Panu Hatanpää, Kasko’s pedagogical specialist.

Another example of the entire city’s cooperation is that Helsinki Biennial participates in the City of Helsinki’s basic education culture path. The culture path contains suggestions for each age group on cultural events organised during the school year. The culture path’s aim is to ensure that pupils have an opportunity to visit various cultural events and use art and culture as their learning environment.

“Visiting Helsinki Biennial offers a unique art and cultural experience together with children and young people. Schools can include the visit in their culture path, either by making use of the available materials or by planning the visit on their own”, Hatanpää says.

The inaugural Helsinki Biennial’s head curators, Pirkko Siitari and Taru Tappola, have entitled the biennial The Same Sea. The name refers to the mutual dependence that prevails on our planet. Interaction and interconnection are central themes in many of the biennial’s works of art.

“From the point of view of audience engagement, the works of art dealing with interconnection and interaction were a fruitful basis for the school cooperation contents. Environmental crisis and everyone’s chances to influence our environment’s well-being are often discussed even with the youngest learners – according to their age, of course. Empathy has also been recognised as an important skill of the future. Multivoiced, ambiguous art that uses versatile ways of expression has exceptional capabilities to support empathy education. At its best, it enables situations in which our eyes are opened to entirely new things and we are able to put ourselves in another’s place. These skills are building blocks of a fairer and more sustainable world, and the importance of learning them cannot be emphasised too much”, says Sonja Taimiaho.

Read more about Helsinki Biennial’s events for schools here.