Joyful learning environments are active and cheerful.
Sharon and Mikko Auri run a pet park called Lomamäen Lemmikkipuisto in the countryside about 50 km west of Helsinki in a small village called Torbacka. The park has over 150 animals including sheep, goats, pigs as well as more exotic animals such as lizards, parrots and sugar gliders.
During the summer time the school pets go on a holiday to the park to get some fresh air and sunshine. The children in the school go to the park at this time to visit their school pets, as well as to see the other animals that are there. On the visit the children are taken on a guided tour of all the animals, during which they learn about where the animals are from, what they eat etc. They are also encouraged to handle or touch some of the animals especially the tame birds.
There is an organised nature walk, where in small groups the children go on a walk through the forest looking at the Finnish countryside and learning about some ice age rock formations including a bore hole which the children find fascinating. Fact sheets are given to the children and educational activities are organised. There is also a well-equipped play park with climbing frames and a bouncy castle.
We aim to make three visits a year to the pet park, summer, autumn and winter, in this way the children can observe the seasonal changes, how this affects the animals and the effect on the countryside. There is a Lapp tent next to the reindeer enclosure where the children can have sausages and soup and in the winter skiing and sledging routes are available for the children to safely use.
All the children get to know about the pet park soon after joining the school and this creates a feelings of familiarity and surprise that creates a magic mix of anticipation and excitement and a very definite feeling that this is our pet park and we love it!