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The phenomenon "I explore and code" A la Karviaistie A la Telih

We all have heard that schools should offer more chances to the students to learn how to learn. But, like Jim Kwik has summarized well in his well-known book "Limitless: Upgrade Your Brain, and Unlock Your Exceptional Life." if you would have one wish in your pocket that Genie from Aladdin would fulfill, you should go with unstoppable how to learn-skill. The book is entirely popularized and concentrates a lot on boosting your confidence by cultivating the idea that all of us can be superheroes if we just believe in ourselves. I agree with Jim that the skill which we should aim is to figure out how we learn in this rapidly changing world. In my opinion, the help and support will come from neuroscience, which has already promoted very noticeable results about the development of learning, managing wellbeing, focus, productivity, etc. In education, we like to repeat and keep going with the idea that we have different learning styles, and matching those styles will make significant differences in processing information and formulating new skills. Unfortunately, this belief seems outdated, and many scientists like Steven Pinker and neuroscientists like Dr. Andrew Huberman have backed it up.

For example, Dr. Huberman mentions several times in his podcast that people relate primarily to their vision systems when it comes to learning or focusing on given tasks. However, those who have impaired vision systems relate more to audacity systems.

So if the approach, based on learning styles, is repealed or at least has fragile connections to productive learning, what can we do? Because I am betting on the scientifically tested strategies and neuroscience in this article, you will find the answer formulated from that field. Scientists say that until around age 25, our brains are very flexible and adaptive to new information. That's why young children can learn effectively and effortlessly, even in a passive state when adults need to concentrate and put a lot of energy into molding new connections in neuro networks. So please remember that you and I can learn and be creative, but we need more time and a slightly different approach than our younger generations. The message we get from scientists is straightforward; try to learn and discover in many ways various skills as much as possible during that golden time of neuroplasticity because it will lead to a stronger foundation for future learning and adaptivity to new situations.

So what is the magic pill for providing such a versatile learning experience!? Project-based learning (PBL) is my go. What, does it sound too dull or not that innovative? You are right because the first thoughts about the implementation of PBL can be found from the times of Socrates continuing to the Montessori, who has been promoting playfulness in her approach with kids. It seems evident that throughout time, great teachers and pedagogues have always understood the effectiveness of the principles where the learning environment is organized in such a manner that the students are actively engaged in finding answers by themselves. Like it has been written in previous blog posts, Science backs up the idea that students engagement improves when learning is personalized, and individuals can feel and see the ownership of their learning. From a teacher's point of view, to make this empowering and the commitment happen, you need to offer tasks in the zone of proximal development of the individuals. That means differentiated tasks which help support or challenge each student at a pace tailored to their learning. Teachers need to use their networks and collegial approach to success while planning projects and phenomenons to explore with their groups.

Tell me, and I forget, teach me, and I remember, involve me, and I learn. Chinese philosopher Confucius

The phenomenon "I explore and code" A la Karviaistie A la Telih.

So let's see how well we have been implementing the PBL strategy in our class and how our four-week phenomenon "I explore and code" has gone. In the next part, I will introduce concrete examples of how I have structured and implemented different learning approaches and tasks during the period.

Important notices:

The structure and schedule of the school phenomenon based period

  • I will mix all four weeks into one, but you will still see the idea of how each week has been carried out. The approach and the concept are the same.

  • Eight teachers were split into pairs, and all teams were responsible for providing materials for the whole week for others to use and modify.

  • Topics were: 1) Movement 2) Time 3) Weight 4) Temperature

  • Each week concluded four differentiated texts related to the topic and one task, which has been researched, built, and tested by each class and then collected together as a whole.

  • In total, my group had six weeks of these phenomenons because we started to explore the topics one week earlier and revised all the topics in the same manner on week six.

  • The schedule of the first and last week was:

Monday - Movement, Tuesday - Seppo Tuesday, Wednesday - Time, Thursday - Weight and Friday - Temperature

Positive outcomes of not using homework approach even you encourage students to do the tasks outside the school hours:

  • I don't use the word "homework" because it causes some students anxiety and negative thoughts, and it's useless to give homework if the student's homes cannot support them. The idea is not to create an atmosphere where always same students feel that they failed again. Even though we don't use the word homework, students are still encouraged to read the texts aloud, read the reading comprehension, and calculate with their family members, instructors, or other classmates.

  • With this group deal-breaker to do the work at home has been encouraging students to do their own question(s) related to the given text to everyone else. It's okay that you didn't do your tasks at home, but then you can't present your question to the whole class; no big deal, but still you miss something... The thing here is that when you ask the question, everyone else needs to figure out the correct answer and then show it to you directly.

  • Some students have started to use video calls to solve the problems together!

  • For some students, the tasks have been to just read the text and then underline five to ten words they don't know or understand. The next step is to translate them into their mother tongue with the family member or translator. Sometimes the task is to translate the questions after reading.

Why do we play and move every day, and why should you do the same?
  • Play is all about testing and exploring different options to reach wanted outcomes, leading to improved neuroplasticity and more adaptive and flexible thinking. The key to achieving the best possible state of playfulness which leads to the novel thinking that needs a safe and low-level stress environment where individuals can think and play with the ideas.

  • Play establishes a broader framework for creating novel ways of using your previously learned skills while connecting into new forms and developing cognitive skills.

  • Play serves many actions like testing rules interaction with others and supports individuals to establish their self-esteem and self-image.

  • Dynamic movement at different speeds mimics play activities in our brains.

The Schedule

Monday - Tutkimus maanantai, aka Experimental Monday, which objective is to experiment and introduce the phenomenon of the week.

8 - 9 --> Science (Physics & Science) with only 7th graders.

The first part of the lesson:

  • The start of the day includes a "Chat clock"- a practice where students arrange meetings with each other at agreed times. Usually, we have four different times.

  • Each meeting includes a topic to discuss: "Ask your teammate how his/her weekend went?", "Say and explain two emotions that you experienced during the weekend." etc.

  • In this session, students are engaged to continue the conversation with additional questions like: "What does a good weekend mean to you or what video game did you play?" --> the progress has been enormous if I compare the first meetings in August and now.

The second part of the lesson:

  • Activation to the week's work while reading the text about examinee phenomenon.

  • Writing down all the knowledge that we gathered together into the portfolio.

9- 11 --> Rest of the class starts their day (6th graders), and Experimental Monday starts on its fulness.

  • A shorter version of the "Chat clock" while using MIELI/SYKE - emotion cards or emojis as a whole group.

  • Introduction to the topic led by the 7th graders and my support.

  • Reading the text and analyzing it with a self-reflection sheet.

  • Introduction and presentation of the study to conduct.

  • Making hypotheses about the outcome.

  • Gathering all needed equipment.

  • Conducting the test.

  • Writing down information about the test and its work. (strong collaboration with learning assistant to provide the best possible support to everyone)

  • Time for cleaning and all the other necessary work.

11.00 - 11.20 --> Lunch

11.20 - 11.50 --> Guided physical activity moment.

  • Balancing practices --> balance board is in front of the wall, and students have a tennis ball in their hands. The goal is to throw and catch the ball differently:

Throw with your right hand and catch with your left or students standing against each other and throwing the ball while trying to balance on one leg.

11.50 - 12.00 --> Preparation for the next lesson: cleaning the table, updating "the Zones of Regulation" sheet, getting the right stuff for the next lesson

12 - 13 --> Reading and flexible maths time

  • Because we have the mindset of real explorers, we are reading together as a class book called "Flight of the Eagle" based on the true story of S. A. Andrée's Arctic balloon expedition of 1897, an ill-fated effort to reach the North Pole in which all three expedition members died.

  • We read the book aloud, and during the reading, students need to find answers to the given questions. The next phase would be to start exploring the story with the materials we will find out from the WEB.

  • Special thanks go to my colleague Sanna who promoted this book to me!

13 - 14 --> English time. The last lesson of the day is English, where tasks are related to the phenomena we are exploring. As you have noticed in my previous posts, the group is very versatile when it comes to the capacity of learning and objectives:

  • students who speak good English and they enjoy just chatting in English.

  • students who have limited vocabulary because they struggle with their memory capacity but are willing to learn.

  • students whose reading and writing skills are insufficient in their mother tongue.

Class practices:

  • Word search sheet. Students need to find words and translate them into Finnish and/or their mother tongue. Instructions conclude using different colors because our vision system and brains like colors, making it easier to remember things.

  • A memory game called "Spiral.". Self-made task cards that include pictures and text are put picture side against the table in the spiral format. The students work in pairs or small groups. The goal is to complete the whole spiral by picking up cards one by one, and you can continue as long as you know the correct answer/word. If you don't, the turn is over, but you check the correct answer and show it to the others as well. This is the way how the whole group gets forward. Big thanks to my wife, who showed the game to me!

  • and Loru Games for practicing writing and listening skills.

We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.


Tuesday - Seppo Tuesday

8- 9 --> Science only with grade 7.

  • Revising together what we did yesterday and what was the phenomenon behind it. Why did the paper, which was cut in the form of a spiral/snake, start to rotate when put above the radiator? (Warm air moves up)

  • I have made a video/picture movie from yesterday's activity to support revising.

  • Students are encouraged to explain to each other in their own words the phenomena and try to think in which different life aspects they can find it.

  • Introducing Seppo Tuesday activity --> for example, when the topic was time, each student told or cooked up about their routines and when it happened. The others' task was to show the time on their clocks.

Yesterday I went to bed at 9.30 pm (they must put the time in words)

9 - 11.30 --> 6th grades join the group, and Seppo Tuesday begins.

  • You can read more about Seppo Tuesday here. The platform itself also noticed and promoted this innovation (

  • Here are some examples of what we did during the six weeks:

  • How to use public transport and from where can you find the information? How to use a map and navigation system? Take a screenshot, send your location to your friend, etc.

  • If the destination is 7,8 km away, how many meters is it? The whole ride will take 1h and 16min; how many minutes is it, and what time will we be back at school?

  • It takes 17 seconds to slide a slope and 25 seconds to climb back. How many slides can you do in 5 min?

  • Students did two Seppo Games for the whole school. The game included: 1) a one-minute physical activity session, 2) estimate how many minutes and seconds it takes to go around the school while using different ways of moving (walk, run, jump), 3) How fast do you read a small poem? Poems were related to time, 4) Gues how much a bucket weighs and guess what is inside it? etc

The new addition has been including maths walk and SFON (spontaneous focusing on numerosity) tendencies and aspects in our Seppo games.

  • Maths and numbers are everywhere, and understanding the concept of numeracy predicts future mathematical understanding and success. It also affects the ability to reading fluency.

How many doors does the Swedish Theather have, or how many windows does the Ateneum Art Museum have? Calculate and make a task to others or show your calculation in different ways? For example: 1+1+1+1, 5x2, 5+5.

  • This practice activates students to see different objects as potential numbers spontaneously. The method also shows students calculating strategies and skills. It makes calculating fun and brings playfulness.

11.30 - 12.00 --> Lunch and playtime. The games we play are Alias, Dobble, Uno, and chess.

12 - 13 --> Checking up given tasks from Monday.

  • Students can decide whether we start with reading/writing or playing with numbers (Maths).

  • The structure of these lessons follows the following protocols with humanities:

  1. Students read the text in pairs twice.

  2. Then it's time to ask questions from each other.

  3. During the previous two stages, the learning assistant and I go through the personal tasks and give feedback and support.

The structure of mathematical thinking and playing with numbers session:

  1. Students are guided to make the first check with their classmates who are differentiated on the same level and have done the same exercises.

Your first task is to check do you have similar or different answers. Then, start to think, what is the reason why do you have different outcomes? Then, please, explain your counting strategy to your classmate.

2. During that time, adults in the class go through personal tasks and give feedback and support.

The next step is to have practical learning while getting familiar with a new topic.

  1. Let´s measure together. Take your ruler or measure tape and explore the class.

  2. During that process, we study units of measurements and practice converting mm to cm and vice versa or cm to m.

Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.


Wednesday -

8 - 9 --> Planning time

How do you feel and how is your friend doing? What are your thoughts about the week?

  • Personal portfolio writing time; the students set and reflect on their set goals for the week.

  • Portfolio updating time; the students add pictures, videos, and completed tasks. The students explain and reflect on why they want to accomplish the set goals or describe the reason behind the selected work, task, or exercises.

10 - 11 --> Checkup of given tasks from Tuesday.

Big recommendation to attend university-based continuing education modules: / JoMa. The modules share the latest research with concrete examples of how to use the presented knowledge in classes.


  • Write your own math story with supporting questions. The idea is to combine student writing skills, imagination, and numerosity.

  • Decimal system teaching with a manipulative teaching approach based on Montessori "Math Beads." materials where students explore maths with their senses. This tool is also great for differentiation because the variety of use is wide, from understanding the quantity of a number moving to learning tens and ending up discovering how to solve equations.

Reading/writing time:

  • We read a text related to the week's phenomena and have a writing exercise relating to it.

11.20 - 11.50 --> Guided physical activity moment.

  • Eye-hand coordination: hitting the ball with different types of equipment (baseball bat, floorball stick, etc.) or bouncing different size balls with different rackets.

11.50 - 12.00 --> Preparation for the next lesson: cleaning the table, updating "the Zones of Regulation" sheet, getting the right stuff for the next lesson

12 - 13 --> Kummitunti aka cooperative lesson with grade 1. During these lessons:

  • we have measured and built different size castles from snow.

  • estimated time while pulling sleds.

  • created tasks for the whole school related to the phenomenon period topics.

13 - 14 --> Health education & P.E. The lesson combines both subjects, which can be seen while we read modified texts about physical activity, emotional wellbeing, sleep, etc.

  • The first part of the lesson is dedicated to conversation and researching the health phenomenon using videos, articles, and planners (sleep, etc.). Värinänautit has a lot of practical and already differentiated functional activities to refine.

  • The second part is about figuring out how to improve or maintain discussed phenomena.

14 - 15 --> P.E for middle school students. Here I have combined group students from grades 7 to 9.

  • The starting point is that we move outside and encourage some students to enjoy moving and challenge themselves to come out of their comfort zone. We offer active and high-intensity "workouts for another part of the group" in the most diversified ways (individual/team sports).

You know HOW when you learn and explore new environments.



9-10 --> Reading and flexible maths time

Reading/writing time:

  • We read a text related to the week's phenomena and have a writing exercise relating to it.


  • Verbal mathematical problem sessions.

  • aka Eduten- maths tasks as differentiation activity while working with some students personally

10 - 11 --> Testing the phenomenon of the week for the whole school

  • Measuring temperature around the school.

  • Testing the airplanes constructed during the week. How far do they fly? How long they can stay up?

  • Testing the parachute constructed during the week. How long they can flout?

11.00 - 11-20 - Lunch

11.20 - 11.50 --> Guided physical activity moment.

  • Body control and coordination: parkour field/course created by the students.

11.50 - 12.00 --> Preparation for the next lesson: cleaning the table, updating "the Zones of Regulation" sheet, getting the right stuff for the next lesson

12 - 13 --> English lesson with grade 8. I use the same materials and differentiation tools that I used with "my" group.

13 - 14 --> P.E lesson in cooperation with a group of 8-9 graders and their teacher.

14 - 16 --> Pedagogy development teacher work. Right now, we are planning and creating a wellbeing circle that will offer schools a chance to analyze, reflect, and improve their togetherness. Stay tuned...

For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.


8 - 9 --> Pedagogy development teacher work. Right now, we are planning and creating a wellbeing circle that will offer schools a chance to analyze, reflect, and improve their togetherness. Stay tuned...

9 - 10 --> Reading and flexible maths time

Reading/writing time:

  • We read a text related to the week's phenomena and have a writing exercise relating to it.


  • Varga-Nemenyi -based mathematics manipulative teaching methods to explore basic calculation, weight, and length measurement.

  • aka Eduten- maths tasks as differentiation activity while working with some students personally

10 - 11 --> Portfolio updating / personal support time for those who need it in any "subject."

11.00 - 11.20 --> Lunch

11.20 - 11.50 --> Guided physical activity moment

  • Team sports activity (teamwork, following common rules, etc.): all the games we play come from the students, but I make a slight twist in them, like ultimate but with the ball or football where you need to go and touch the cone whenever you pass or lose the ball.

11.50 - 12.00 --> Preparation for the next lesson: cleaning the table, updating "the Zones of Regulation" sheet, getting the right stuff for the next lesson

12 - 13 --> Positive Friday closure

The first part:

  • We explore MIELI friendship and social-emotional cards.

  • Example: take 3-5 cards and make a story from them; you can do the task in pairs or alone. Present the story to the rest of the class.

  • Differentiation examples: 1) take a card, figure out what feeling it represents, and write it down in Finnish/English/mother tongue. 2) write down a created story.

The second part:

  • The world premiere of the weekly video where students see what we did during the week (pictures and videos mixed with KineMaster mobile video editor).

  • The task is 1) to watch the video, 2) move it from Classroom to the personal Drive, 3) move it to the personal portfolio, and 4) write down ten sentences/words about the week. Students can do it during the weekend, or it will be done at school during the following week.

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.


Texts based on phenomena

1) Differentiated texts at different levels. The same text is differentiated into 5 levels. Done by my colleagues.

Adaptive and flexible maths and their modules are a great source of practices and protocols to enhance students understanding of adaptive mathematical thinking.

Project-based aka phenomena-based learning at its best!

I would like to mention a couple of my colleagues who have created and shared ideas about differentiated texts. This cooperation made it possible to put together the best six weeks of my entire career as a teacher! Hats off to Sanna the mother of the idea, Mirka, Susan, Virva, and Katri!


Limitless: Upgrade Your Brain, Learn Anything Faster, and Unlock Your Exceptional Life

Jim Kwik

Dr. Andrew Huberman is a tenured professor of neurobiology and ophthalmology at Stanford University School of Medicine. His laboratory studies neural regeneration, neuroplasticity, and brain states such as stress, focus, fear, and optimal performance.

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