From open office layouts to the ubiquitous beanbag chair at startups, we all know that spaces affect us. We communicate, learn, work and live through the spaces we inhabit.
We recently visited the International School of Helsinki’s (ISH) new Head of School, Kathleen Naglee, whose mission is to transform the school into a ‘compassionate space’ perfectly adapted for her students’ deep learning. She worked for years at the International School of Estonia, which was recognized as a ‘best-practice pioneer’ by Cambridge University under her leadership.
Last spring, Amcham teamed up with ISH to help organize their annual speakers’ breakfast event ‘Story-Telling and Emotions in the Age of Artificial Intelligence.’
Naglee, who only arrived in Finland recently, is looking to build relationships with the business community on the future of work, technology and talent attraction. She has a personal passion for how spaces affect people, be they students learning or workers being creative and efficient.
We are welcomed into a room that we only later realize is her office. There are comfortable places to sit and talk, many plants, and Naglee’s narrow, standing desk.
“I made it,” she says proudly.
ISH is remodeling their classrooms around active and quiet spaces. Students can come together for group activities, or work at tall tables alone or with others. There is also a wide-open carpeted room with large pillows nearby for younger students.
The spaces are designed to be good for the human body, conducive to deep thought and there are plenty of choices for curious inquiry. Students learn and retain information and skills when it is linked to pleasant emotions, says Naglee.
ISH is preparing students for the future of work. With AI and automatization already arriving, work will involve creativity, empathy and critical thinking.
So, what is the school’s view on digitalization?
“We have real stuff—playdough, clay, wood—that necessitate hands-on interaction. It’s not pre-made, but imaginative and malleable. We’re also looking to work with the EdTech scene to let our students co-create virtual reality (VR) scenes, for example. A lot of the digital space can be very interactive,” says Naglee.
Going from passive consumers of digital devices and information to becoming active creators of VR scenes and knowledge, students are empowered. This kind of inquisitive learning is reflected in ISH’s physical space, which allows for both collaboration and independent study.
Learning through wonder is one of humanity’s cherished prerogatives. And there is no reason it must end when your school days turn into days at the office.