The Consulate General of Finland in Los Angeles supported a unique education project Koulu On Fire at this years' Burning Man festival. The main purpose of the project is to make education accessible to everybody and to help people discover their inner teacher.
Burning Man is an annual gathering that takes place at Black Rock City, a temporary community built in the middle of the desert in Nevada. The event is described as an experiment in community and art. It is influenced by ten main principles, including radical inclusion, self-reliance and self-expression, as well as community cooperation, civic responsibility, gifting, decommodification, participation, immediacy and leaving no trace. No money is used; everyone's participation, volunteering and donations such as food, lectures and performances are considered as gifts to the whole community.
The "Mad Max" like mock city rises once a year in the desert, showcasing giant art installations in the center area known as the Playa. In addition, participants from all around the world arrange various workshops and panels. One idea behind the festival is also extreme survival, as there is no running water and no food vendors and visitors set up their own camps. Approximately 75 000 "burners" took part in this years' festivities. The gathering ends with the burning of "the Man", the center art piece of the Playa as well as most of the other art pieces in the spirit of leaving no trace.
Koulu On Fire was one of the main workshops and gathered thousands of enthusiastic visitors and new educators. The idea behind this so called pop up school is that everyone has something to teach. Koulu is a school of amateur teachers and gurus at heart. It is a learning space for hundreds of lessons to help people discover their inner teacher. The real art of this approach is the curriculum and how it is presented: it is totally governed by the participants and created originally and collaboratively as it develops.
This concept can be produced and set up anywhere in the world, also in extreme conditions such as refugee camps or in developing countries, where formal education is not available. There is valuable knowledge that can be passed on even in difficult conditions that could help children as well as adults improve their own situation and skill set.
Koulu On Fire received exceptional feedback from visitors and people who took part in the training and held lessons. Also the organizers of Burning Man were very pleased with the project. They saw Finland's educational system as an innovative example that gives birth to such projects as Koulu On Fire.
More information: www.kouluonfire.com
Text and photos: Heidi Luukkonen