Climate change has brought many challenges, one of which is an increasingly urgent need to deal with stormwater. Meanwhile the Finnish national study plan for landscape gardening studies in vocational education and training (VET) was recently renewed, with the teaching of stormwater management now a specific part of the study plan (Opetushallitus 2022). However, no guidelines were given for how this topic should be taught. One of the authors is a teacher of landscape gardening in Omnia, Espoo, teaching stormwater issues to students who may later work installing public stormwater control systems. The importance of creating a systematic, sustainable teaching method formed the topic for the master’s thesis Incorporating practical applications of storm water control into vocational education: case study the joint authority of education in the Espoo region Omnia: landscape gardening studies (Atkinson 2022).
Comparing Finland and the United Kingdom
It was first assumed that due to the higher level of rainfall in the UK compared to Finland (Ilmatieteenlaitos 2022; Statista 2022), teaching of stormwater control would be further developed there than in Finland. Accordingly, a survey of landscape gardening teachers in both countries was conducted to determine the situation in each, with the aim of possibly using UK teaching methods as a guide when developing those for Omnia and other Finnish VET colleges. The results of the interviews were quite surprising: contrary to the expectations it turned out that Finland was more advanced than the UK. (Atkinson 2022, 41-42.)
The situation in Finland
Most Finnish VET colleges have indoor sandpits, which can be used for practical teaching, regardless of the weather. Other projects involve landscaping of houses built by colleges, such as that at Pellas in Espoo (Omnia 2022), incorporating the use of pervious paving and shaping of the ground to direct stormwater away and giving students vital experience of stormwater control system construction. Teachers responsible for instructing students are highly experienced professionals, who can use their own knowledge and experience in teaching. A large part of studies are as practical placements, so that when they graduate students are already experienced landscape gardeners, having installed stormwater systems during their study years.
Developing things further
Colleges should make more use of the sandpits, also persuading companies to sponsor different types of pervious paving, modular stormwater retention systems, and even stormwater purification systems, giving students further installation skills. More emphasis should be placed on teaching the theoretical side of stormwater issues, with teachers being trained as required. (Helander 2009, 20-21.) More visits should be made to colleges by representatives of companies involved in stormwater control systems, and visits should be made to worksites where students can see how the systems are installed firsthand.
Given that Finland seems to be ahead of the UK in this issue, it is probably fair to assume that it is also ahead of some other countries as well. Could teaching of stormwater control be a future export for Finland? This is something that only time and further research will tell!
Andrew Atkinson qualified in November 2022 as a Master of Engineering in the Urban Sustainability Programme at LAB University of Applied Sciences.
Paul Carroll is a lecturer of environmental technology and urban sustainability at LAB University of Applied Sciences.
Atkinson, A. 2022 Incorporating practical applications of storm water control into vocational education: case study the joint authority of education in the Espoo region Omnia: landscape gardening studies. Master thesis. LAB University of Applied Sciences, Faculty of Technology. Lahti. Available at https://www.theseus.fi/handle/10024/783137
Helander, J. et al. 2009. Ammatillisen opettajan käsikirja. Hämeenlinna: Hämeen ammattikorkeakoulu, ammatillinen opettajakorkeakoulu.
Omnia. 2022. Omnia’s organisation. Cited 25 February 2022. Available at https://www.omnia.fi/en/about-omnia/omnias-organisation
Opetushallitus. 2020. The Finnish National Study Plan. Cited 25 February 2022. Available at https://eperusteet.opintopolku.fi/#/fi/esitys/6942140/reformi/rakenne
Statista. 2022. Total monthly rainfall in the United Kingdom (UK) from 2014 to 2022. Cited 31 May 2022. Available at https://www.statista.com/statistics/584914/monthly-rainfall-in-uk/