Successes in co-teaching and cross-disciplinary learning in the Ari Kato! Japanese culture and visual arts course

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2021-02-15 10:33

The Ari Kato! Japanese culture and visual arts course gave Espoo’s general upper secondary school students and their teachers a chance to learn about Japanese culture, including the tea ceremony, religion, philosophy, martial arts and visual arts. This is an example of an OROL course, i.e. cross-disciplinary learning in general upper secondary schools. The course was taught by visual arts teachers Laura Murto from Tapiolan lukio and Nina Luoma from Espoon yhteislyseo. The course was prepared in cooperation with Aalto University.

Lukiolainen maalaamassa

The aim of the course was to offer Finnish students an in-depth look at Japanese culture and teach them about some of the special methods used in visual arts

“Cross-disciplinary learning is by no means a new concept in upper secondary schools,” says visual arts teacher Laura Murto from Tapiolan lukio.

“Many things can be viewed from the perspective of different subjects, and phenomenon-based learning is a tried and tested concept. In this course, we created practices aimed to further broaden the students’ world view, enrich their way of thinking and do away with the strict boundaries between subjects.” 

“The students’ enthusiasm was palpable: they attended the course actively, they were excited about the tasks, and the atmosphere in class was cheerful. What could be more rewarding than that!”

Murto and Luoma say that the work felt meaningful not only for the students but also from the perspective of the development of education. The teachers also enjoyed reflecting on the project together with Aalto University – something they rarely get to do.

Lukiolaisia kuvataiteen kurssilla

Co-teaching and collaborative courses inspire teachers

Collaborative courses can be arranged and implemented within the framework of one’s own general upper secondary school curriculum. There are interesting combinations planned as the new curriculum enters into force in autumn 2021 (in Finnish). The planning of study modules requires a lot of collaboration time from teachers, which is why Murto and Luoma hope that collaborative planning time will be included as part of teachers’ work as of next autumn.

“Collaboration is inspiring, and it also develops teachers’ own subject management skills,” teachers Murto and Luoma explain.

Students were most fascinated by kanji characters, Japanese food, culture and philosophy, and different artistic techniques

A student who participated in the Ari Kato! course explains that they learned various artistic techniques, including the use of ink and a calligraphy brush. Students also enjoyed learning about Japanese philosophy.

“I was most impressed by the exercises aimed at training the mind of a beginner. Once I was able to accept my lack of skills, I didn’t expect too much from my art, and I didn’t take on any more than I could carry. This allowed me to be positively surprised by the results,” says one student about the insights gained during the course.

Students also enjoyed dining at a Japanese restaurant and trying out taido, a Japanese martial art.

The students got to try their hand at illustrating Japanese poems using gravure printing methods, creating a visual landscape with kanji characters and making pastiches of Japanese art images by photographing, drawing and painting. The course also included interesting lectures given by experts.

Aikuisia kuvataiteen kurssilla


  • The Ari Kato! course was a pilot course carried out in cooperation with Aalto University as part of the OROL project.
  • Collaborative pilot courses for the project were also carried out in other general upper secondary schools in Espoo. The courses included, for example, studying art through the methods of chemistry, a well-being course, and combining mathematics with visual arts. General upper secondary schools in the Tampere region cooperated with Tampere University.
  • The objective of the project was to develop models for collaborative cross-disciplinary courses and to create university connections in the spirit of the new general upper secondary school curriculum.
  • Espoo’s new curriculum includes a municipal-level Talous tutuksi study unit combining mathematics with social studies meant for all students, as well as broader modules in the mother tongue and biology.

Further information:

Nina Luoma, Espoon yhteislyseo, visual arts (

Laura Murto, Tapiolan lukio, visual arts (