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Screenshot 2019-09-27 15.56.53

Screenshot 2019-09-27 15.56.53





GatherRound ChangeMakers Coalition
april 2024


The GatherRound ChangeMakers Coalition invites members to contribute their insights towards devising solid, influential strategies that could reframe our early care & education systems. In Spring 2024, we are gathering a diverse group of people drawn towards the cause of education to explore the acclaimed educational systems of Finland and Estonia. By being part of ChangeMakers, you join a driven coalition dedicated to understanding the gaps in US education and formulating resilient, high-impact policies to improve it. The dates for this program are April 8th-17th.


The Happiest Classrooms on Earth

The nations of Iceland, Norway, Denmark, and Finland consistently exchange positions at the top of the World Happiness Report, an annual study that has been evaluating global happiness since 2012. Remarkably, Finland has maintained its position as the happiest nation for six consecutive years. This raises the question of what specific factors lead to the high levels of happiness observed in this region of the world. We will explore some of those foundational elements that may cultivate a culture of happiness in our classrooms and beyond, including exploring the ideas of autonomy, wellbeing, and the “no dead ends” policy, and discuss the role that relationships, and the outdoors play in our pursuit of happiness.

Questions for dialogue

  1. Considering the pivotal role that happiness plays in educational environments, what foundational elements contribute to cultivating a pervasive culture of happiness in our classrooms?

  2. Considering the substantial influence of outdoor environments on well-being and happiness, how might we integrate nature-centric elements into learning spaces, particularly in urban settings where access to green spaces is limited?

  3. As we strive to foster supportive and nurturing educational communities, what roles do broader community networks play in fostering the resilience and well-being of schools and youth populations?

  4. How can we empower our students to nurture a sense of ownership and preparedness to thrive in a constantly evolving world?

  5. How does cultivating a culture of trust, permeating all facets of a school community, correlate with enhancing positive behavior and academic achievements, and what strategies can be employed to nurture this from the grassroots level?

  6. How can we instill a love of lifelong learning and curiosity in students starting in early childhood education?

  7. With societies becoming progressively diverse, how can we implement more inclusive approaches and promote an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding?


Join us on our 2024 Nordics program (Finland & Estonia) as we explore the above questions and more with fellow educators, both local and international.



Main Program: Finland

Finland is not only known for its saunas, hundreds of thousands of lakes and heavy metal. Students and teachers all around the world are increasingly learning about it in the context of education. Finland’s schools have astounded many with their top performing scores, while employing an approach to schooling that some call “unorthodox”. Schools here are known for their high levels of trust and equity, lack of standardized tests, long outdoor recess, minimal homework, shorter school days, and minimal pressure to perform.


It’s also one of the great economic success stories of the 20th century: within just a few decades Finland was able to lift itself out of generational poverty that had spanned centuries under foreign rule and become a world leader in diverse sectors. Learn what role education played in the shift from an agrarian to a knowledge based society and how those priorities are still at work today. 

One of the central concepts of the Finnish identity is the idea of “sisu”, the strength and ability to overcome insurmountable obstacles. It has been said it was “sisu”, that helped Finns during WWII in their efforts to stay free and fight off their socialist neighbor. It was also sisu that helped create an independent Finland, and remodel its public education system. It is the same strength that slowly created a new culture of schooling that pledged to ensure no child was ever left behind. 

Cultural Highlights


  • Explore a state-of-the-artl nature exhibit center at the Nuuksio national park

  • Visit the design district

  • Shop the famous farmers market

  • Explore the Suomenlinna island fortress (a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Helsinki)

  • Tour one of the oldest stone castles in Europe

  • Experience a traditional Finnish sauna on a lake


  • Explore the city of Tallinn, with its incredible medieval Old Town (a UNESCO World Heritage Site)

  • Visit an old catacomb under Tallinn.

  • Learn about KGB history during the Cold War at the KGB museum


Note: Details on the itinerary may still change


Estonia, currently a world leader in cloud-based educational infrastructure, has seen a dramatic improvement in student academic achievement. Learn more about Estonia's efforts to improve digital literacy in the country and how this has facilitated greater education and economic development across this former Soviet state's society. Stroll through the streets and take in the culture and sites of the beautiful, historic city of Tallinn.




"Finland’s experience shows that it is possible to achieve excellence by focusing not on competition, but on cooperation, and not on choice, but on equity."

-Pasi Sahlberg



Health and Safety

It is GEA’s goal to always navigate our programs safely and comfortably with our participants and partners in mind. We believe the benefits of travel outweigh the discomfort and possible uncertainty of travel, and also that they can often be appropriately managed. GEA will be doing everything to help our participants feel secure and comfortable. There are also many ways you can personally manage a safe and happy travel experience and GEA will help remind you along the way.

Still Have Questions?

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