Science education from kindergarten to working life

”These are some of the gadgets we use in LUMATE’s Lego robot, programming and electronics clubs. The instructors of LUMATE clubs are university students,” says Riikka Lahtinen.

”These are some of the gadgets we use in LUMATE’s Lego robot, programming and electronics clubs. The instructors of LUMATE clubs are university students,” says Riikka Lahtinen.

University Lecturer Riikka Lahtinen was appointed as the director of the LUMATE Centre in Tampere in early January. She has been trusted with an important position and is delighted to join the thriving centre.

“I want to continue developing the LUMATE Centre’s operations as a whole, but I’m also planning to reinforce some areas. I’ll be looking to develop a strong research-oriented approach to teaching and learning in the field of natural sciences,” says Riikka Lahtinen.

“The integration of multiple activities is a current trend that we could try out at LUMATE. Maybe we’ll relaunch an English-taught science club, or seek further internationalization through foreign patron clubs.”

Microcosm of the Tampere3 community

The word LUMATE comes from the Finnish words for natural sciences, mathematics and technology (LUonnotieteet, MAtematiikka, TEknologia). The LUMATE Centre in Tampere works to stimulate interest among pupils and students in natural sciences, mathematics and technology and to encourage them to learn, study and apply them through the ‘learning by doing’ approach.

All the universities in Finland are part of the LUMA Finland network. Tampere University of Technology and the University of Tampere started their LUMATE activities in 2011, and TAMK joined them in 2015.

“The LUMATE Centre in Tampere is already a kind of a microcosm of the Tampere3 community, and the collaboration is working brilliantly, says Riikka Lahtinen.

The activities are funded by the higher education institutions and the City of Tampere. As a member of the nationwide LUMA network, the centre is also participating in the six-year LUMA FINLAND programme funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture. The programme seeks to raise the standards for science, mathematics and technology education in Finnish preschools and comprehensive schools.



Lahtinen wants to increase interest in natural sciences and promote equal opportunities for all to learn about and understand the natural phenomena of our world. This is where the free LUMATE clubs come in. The clubs can spark a lifelong interest in natural sciences.

“I don’t mean that everyone should pursue a career in natural sciences, but it’s important for children to gain a basic understanding of our natural world”, says Lahtinen.

LUMATE has limited resources, and one of her main occupations is to ensure the continuation of funding.

At TUT, Lahtinen teaches chemistry courses and develops education in chemistry. In fact, gender played a small part in her decision to study chemistry.

“When I visited Lappeenranta University of Technology, I came across a huge crowd of boys and only few girls. I was annoyed at the thought of there being a place only for boys. And as I enjoyed chemistry, I decided to apply to a chemical engineering programme at Helsinki University of Technology (now Aalto University).”

Lahtinen is interested in the development of education, because it offers an opportunity to work with others to contribute to and reshape our future. She quotes physicist and Nobel laureate Carl Wieman, who has stated that traditional lectures are about as effective as bloodletting.

“Universities impart the latest scientific knowledge to students, but they should also consider the latest knowledge of teaching and learning. We should get rid of the old ‘lectures, exercises, exam’ approach.”

Lahtinen spent last spring on teacher exchange in Singapore. She came across an interesting method for assessing, for example, the development of students’ employability skills during courses.

“After content knowledge, the most important skills we should be teaching our students are critical thinking, including critical media literacy, collaboration skills and learning how to learn,” says Lahtinen.

Text: Kati Vastamäki
Photo: Mika Kanerva