Introduction of the Month

Introduction of the Month gives you information about natural materials, experts, events or phenomena, which are actual in each month.

SPECIAL INTRODUCTION December 2011: The Evolution of Trees


While walking in the forest one might not see the forest due to all the trees. But stop and take a look at any one tree. They are all the end result of the competition that was won by the trees. Which competition, you might ask. Let’s take it from the beginning. The very beginning!

During the Prekambrium era, about 4000 million year ago, the first living one-celled organisms appeared on the young planet we know as Earth. One thousand million years later the first simple organisms able to use photosynthesis appeared and shortly after ruled the Earth. They started to produce oxygen to the atmosphere, which at that time would have been very toxic for human beings. One thousand million years later the first one-celled blue-green algae were born. The first plants with multiple cells are known to have existed in the oceans 1000 million years ago. Now it started to happen a lot with a rapid speed; the first plants on land are known to be 465 million years old and 425 million years ago the first vascular plants, which had the height of only a few centimetres up to a maximum of 30 centimetres, invaded Earth. Still they had their feet (roots) in water in order to keep themselves moist to survive. They could in other words only live by the shore of a lake, river or ocean.

There was still a lot of empty land, mostly made of solid hard rock, which just waited to be conquered. The first step had in principle already been done by the plants living in water. It was to develop vascular tissue, which could transport water higher up in the plant. But the next step was new; to grow in thickness and develop strong and flexible woody fibre tissue to keep the stem straight up. The first plant that could be called a tree was named Cladoxylopsida and it had a height of ca 8 metres. This happened 385 million years ago. 15 million year later, during the Devon era, a new revolution in the evolution occurred. Trees with three new features in the design could now be found on the surface of Earth. Those were the roots, big leaves and the first seeds. The roots had two distinct functions: to keep the tree upright even if the tree was 30 metres high, and to take up water from deep underground, which meant that the trees could already live a small distance from the shore. Big leaves adsorbed sunlight efficiently and the seeds made it possible for trees to spread with the wind over long distances. The next tree model was revealed 305 million years ago. This was a social type, since it was the first species to form a forest in the mountains, far away from the blue oceans. It is the oldest relative to our spruce and pine and they were already 50 metres high. From this on the trees evolved to the huge variety of trees we now know in the world’s forests of today.


Let’s go back to the forest and the tree we looked at. The old ancestors of this tree even made it possible for us to be born. How is this possible? As the trees started to win the competition of land due to a clever design of the roots and to win the competition of sunlight over shorter grass, algae, and mosses due to taller stems and bigger leaves, they at the same time shaped the Earth. The trees dug their roots deep in the rocky surface, broke it down and made it smaller and sandier. They also adsorbed a lot of carbon dioxide (which then was 15 times more than today) and produced for us breathable oxygen instead. When the trees died they became soft soil, in which new less strong but edible plants could live. In the peaceful shadow under the roof of the trees, new organism started to see the light of day and many more were to come. Although it would still take many million years, one of them would be slightly cleverer than the rest. We, human beings.

The next time we stop to look at a tree, it is probably time to give it a silent admiration, and think over the fact that without the trees we would not be here. This is why it is important to remember that for every tree that is cut down a new one should be planted. We will need them for future generations.

Jan Gustafsson, Åbo Akademi


SPECIAL INTRODUCTION October 2011: ProNatMat (Promoting Natural Material know-how) on a book fair

South-Western Finland’s Estonian centre participated on International Book Fair in Turku 30.September -2. October 2011. From Turku with the department was Turku Normal School, Katariina School, Turku Conservatory, LEMON-project, ProNatMat-project, Abelita Oy and Turku School System. From Estonia participated Tarto’s Finnish school and Tallinn School System.

There was something new for the visitors in Exhibition Centre. For the first time there was everyday a direct internet connection to Tarto’s Finnish school. It was possible to follow their school days and their activities. Simultaneously they were in connect to book fair and they got to see what was happening on the fair, they could discuss with the visitors and listen to book “Estofiilis” introduction by Sanna Immanen and Terhi Pääskylä-Malmström.

There were appearances also at the department when Tallinn and Turku school system told about their shared project, called “Safe and active school day”. Skype-phone calls were called to Tarto and Saarenmaa where they told their experiences and tips what was brought about during the LEMON-project. Visitors could also follow introduction of ProNatMat-project. From Koroinen there was trainee Paula Sarapisto who showed wool weaving with pin looms or pegloom-technique. Interested people had the opportunity to try wool weaving themselves.

Cooperation between Finland and Estonia went extremely well. Everybody was pleased and excited to try something like this again on book fair next year. South-Western Finland’s Estonia-centre would like to thank for the successful event and hopes success for forthcoming activities.

Anna-Liisa Ossipova
Executive manager
South-Western Finland’s Estonia-centre

SPECIAL INTRODUCTION April 2011: The Viljandi Culture Academy would like to get in contact with local craftsmen and artists who use natural materials.


Many of our local natural materials have been used on a daily basis throughout the ages. Today, the knowledge of how to use them often needs to be rediscovered. Currently many amateur craftsmen and small entrepreneurs are involved in this revival - builders who use straw and clay, reed cutters, basketmakers and bricklayers who work with natural stone, stone masons, roofing shinglers and many others. We are also interested in getting in touch with land artists who use different natural and untreated materials in their work. This webpage could help these people to communicate with each other, and it will definitely be an aid for those hoping to find a craftsman for a work in waiting. Making this information available can also help increase the general knowledge about natural materials and cultivate clients.

If you consider that reed board insulation is a lot better for your health than polystyrene, and that it provides work for local people rather than far away oil suppliers, the attitude to the higher price of reed boards is bound to change.


The Viljandi Culture Academy would like to ask all local craftsmen/artists/small entrepreneurs out there who use natural materials to let us know about them and their work. Get in touch! A contact might lead to cooperation opportunities in the future – there is a gradual search for new master craftsmen/teachers, practice supervisors and thesis supervisors for the Department of Estonian Native Crafts, as well as for the furthering of communication between different specialty fields and the mapping of new research topics. It might also prove useful that craftsmen working with interesting natural materials are introduced to each other through this webpage.

Madis Rennu, head of the ProNatMat project at the Viljandi Culture Academy

Contact details: tel. 50-23176,e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


SPECIAL INTRODUCTION May 2011: Pretty bag from paper

You can make nice bags from old wrapping paper, newspaper or like in this instruction – braille paper. Wrap the bag from twofolded paper if you use thinner paper.

You need:
Paper, scissors, ruller, glue, template, handle string and some decorations to your own taste

1. Paper bag will shape easily when the paper is wrapped around suitable sized right-angled box or book. Choose then suitable book, box or packet.

2. Fold the paper from the long side about 1-2 cm with the ruler, it will be the top of the bag. You can glue the top but don’t put glue to one end up. If you use some other paper and you want to decorate the bag for example with photographs, ribbon or glossy photos, do it in this phase.




3. Wrap the paper around a book and place the folded ends heads interlocked. Put glue on the part that goes on the other. Press a little while the glued part so the glue will hold. After this fold the bottom of the bag like wrapping paper is folded over a packet. Glue the surfaces together.




 4. Make holes to the bag. Thread and lace a ribbon or a braid for sling through the holes. If you want you can cut a piece shaped like the bottom from cardboard and glue it on the inner bottom to toughen the bag.



SPECIAL INTRODUCTION March 2011: practical activities with natural materials for small children.


In Estonia, hobby schools, family centres and nursery schools offer creative activities for babies (children younger than 1) and small children (age 2- 3). These activities include practical and musical activities and movement, all in various forms and combinations. The practical activities are mainly painting, drawing and making things.

Through these practical activities, we provide the children with ample opportunity to learn about the world and themselves. These activities also enable the children to connect with their mother or father in an environment different from their home, and experience the joy of being and doing things together. These activities also help children develop their fine motor skills and creativity. Even very small children express joy about pictures that they have made and the feedback they get from others. In addition to the skills acquired, they also learn about communication, relationships and values.


Natural materials such as wood, stone, cones, sand, earth, clay, wool, plants and other things we find in nature are very good to use when working with small children. Foodstuffs can also be considered natural materials (potato flour, corn flour, grains, berries etc), and they are particularly often used in practical work with young children, as they are easy on the children’s skin and can safely be handled by them – nothing happens if a child decides to try and eat them. They also stimulate children's imagination and creativity more than store-bought toys.

This year, a teacher’s handbook on practical activities and natural materials for small children will be published at Tallinn University as part of the ProNatMat-project. The book is published in cooperation with Anu Suosalo and Annika Tavast from Finland.

Mai Sein-Garcia, MA

Head of the ProNatMat-project at Tallinn University

lecturer in visual art therapy

Where can I find more information?

Akkola, E., Juntti, O., & Raitio, S. (1997). Kylämäen Emma ja taikavilla. Virike- ja ohjekirja villasta ja huovutuksesta lapselle. Turku: Mynäprint Oy.

Freiberg, N. (1999). Lihtsate asjade võlu. Tallinn: Avita.

Hiltunen, J., & Konivuori, H. (2005). Vihreä draama - draama keinoin kestäviin elämäntapohin. Helsinki: Kustantajat Sarmala Oy.

Kurttio, T., & Ympäristöministeriö. (1995). Tuulinen polku. Helsinki: Painatuskeskus.

Sein-Garcia, M. (2009). Ökokunst. Loovtegevused eelkooliealiste lastega. Tallinn: AS Ajakirjade Kirjastus.

Suosalo, A., Tavasti, A., Kreeke, K. V. D., Lehti, P., & Vannucchi, A. (2008). Lasten aurinkovuosi : opas ekologiseen lastenkulttuuriin. Turku: Sammakko.