Pedagogical and philosophical inspiration

Our daily work with the children, with the parents and with the team is significantly influenced by:

Celestin Freinet

Wikimedia Commons

For Celestin Freinet (reform pedagogue), one focus of pedagogy is the child’s independence and self-activity. Freinet distinguishes between work with a play character, in which the child pursues a specific purpose, and play with a work character, in which the action itself is the purpose and not the result. Play and work are combined and thus make sustainable learning possible. Only a free mind can also develop freely; for this, it needs opportunities for free expression in a variety of ways. For this purpose, children in our school can learn in partly freely chosen learning modules and in workshops and thus have a say in their learning content. Following Freinet’s example, our school wants to give children the floor and support them in the development of their self-competence through school conferences, morning circles and a high degree of self-determination. Children who have a say in decision-making and shaping learn more, aggression is lower, and absenteeism due to illness or lack of interest is lower.

Jon Young

Jon Young (founder of wilderness education, co-founder of the 8-Shields Institute for Nature Connection and Cultural Mentoring) understands how to combine knowledge, wisdom, culture, techniques and ways of learning of native peoples with findings of modern brain research and develop techniques for our western-oriented societies. Wilderness education includes many approaches to holistic learning in nature with simple, natural means such as bird language, handicrafts, plant knowledge, reading tracks, finding and preparing food, lighting fires with traditional tools, making natural medicine.

The model of the 8 shields developed by Jon Young and his team offers us a holistic method of observing, bringing together and internalising aspects of learning and teaching, human development phases and processes in nature. It supports in building an inner value system through mindfulness and perception in nature. The pioneering mentor method of “Coyote Teaching” enables children to consciously experience their perceptions, to discover connections for themselves, to find their own answers to their questions. The focus is not exclusively on finding the right answer, but on stimulating the process of perception and thinking itself.

Through the active role of the adults accompanying the children, the children are supported according to the “ropes to nature” model in establishing many “relationship threads” to nature and to people and in consolidating these. Through contact with a plant (e.g. ribwort plantain), a first thin thread is created after collecting. After making cough syrup, a second thin thread winds itself around the first, and after the day with the mosquito plague and the soothing, cooling ribwort plantain pad, the thread has become three threads thicker. In this way, the children are constantly reconnecting with themselves and the nature that surrounds them. Little by little, they develop sustainable ropes to people, trees, birds and foxes, which not only support the children in their learning processes, but over time form a sustainable network that provides support in crises. Studies show that children who spend longer periods of time in such nature programmes develop various virtues such as honesty, respect, humility and modesty. These virtues are called “the seven grandfather teachings” by indigenous peoples.

Maria Montessori

Wikimedia Commons

According to Maria Montessori, each child develops specifically according to its inner blueprint and is thus the creator of itself. In doing so, it has the possibility – according to its sensitive phases – to determine its own activities. Children need stimulation, they learn sustainably at their own pace, with all their senses, on the object and control their learning successes themselves. The prepared environment opens up new possibilities for them to be active, to find their own ways and to make their own discoveries. Rules of work and order give the children stability and support.

This results in essential principles for our school:

Children learn in freedom, because they are “master builders” of themselves, of their own educational processes. Maria Montessori’s principle “Help me to do it myself” describes the children’s request to the adults very aptly. Essential are self-activity, independence, a polarisation of attention, silence, attention to children’s sensitive phases, a prepared environment as well as limiting the material and isolating a property of the material.

Sobonfu Somé

It takes a whole village to raise one child.

African proverb

According to Sobonfu Somé (author and speaker on children’s issues, community and African spirituality), children are considered the soul of the village. Children need community to walk on a firmly rooted path of life full of security, inspiration and happiness in such a way that they can develop and unfold their unique gifts. Children are nature and need to be in nature, they need to be welcomed and accompanied in their growing up through contemporary, sustaining rituals. The connection to the spiritual world and the community play a central role in this.

With our school, we want to create a supporting community framework with stable, reliable bonds and relationships for the children and give them support and stability through recurring rituals in daily interaction as well as on special occasions. Rituals and maturity tests can help to take difficult developmental steps consciously and with the help of nature and “the village”, the community. In a small school, it is easy to build a personal relationship with many people and to live community through diverse involvement, joint actions and celebrations.

For Sobonfu Somé, working with feelings, especially working with one’s own grief, is of great importance for all life and learning processes. Looking at and working with grief is essential for many developmental steps. In our daily school life, we want to support the children to get in touch with their feelings and to work with them constructively.

Jesper Juul

Wikimedia Commons

Jesper Juul (family therapist and author on parenting topics), unlike other parenting experts, does not describe deficits, does not criticise children’s or parents’ behaviour. He sees the cornerstones of successful parenting in authentic, sincere communication with each other, the willingness to take on the role of parent in a responsible way, the ability to act as a credible role model for children and the equal value of all family members. The key word is relationship. Its quality determines our well-being and our development as human beings. Children are born with all the essential human qualities and therefore also have the same vulnerability and survivability as adults.

Juul also says children need guidance. Many adults do not see the difference between wants and needs. If you give children all their wants, you are not satisfying their basic need for leadership. Children have no interest in power, but as soon as there is a vacuum, a lack in the system, children jump in and take over. They can’t help but fill this gap. “Leaderless” children cannot develop their empathic abilities. Often, children’s expressions of discontent are seen as an expression of personal unhappiness, adults want to please the children and thus deny the children the right to their own feelings.

In our school, children have a right to their own feelings, and they also have the right to be taken seriously with these feelings and to be well accompanied. According to Juul’s principle of “relationship instead of education”, we want to constantly work on our relationship with the children and our own role as role models.