School Size and Learning Group Size
We are planning to start the Nature School at the Brosepark with 30 children in grades 1-3, divided into two learning groups. Each new school year, we will add 15 children in grade 1 and possibly older children in grades 2 and 3 until the school has grown to a size of 90 children in grades 1-6. The goal is to have three mixed-age learning groups for grades 1-3 and three learning groups for grades 4-6.
In the early years, until the school reaches full capacity, we will adjust the learning groups based on the number of children in the relevant grades. We will assign the children to appropriate learning groups over the years. While the school is still growing, the learning groups may encompass grades 1-2, 3-4, and 5-6, respectively. The small size of the school ensures that the children all know each other and that they will not have any disadvantages from later reassignment into new learning groups.
Each learning group will be overseen by one teacher, one caregiver (Erzieher), and one volunteer doing an ecological/social year (Freiwilliger des Ökologischen/Sozialen Jahres). For workshop and project work as well as for the forest days, we will involve experts, parents, and freelance staff.
The school is independently managed by the association „Freie Waldschule e.V.“, which has also been successfully running the Independent Nature School at the StadtGut in Blankenfelde since 2007.
Friends of the School Association
The Friends of the School Association is responsible for certain administrative tasks such as the organization of the after-school care (Hort) as well as tasks related to the founding and continuing development of the school. The association has the name “owáyawa,” which means “school” in Lakota.
To ensure a high-quality implementation of the school pedagogy, a monthly tuition payment is required. To ensure that the school is open to all children independent of their financial means, the monthly tuition payment is subject to an income-based scale. In addition to the monthly tuition payment, there is the cost for after-school care (Hort) and the meal allowance.
Admission Process for Children
For a child to be admitted to the school, it is necessary to participate in and express interest at the informational events and the open door day. After a personal interview, there are days for the children to observe the school. The final selection of the families will -- where possible -- be based on various criteria, including the age of the children, the girl-boy-ratio, and school readiness.
The children in our elementary school are to a large extent the creators of their own learning and development processes. This puts a high demand on the children’s ability to self-organize and their social and emotional competence. Being excessively challenged in this regard on a permanent basis not only puts a strain on the individual child but can also have effects on the entire group dynamic. To be able to appropriately support the children in their development processes, we as a matter of course accept only those children into the school who are clearly ready for school.
An alternative school with high demands on all participants on many levels requires competent and motivated learning companions and a team that is to a large extent self-organized and that draws its motivation from itself, from the work with the children, from the school community, and to a large extent from nature and a stable support network.
To provide the foundation for this, we are in the process of developing a multi-year advanced training program with the Center for a Culture of Connection (Zentrum für Verbindungskultur) Circlewise. The program will be based on the specific concept of the school and the cooperation with the Forest Kindergarten Robin Hood. It will provide a wide range of opportunities for individual character development, enhancement of professional expertise and mentor competence. It puts a great emphasis on connecting elements that boost character and shape mindsets.
Like we do with the children, we assume that every learning companion has an inner strength which can be the source of great potential when provided the opportunity to improve their competence and develop a clear identity in an appreciative environment. With this, the learning companions can be true role models for life for the children and provide guidance in many areas.
Collaboration with the Forest Kindergarten Robin Hood
The philosophy behind the Nature School at the Brosepark is based on the same values and practices as the English-German Forest Kindergarten Robin Hood. We envision the school as a continuation of the Robin Hood pedagogical concept. We plan to work closely with the Robin Hood Kindergarten during the initial phase of setting up the school and beyond. To the extent possible and after consultation, the Robin Hood Kindergarten will make resources available to the Nature School at the Brosepark, especially during the initial founding period, and will support the set-up of the school as much as possible.
The substantive similarities and the proximity (5-minute walk) between the Nature School at the Brosepark and the Robin Hood Forest Kindergarten lend themselves to the possibility of joint events and projects as well as joint use of resources. The plan is to create opportunities for sharing best practices, reflecting on pedagogical interactions, attending joint advanced trainings, and conceptional and substantive enhancements. This will enable mutual support, networking, and community.
The cooperation between the Robin Hood Forest Kindergarten and the Nature School at the Brosepark will create a greater familiarity and emotional bond for the children at both places. Both institutions will also benefit from the stability provided by the presence of the other.