Spielraum21 is a swiss private school recognized by the state that shows one of the many ways in which education in the 21st century could take place in both public and private schools taking advantage of the room offered by the curriculum21. In its concept, the school combines the results of current education and research of the game. Children themselves decide how, with whom and with what they learn, oriented to interest and context. They also deepen self-defined interests in a project based learning approach and receive support to do so. The learning supervisor establishes an impulse each morning in class according to the curriculum21. After that, the children decide for themselves whether to take them on board or pursue their previous interests.

In this interview we talk to Urs Gantenbein co-founder of the school, about the importance for kids to learn to take risks in a safe environment. You can see the full transcription below:

A safe place driven by the community for the children to learn to take risks

«This place is called “Schütze” what means sort of “archery” or archer which is basically the name of road. The property, the land, is from the government and is given to the people here who want to do stuff.

There are a lot of initiatives from private people, parents who think “We need a cool playground with a lot of dirt a lot of sand” and it is also a place for the children to take risks. It’s important to learn to take risks in a sort of safe environment.

We are here, we see what they are doing, we help level them out if it’s really like «there are trees to climb on and at some point it’s maybe a little bit too high». And it’s as well a challenge for us being aware that most children really know what they are doing when they are playing.

I think it’s a good place to practice as well how we approach dangerous situations. Do we approach them from fear or from trust? Instead of saying “Ah be careful!” or “That’s dangerous!”, we can say “Be mindful”, “Where have you put your feet? Have you checked that branch? Is it strong enough? Is it holding you?”

So that starts to create an understanding on how to interact with the situation that is a risk instead of saying “It’s a risk, don’t go!” because that is not helping. Because it makes the world a very dangerous place, and I don’t believe that the world is a dangerous place. There are dangers that we need to meet and we can decide how are we meeting them, from a place of fear or from a place of power. I think that is the question.

As more as we can support the children in exploring these things that’s very important, that’s why I love this place so much and that’s why I love the community effort of the people who are building this and maintaining it with a lot of heart, courage and heart blood in it. It’s really amazing and the children love it.

Clear agreements with the parents

We are coming here as an opportunity for the children to get out, to be out in the cool as well. We go out in winter, in summer… of course when it’s really cool we don’t stay for four hours but some time because I think it’s healthy to really be out and be in contact with the elements and yeah we have clothes, I mean it’s not like that we can’t do a single thing.

And getting dirty because this is the thing other schools are challenged by. Because many teacher don’t go out with children anymore even don’t do this one day school trips anymore because if something happens it can get dangerous, you can lose your job. It wasn’t always like this but there was an strange shift in the school system so many teachers are not willing to take those risks anymore.

We have clear agreements with our parents and of course we will do everything for the children to be safe. We are here, we are taking care of them and it is important that they can go out and play out in all kinds of environments because for us is important to build these bridges.

We are not like an alternative school. Alternative seems so separated we perceive it that way. We just do things differently but we want to be with the world together and we want the children to have a place in the world everywhere. 

Author

I am a telecommunications engineer, teacher in innovative education and freelance filmmaker questioning not the "Why?" but the "Why not?" in every aspect of life. Since 2017 I travel the world looking for stories worth telling.

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