Spielraum21 is a 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 Tamar Widmer co-founder and teacher at the school, about how we can uncover the magic behind the curriculum and why it is important for the parents to know more about it in order to be able to work together with the school.
You can see the full transcription below:
What is learning?
«The question that really drives me is “What is learning?”, “How do people actually learn small kids or adults?”, which still is a magic question to me because even for myself I don’t know how do I actually really learn.»
Understanding the National Curriculum as an opportunity not as a limitation
«The name of our school is «Spielraum 21» on one hand it means a kind of “Indoor playground” and on the other side it is related to the National Curriculum. This National Curriculum says what kids have to learn at a certain grade so we play with that, with this National Curriculum like to find the gaps between the rules.
We can use the National Curriculum in order to make pressure and to scare kids or parents. Or we can use it as a Big Exploration Map to open a door and see “Oh, we can discover something here!”. We open a door and a whole world opens. To see what else we can discover rather than to tell to the students and the teacher “You have to learn this, you have to learn that.»…»
Small chefs cooking for a whole Incubator Space
«My favourite day at school is Monday. On Monday the kids arrive between 8 and 9 and they start with what catches their interest. Then, at 9 o’clock we all gather in a circle to do a check-in.
In the chech-in the kids say how they are feeling today and there is another question, for example “What would you like to do today?” or could be many other questions as well…
On Monday we have a special offer that the kids can open their own restaurant which they love and they cook for about 20 to 30 people. The kids choose the menu they want to cook and they go through the house, the Innovation incubator, to present the menu to their clients, and they say “yes, I am joining” or “no, today I am not joining”.
Then they calculate how much they need to cook, how much they need from this ingredient and from that, which is a challenge, if you imagine a five years old child calculating how much rice do I need or how many onions. We calculate that with play mobile figures. So we see, for four people we need two onions, so as many people that come to our restaurant they put four, four and again four people…and for each group two onions, that’s how they calculate in their own way.
They prepare the food, they serve the food which they love to meet these people and to be of service. I think this is really one of the parts we underestimate in our society that the kids won’t be of service. They want to be useful, they want to have a role in our society and that’s why they are so motivated to do the restaurant.
And of course they also like to take the money for the food. And again they learn to take the money under pressure because they have 20, 30 people waiting, queuing to pay for the menu, so really get used to time pressure. The people in the house they love it. Many of them cannot speak german so they have to find ways on how to communicate to these people and for both sides it’s just great.
Of course there is always an adult there as well and this person will interrupt if something would go really bad. But the food is simple and it is really good. We never have the situation that kids couldn’t serve any food.»
Co-evaluation together with the parents through spiderwebs
«We don’t have marks, but we take every part of the National Curriculum and we take a look and ask ourselves “Is it visible for us that this kid has developed any competence in this specific area?” and we say “No, not all” or “Yes, partly” or “Yes, he/she has developed all the competences” and we do it for all the areas and at the end we have a nice spiderweb where you see where the kids have dived in and developed a lot of skills and competences which gives you a nice overview. The school inspector he really liked this spiderweb.
The time the kids spend at school is like a black box for the parents, they don’t know what is going on but actually they play a very important role of the well-being and of the learning experience of their child because the child spends a lot of time at home as well. And that child starts to learn when he/she wakes up in the morning till he/she goes to sleep. So we do this spiderweb, we look at the National Curriculum together with the parents they report an important part of what the child has discovered in a certain period.»
«Many teachers just follow the books (which by the way it’s not the Curriculum itself)»
«At public school I think many teachers they don’t even know in detail the National Curriculum, what they do is have a book, they teach with this books and they know if I teach with this book then I will follow the National Curriculum and I think it’s really helpful to know what is underneath what are really the concrete competences a child should learn.»