Every educational institution is already diverse, whether cultural or social, and every living environment too. However, in terms of an efficient open space design, the motto was often to avoid, to standardize, or even to ignore diversity. Everything had to be clearly organized, fixed, easy to maintain, cost-efficient and safe.
With increasing globalization and the resulting change and pressures to adapt, as well as stronger individualization of children and adolescents, it has become clear that the natural principle of diversity must no longer be regarded as a troublesome circumstance, but must become central to the living environment.
At “Grün macht Schule”, we have been dealing with diversity in school yards for more than 30 years. On the basis of our experience, we see that our schoolyards and kindergartens, with open spaces for the users, have such a high quality because they are designed according to the principle of diversity. We know for sure that diversity makes us better – both inwardly during the educational process and outwardly when recognizing social needs. Diversity means ecological diversity, e.g. for nature experiences, gardens, environment, animals and plants.
In collaboration with the ISGA, we want to highlight the cultural, biological and socially diverse design of living spaces for children and young people worldwide at the 6th School yard conference ( „Schulhofkonferenz“ ), to present our variety of projects in Berlin during an excursion and ultimately with the cultural diversity of conference participants from all over the world in a schoolyard.
Diversity, however exhausting it sometimes appears, is ultimately the foundation for education, health and social life. It determines the quality of the living space in our educational institutions. Whoever has understood the diversity principle also understands why schoolyard diversity is a strategic educational task. We hope that this conference will provide us with new inspirations.
Freilandlabor Britz e.V.
Freilandlabor Britz e.V. is a non-profit association in Berlin which, since 1986, has promoted and supported environmental education and public relations in nature and environmental protection for all target and age groups. The association has been running the Environmental Education Center, of the same name, in Britzer Garten, a 100-hectare park in the south of Berlin for almost 30 years.
Since 1994, the association has also been the sponsor of the “Grün macht Schule” work group, the co-operation partner of the pedagogical advisory center “Grün macht Schule” (Senate Administration for Education, Youth and Science).
Additional projects include:
– A seasonal location for environmental education, the Research Tent ( Forscherzelt), on Tempelhofer Feld.
– The Eco-Club project ( “Ökolaube“ ), an imitation garden plot
– Nature and environmental projects in socially problematic, inner-city urban districts.
The work is carried out by full-time and voluntary employees. The association is financed by membership fees, donations and grants from the Senate Administration for Urban Development and Environment.
Grün macht Schule
“Grün macht Schule” (GmS) is a counseling center of the Senate Administration for Education, Youth and Family in Berlin, for schools and kindergartens which need to sustainably improve the habitat quality of their open spaces and adapt them to today’s educational tasks.
“Grün macht Schule” informs, advises and supervises schools, school initiatives and kindergartens in the planning and implementation of environmental projects, particularly in the creation and design of child-friendly natural surroundings and ecological places of learning on school grounds. The focus is on the implementation of regional and inter-regional training events and the monitoring and coordination of planning and construction processes in close cooperation with landscape planners and the administrations and organizations involved.
The overriding principles of “Grün macht Schule” are to assist toward self-help and to involve children and young people, teachers and educators, as well as the parents and the school environment at all stages of the transformation including the integration of the projects into the daily life and learning of the pupils.
Instead of large-scale, well-arranged, uninspiring school yards, with the support of “Grün macht Schule” in Berlin, more and more small-scale, green school yards enriched with imaginative artistic objects, games, movement and communication facilities have been developed which can also be used outside of school hours.
The counseling center intensively promotes a Pedagogical Landscape Architecture („Pädagogische Landschaftsarchitektur“), of which the goal is not architectural design, but the creation of a healthy, sustainable living environment in schools and day care centers.
“Grün macht Schule” is thus an interdisciplinary 4-member team. Two educators, a landscape architect and a coordinator have jointly supervised more than 600 open-space projects in Berlin’s educational institutions in the past 4 years.
The non-profit International School Grounds Alliance (ISGA) is a global network of organizations working to enrich children’s learning and play through improving the way school grounds are designed and used. The wellbeing of children and the ecological diversity of their learning landscapes are intrinsically linked. The ISGA aims to support all schools in making the most of the opportunities excellent school grounds afford. We invite like minded organizations and professionals to become ISGA members and collaborate to nurture and grow this international movement. Please join us.
The international school grounds movement is growing rapidly and flourishing in many places. Schools near and far are reimagining their grounds, replacing extensive paved surfaces with a vibrant mosaic of outdoor learning and play opportunities. Schools in dozens of countries are leading the way, finding innovative approaches that weave learning into their landscapes, diversify their recreational offerings, enhance their local ecology, and reflect their unique location and cultural context.
“Children around the world, growing up in very different environments and cultural settings, all need engaging childhood learning and play experiences for healthy development and enjoyment,” says ISGA co-founder Sharon Danks of Green Schoolyards America, in California. “The ISGA is not only a resource, but is also a call to action for teachers, parents, and students to go outside, improve their school grounds and explore the world first-hand.”