Participation is the key to education and democracy. We encourage both the younger and older children in our Bildungshaus to take responsibility for themselves and for others by exemplifying an established culture of self- and co-determination. They experience from the start that their opinions and their needs are respected and considered, that their participation is desired and that responsibility for themselves is coupled with responsibility for the wellbeing of the community. This also includes responsible interaction with one another and with the facilities.
Each person has a right to participate and the need to play a part, even if he or she is still very young. Our pedagogues ensures that the participation process corresponds to each child’s stage of development.
Experience has shown us that participation can be difficult, because it requires patience and tolerance. But is also ensures that developments can be verified and prevents arbitrary or capricious actions. It is important to us that procedures, decision-making processes and structures are open and change is permitted. Committees in the different areas ensure that participatory structures are in place.
Participation works best if all the members of a community are prepared to participate and to take responsibility. That applies equally to the younger and older children in the Bildungshaus, to all staff in all areas and to parents.
We are open to the desires and needs of each individual child and are mindful to adapt our teaching to this. Our pedagogues accompany and stimulate the children. They listen to them, take their opinions seriously and encourage them to play a part, to know their own limits and to respect those of other people.
Voluntary action is important to us. Teaching and projects are available during the day for the children to participate in. Beyond this free play, withdrawal and quiet are possible at all times. The children decide for themselves whether they participate in the morning circle, when they want to play and with whom. They decide when and how much they wish to eat – and whether and how long they would like to sleep at midday. We offer them a framework that they can easily understand and within which they can make this kind of decision, for example when to have lunch.
Decisions that affect all the people at the childcare are discussed democratically at the children’s conference. The children moderate this committee themselves, in the same way as the morning circle, with the support of our pedagogues. For example: Friday is our toy day. That means that children can bring one of their own toys to the childcare centre. They decide among themselves what the topic should be.
In our experience starting school is a big step towards independence. We observe the growing needs of our schoolchildren to take more responsibility for themselves but also for the community. Members of our pedagogues encourage the children on this path and are at their side to support them.
It is important to us to offer the children the opportunity to help shape their everyday lives, also at school. Following a consultation they can determine where they would like to learn and with whom, whether they work alone or in small groups, in the team room or at another location in the Bildungshaus. From year 1 the children also learn to take individual breaks. We are convinced that they enjoy taking responsibility if they discover that their wishes and needs are taken seriously and their opinion counts.
At lunchtime we offer the children a freshly prepared buffet with warm dishes and salads. They decide for themselves what they eat and how much and also take joint responsibility for keeping the dining room tidy and clean.
Committees like the team conferences and the primary council give the children the opportunity to actively contribute to communal life at the Bildungshaus. All the topics that the children care about and that affect the community are discussed there.
Trusting cooperation with the parents of children who attend our Bildungshaus is a fundamental element in our teaching. The parents are the most important reference persons and experts for their children. We are very interested in their experiences and in a fruitful exchange of information.
At the same time we wish that parents also take responsibility themselves and that they participate in shaping life at the Bildungshaus. This relates both to the concrete design of our rooms or the outdoor areas and the opportunities to shape content.
For example we currently have a working group for parents on the topic of sustainability, a festivities committee and the so-called ‘education salon’ in which interested parents, teachers, schoolchildren and members of the funding organisation’s management team regularly exchange views. Parents are also active in the development association. Mothers and fathers who are interested in one of the existing groups or who would like to form a new group are welcome to write to AGZukunftsschule@gmx.de.
Committees also ensure the participation of parents. There are parent representatives from the childcare centre through to the secondary school and also a parents’ council.