What kind of world are our preschoolers going to be prepared for when they finish school in 2025?”
In January this year it seemed everyone was Tweeting and Retweeting about “The School Without Walls” in Stockholm. It was a result of an article in Fast Co Design with fantastic images of furniture and use of space.
That was the trick of designing a “school without walls”: It had to be open enough to accommodate the free-wheeling aspects of Vittra’s approach to education (no set classes!). But it also had to include somespatial divisions that could promote different ways of learning–another key part of the Vittra method–such as group work, concentration work, show-and-tell, and so on.
Well, we had a spare afternoon in Stockholm, and Jannie, the principal at the school graciously answered my email and we arranged to visit. As with all of our visits on this trip Jannie was very generous with her time and gave us more than just a tour of the space, she also spent time explaining the philosophy and history of the school.
Vittra has a system of 30 schools and Preschools across Sweden. The school in Telephonplan opened just last August at the start of the school year, with a brand new teaching team working in a brand new way. Jannie has thought through the design, its impact on learning and how teachers manage to engage learners in the spaces.
The Vittra System of schools operate on six promises. Vittra gives every individual the opportunity to:
Find the best approach for them
Learn by experience
Understand their own learning
To have faith in themselves and their ability
To develop their ability to communicate and engage in respectful interactions with others
Like our school, Vittra uses the learning space metaphors of Cave, Watering Hole and Campfire. They also use the term Show off, instead of Mountaintop and add Laboratory, to explain hands on experimental learning. There are only two defined ‘classroom spaces. The remaining area has zones, defined by furniture and ways of working.
Each day starts with a gathering of the home class, before students are set in working groups. These are not based on age but the social environment. Learning how to work is a key element of the approach at Vittra. Teachers find where the students are and give them strategies to learn.
When planning the learning for students the teachers, led by Jannie consider the learning experiences, with the individual in the centre, questions are developed around these four areas:
This is a school where teachers and students work together. The teachers area is a relaxing and social space, they work in the main body of the school – “if the children work there, the teachers can as well”. This guards against the accumulation of resources and materials that seem to clutter teachers’ work areas.