anSchuB – a school project for challenging pupils
A school for children with problems in behaviour, in social and emotional development – that is what Janusz-Korczak-Schule is. The prerequisites are good: two or three teachers in a class with 15 to 17 pupils. A system of rules and rituals to help the children find the structure of their school life. School buildings especially built to fit the needs of special children. Regular and intense cooperation with parents or professional educators. Democratic participation in school life. And finally an attitude of all professionals in school that takes children seriously, shows empathy and understanding. An attitude that is best characterized with these words: Between devotion and restriction.
But in recent years we have increasingly seen children who do not fit into this system. They do not accept the rules of our school. They only see themselves with no regard of others. The act aggressively, self-destructing or go beyond borders. They are blowing up our system.
But these children also must go to school. They have the right to learn and to be in contact with others. And they do still have resources. Some of them are very skilled in practical work. Some of them always are in conflict with humans, but they feel comfortable with animals. Some of them cannot sit at a table for more than ten minutes, but they can spend hours in the open air.
These children made us helpless, but we had to find a way to teach them. So we were very happy about the opportunity that came some years ago. A big farm near a town about 20 km from our school offered some rooms and farming area. What about installing a project class there? Combining learning and working on a farm, living together for the hours of a school day. Experiencing nature, weather, animals, sun, wind, but also contact, interest or just the presence of a human being. Without the pressure of school, but always with the possibility to be in school if desired.
That is where the project started. It is called anSchuB, which is quite a strange acronym of “arbeiten und lernen in Schule und Bauernhof”, so work and learn in school and on a farm. Simultaneosly the german word “Anschub” means to push something forward.
After a lot of planning, construction and some portion of doubt and despair the project class started in autumn 2017. Two teachers, one social worker in training and eight children aged from eight to fifteen years, supported by a psychologist once a week began their work on Haus Hülshoff in Tecklenburg.
Who are these children in our project? They are children and asolescents with severe psycho-social strains, diagnoses from youth psychiatries, they have experienced relationship breakups or had been traumatized in early childhood. We see them in school with severe impairments in emotions, inadequate social behaviour, with learning difficulties up to school absentism.
Traditional school settings are not adequate. Our project class emphasizes nature phenomenons, orientation to experience and activities, social learning, animal-supported education and elementary learning in nature.
And finally: it is the people who make the difference. Being together, preparing meals, sitting round a big table for learning, discussing, or for breakfast…