Community Challenges

How can we shape our city into a powerful learning environment?

Today, education is often locked up in a building. This is strange because there is a lot to learn outside of those specially designed buildings. So let's reframe this and see what opportunities there are to learn in the city. Where did we learn as a child? By walking around, playing, just doing things, start a small business, make friends, argue, build camps, organize parties or sport competitions. Let's dream!

We have to look at our multicultural, historic cities in a very positive and promising way. There are so many learning moments that can be linked to the experience of the city. There is an offer in terms ofWe have to look at our multicultural, historic cities in a very positive and promising way. There are so many learning moments that can be linked to the experience of the city. There is an offer in terms ofculture, shops, sports, heritage, nature and all this in a very authentic setting.

On the other hand: the city as a powerful learning environment is not new. ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ is an African proverb that means that an entire community of people must interact with children in order for those children to experience and grow in a safe and healthy environment. Even though we are tired of hearing this saying, the meaning behind it has never been so strong and so topical during de covid 19 epidemic. More than ever, we need each other to take care of children and youngsters. More than ever it is up to families, employers, childcare, schools, youthwork, sports, schools, communities to join forces, show understanding and support each other as one strong learning team.

The city as a powerful learning environment connects education with (voluntary) work or local business, with the neighborhood and with forms of research.

Some important findings from the speed you up project we did:

  • Connect with young people: what do they like, what gives them energy, what moves them? Intrinsic motivation is key because this leads to better chances of success. This links nicely to well-being because it is about success experience and internal motivation to learn and face challenges.
  • Participation of young people from the very beginning of the school career, of projects. They too have clear ideas, manners and are the future of our city.
  • Is a cooperation between different educational levels = bringing together different skills = equivalence
  • Is working in multidisciplinary teams of students, young people , teachers, researchers, local residents, professionals, local stakeholders
  • Contributes to solutions for needs and signals from a neighbourhood, a city.
  • Is related to competences, skills, talents of young people (broader than cognitive skills).
  • Opens the school gate to the neighbourhood and let the neighbourhood in the school (Community School, Broad Learning and Living Environment). Living labs, hubs etc.

From our experiences it often appears that teachers and pupils are enthusiastic about the projects which propagate the idea of a broad learning and living environment. What is often lacking are time and space to actually integrate these projects into the educational practice (another way of learning, learning by doing, start projects…)

Teachers and students and partners are often enthusiastic about the projects and see the added value, but:

  • To establish that principals, teachers, pupils are indeed convinced that a different way of learning and a different place of learning is highly necessary. This observation, this support, can be a clearer signal to the policy and hopefully give the time and space to effectively approach things differently.
  • This is about modular, more flexible, alternating individual and group learning with a coach. Certainly in Secondary Education, we must move towards more hybrid and modular forms of learning for young people, which would benefit from this better in terms of learning than now strictly linear and the same for everyone at the same time. We would like to link this to the digital and distance learning experiences during the covid 19 epidemic.
  • Working together, indeed, requires extra time to get to know each other, to make expectations and commitments clear. For example: social-artistic projects work with what they get from the children and young people in the classroom and therefore do not have a predetermined end goal. Teachers ask almost immediately what the result will be. It takes a lot of preparation to harmonise the two and to speak the same language.
  • We need an engaged policy, in which a more flexible approach can be taken to a timetable of lessons, in which work can be done more across subjects and school walls, in which there is also a clear link with the competences and skills to be acquired, in which teachers have less to deal with in terms of administrative tasks, ...

In this challenge you can start from two frameworks.

  1. The first: a school that wants to open the doors to the city: the students go to the city and the city enters the school. We call this a community school.
  2. A second is more radical and abandons the idea of a school as an exclusive learning place. Where in the city can you see learning opportunities? Can innovative ideas be conceived from this framework? What do you learn on the street? In the shop? From each other? From work? …

The expectations for students who take up this challenge are very diverse and open, so surprise us! Start from this challenge: how can we shape our city into a powerful learning environment? How can we create different strong teams throughout the city by optimally deploying the diversity and versatility of know-how and inspiring places and allowing them to interact with each other?

We look forward to the creative proposals that will arise from this. And don't forget Pippi Langkous said: “I have never tried that before, so I think I should definitely be able to do that.”― Astrid Lindgren.

    Practical Details

    Hosting organization: City of Ghent - Department of education, upbringing and youth -Local education center
    Community: Gent
    Focus Area: Health, Digitalisation, Equity
    Type of activity: Challenge based education, Thesis/Graduation Project, Research projects
    Tags: Digitalisation, Health, Equity