The “open learning space” – efficient learning through personal interest

The “open learning space” is the continuous basis for all actions and forms of learning in the Escola da Esperança, especially in the ages 4-10. In attractive spaces, organized by areas of expertise, the children discover motivating, didactic materials corresponding to the various learning levels (Montessori materials, among others).
In this learning space children pursue their own interests and through this a creative atmosphere is generated in which the absorption of information happens naturally. Alongside the learning content the children learn self-organisation, self-responsibility and skills for a future which requires creativity, flexibility, team work and self-reliance.
This broad offering allows the children to follow their own interests, according to their development level, and thus to educate themselves in an optimum way.

“The task of education is to configure this environment in such a way that, from it – according to the child’s sensitive stage – optimum learning and growth stimuli arise. This is Maria Montessori’s description of “prepared environment”. (…) The prepared environment should encourage the children and motivate them to follow their learning interests.” (Horst Klaus Berg / Maria Montessori, 2002)

In The Open Learning Space

To learn with experts in daily life

The direct experience in life and the contact with people from interesting professional and scientific knowledge fields or from other countries continually arouse new questions and the irrepressible desire to know more.
The personal contact with a “pro” is an important aspect of learning: An adult who can “really” build something or who knows “everything” about plants and nature is a role model, a person exerting nearly magical fascination for a child. When an expert takes the time to grant children genuine insight into their area of expertise, they open up a space for the child in which they practically absorb knowledge like a sponge.

Forms are:

  • Regular internships in the different aspects of Tamera’s work including gardening, kitchen, pottery, technology, political networking, peace journalism,…
  • Field trips to interesting companies and places in the region
  • Contact with international researchers and people from all over the world

Project-related teaching

The more integrated and profoundly a topic is dealt with, the more efficient the learning effect. For that reason, multidisciplinary project-related teaching represent an important part of Escola da Esperança. Our experience has shown that particularly in the field of language learning, a large shared objective, such as a theatre tour, and a balance between cognitive-theoretical, practical and artistic-creative activities, can massively increase learning efficiency and enjoyment.
Alongside the effective acquisition of contents, the multidisciplinary and multi-age project-related teaching plays an important role in social learning: When facing a common theme/goal, children find their position inside the group, learn to organize themselves in a common context and to contribute with their potential. They take responsibility according to their age and realize that their contribution is important for the project’s success.
For example we offer project times about Water Retention Landscape, My Body is Sacred, What is an Activist, Theatre, political journey, study visits, etc.

Learning Community – Parents and Children participation

Parents and children share responsibility for shaping their learning spaces and are integrated within the learning community which is characterized by solidarity and mutual support between all participants. In that sense we were inspired by the strong parental support which exists in “Escola da Ponte”, in São Tomé de Negrelos (Northern Portugal), and its strong village and school community.
Children of all ages together handle their conflicts and debate social organization proposals. They also “develop” new experimental forms and ideas for learning which are discussed in the weekly assembly.

Focused preparation for Equivalence Exams

Most curricular contents will be covered in the open learning space, in internships and in project-related teaching. However, some contents will require a certain structure, continuity and deepening, regarding the Equivalence Exams from the portuguese schooling system. Therefore, we offer focused training, especially in the few months before the exams, on several subjects such as English, Science, Portuguese, Math, etc.