Johannes-Schule: Time-outs on the “Island”

Yurt in the countryside
Photo: Johannes-Schule

For many years, Johannes-Schule, a Waldorf school for educational assistance and learning support in Friedrichsthal-Bildstock in Saarland (southwestern Germany), has been integrating nature and activity-based educational elements into its lessons, creating corresponding offers for children with a wide range of developmental disorders: a meadow class for younger pupils and a forest class for teens from age 13. Unlike lessons in an indoor classroom, outdoor schools present various opportunities to get away for a while, opening up nature-adjacent learning spaces where adolescents experience guidance and stability. The “outdoor island”, which opened during the 2020/21 school year, harnesses precisely this potential, giving girls and boys who need a break from the daily in-class school routine a place where they can take a time-out. It is complementary to the “indoor island” found inside the school, which has been around for a long time already and also allows time-outs supervised by educators.

With its new outdoor concept, the school once again reacted to recent developments, namely a sharp increase in the number of markedly restless children hardly capable of forming groups and bonding. As Software AG Foundation (SAGST project manager Michael Anders explains: “More and more pupils are reaching their limits, even in the very small classes at Johannes-Schule. The ‘outdoor island’ offers valuable respite, not only for the children and young people concerned, but also for their teachers and classes.” A forest and a meadow area with a yurt provide the pupils with many opportunities to find peace and quiet in nature and regain their composure – be it through meaningful activities, playful and creative activities, or by observing and listening to their surroundings. A horticulture teacher provides them with educational guidance, as well as targeted individual attention, as needed. Financial support from the SAGST allowed the school to hire another Waldorf teacher for this purpose. Michael Anders is pleased to announce that “after two school years during which the pilot approach proved its worth, we have now also succeeded in convincing the Saarland Ministry of Education of its effectiveness. In future, the additional personnel costs will be borne by the state government – a wonderful way to recognise the school’s pedagogical work and validate our commitment.”