Democratic education is an educational ideal in which democracy is both a goal and a method of instruction. It brings democratic values to education and can include self-determination within a community of equals, as well as such values as justice, respect and trust.
Conferences are meant for networking, right? Well, I’d say we did a fairly good job of it at the TEDx conference this week. Lainie, Miro, and I were invited to tour and mingle at a democratic school in Utrecht, Netherlands. A woman volunteering at the conference, Sanne, found us and talked us into a visit, saying that what we were doing was of great interest to most of the people at the school. Yes, please!
De Ruimte (literal translation: The Space), is a school for 4-18 year old, self directed, independent learners. It currently has around 150 students enrolled, but they are expecting more as they change the age range to 2-22. The school is very large, and has space for every hobby and interest. There is a barn, preschool area, workshop, music room, two kitchens, two living rooms, and ample outdoor space for every type of entertainment. These kids want for nothing! We saw them doing exercises with facilitators, gaming, playing outside, riding the pony, writing, reading, drawing and cooking pizza in kitchen designed for classes and lunch preparation.
We were given a lovely tour by Sanne and one of the girls at the school, Jasmine, and then left to spend the afternoon as any democratic student would: doing whatever we wanted! The three of us ended up in a huge circle discussion (our favorite!) with around 8 other students.They were incredibly intelligent and full of insight on world views, politics, language, and everything in between.
When the discussion switched over to travel and what Project World School is, it came to light how interested all of these people are in travel. Most had lived and studied abroad already by the age of 15, and were hungry for more. Their eyes lit up with passion at the idea of visiting Peru, Mexico, Greece, Thailand… I have a feeling we will be having a lot of Dutch applicants in the near future!
The three of us felt incredibly honored to be invited to visit De Ruimte, and enlightened by our time talking and learning with the students. It was our first time actually visiting a democratic school after lots of research and interviews. We are very grateful to Sanne, and everyone that welcomed us to their school!