Articles

I. Children’s Orchard – How can we cultivate a new education?

October 1, 2019


You always have to grow, You have to learn constantly, You have to always be
on the search, on the run Without ever listening at what
is happening inside you. This endless growth is breaking
the fundamental law of nature: The circles. My father was traveling,
to various places in Greece, Searching for place
to start his family. They found a place they loved,
here, among the mountains It was empty, rocky
field, entirely empty It only had one
tree and a house. And there they started
their life with us. In the beginning, there was
nothing outside But one day my father
threw a hose outside and water started to run. And we made rivers,
changing its direction.. We built lakes and dams, We played with “playmobiles”
in these lakes, We were finding
endless games to play.. So that was our first inspiration,
playing games in nature. When we were 18, we started question
with Samantha, what is this thing? Imagine having a school.. similar to the way we grew up,
before we went to school. And that idea was a bit vague,
beautiful to think about, but I didn’t know if it
ever would become reality. Then, at a point when we were all
studying in different parts of the world. Something happened
to our family, Our dad got sick. We all came back
the same day to help, And all the family got back together
through this really difficult event. When this ended, we realized
that nothing is forever… That life doesn’t
last forever… And all these vague
ideas are nice but at some point they
have to be put in practice This difficult year gave us
a tremendous boost, And we said: “we are coming back
and we were doing it now.” “We” refers to Samantha and I,
the oldest siblings The youngest one, Angeliki,
was still studying back then, So we came back with the aim
of putting this idea into practice. We are at the
“Children’s Orchard”, a practical workshop
in Panagitsa, located at the base
of Mountain Vorra, a bit north of Edessa. This is a trail of about
800m on mountain Vorra. I study bears.. So I come here
almost everyday.. and I search for animal tracks and animal feces! When I first came, I doubt that young kids knew
that these animals exist here, That it was possible
to see them even! At the beginning, children
didn’t know what to do, it was very strange to them. Strange that these animals
exist in the mountains, that they feed here, regularly
roaming through the fields.. I really like this idea
of making workshops, That every person
can teach something to a child or a young person, Teach something that
he or she likes personally.. That’s more generally
our educational method To do what we like to do And for the children to get
involved if they like it. And practically the least
that children earn from that, is to learnhow to learn,
how to look at nature.. “Hey Children, wait!” The Children’s Orchard
is not a (regular) school. At first we were
calling it school, because we didn’t know
how else to call it But if you ask
children about school, their response is
that it is boring That’s what they express, when we ask them their opinion
about what they do there That they don’t know
what to say, indicates that they might not understand
why all this is happening They are shocked by all the
knowledge directed to them. For me it’s 50/50. Meaning that children
should learn things that they can apply
using their brain But also apply them
using their hands. So that children connect
life with school. This is for me what is
missing from school It’s like its outside of real life. With the guys here we have
an excellent cooperation because many of their activities
are able to support our programs Children’s Orchard operates also as
a social infrastructure for this place. it’s not just for keeping kids busy, or a place for creative occupation,
as the ones we are used to. It offers a lot at the local community. The truth is that the work that
is being done here is amazing! Really advanced in
educational standards regarding Greece’s standards,
not just local ones and the kids of Panagitsa
are very lucky living within this environment. I understand that for the kids,
this is a bit strange.. And they often ask “why did you left
Athens and came here?” They are trying to understand
what is going on with me! I always reply that some people
like to live in the city, Others like to live in a village, but that it is always good
to experience both and the opposite of what
you’re used to live to be able to choose. There are a lot of
initiatives now, in regions outside of
Athens but also in Athens with parents and teachers
trying something different. They see that education, as it is now,
has nothing to offer.. and that it simply stresses
children too much, without them being happy
nor learning something. What we are trying to do
at the Children’s Orchard is to become an example that will inspire others to
start something similar. There is not a single answer, because each classroom,
each place has different needs and the teacher needs to
be alert and present, so (s)he can respond accordingly The way we began
was very simple, Two people, a lot of work and an empty space. We took the risk, because we had already
difficult personal experiences so not having money, was never
an issue that brought us fear. We don’t ask for tuition fees
from the children, Every week they bring
some pocket money, they go to the grocery store
and buy the ingredients, For each week’s
cooking lessons. Our orchard.. is actually an example for the kids
on how this model operates, Its a building that has
a plant nursery around It gives birth to new plants,
for the bigger circle a big field where we put
plants from the nursery. There is also the processing
which will take place there. And all this comes back here
at the “school” whatever surplus
is left we trade it. but also the children
are learning crafts relative with the
local area they live. I believe that in due time each of us
is going to have a minimum wage. What we really want to do, is to be able to work
with our passion And to build each of our
workshops as nice as we can, so the kids can
visit them. Through all the things we do,
I think we are helping them to see the different choices
that they have In relation to what
they can learn but also regarding how
they want to live Seen from the outside,
it’s not always obvious what children get here because they won’t leave holding
a “Disney” toy or other things But they will leave with joy. When I see that in children,
I understand what we are doing. We did what made sense. What happened to us
was entirely natural We grew up in a way
that was very free in relation to nature
and the village And we simply repeat this
with the children here. The child is already a teacher and
knows about many things And you just have
to catch their rhythm, A circle and not
a straight line.

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