Originally (a solidarity exhibit in Paris Expo 1900 – musee social), a bottom-up voluntary association, located in a poor urban community, where poorly skilled workers could receive education, get advice on everyday problems or simply find a warm, clean place to hang out. Providers of service were mostly middle-class women, usually working for nothing. SH were small usually serving 600-800 people. The SH movement spread from Europe to the US. Moscow: Alexander Zelenko/ Chicago: Hull House founded by Jane Adams. The SH took up the issue of sociality in a complex society full of difference and sought to convert inner and often passive awareness of others into active engagement. To do that, it emphasized informal contact (Toll’s Rule): advise rather than direct. It gave more shape to cooperative activity and turned technical competence into a sociable activity.
Hampton (1866) and Tuskegee (1881) Institutes sought to build the skills and morale of ex-slaves. The founder was Booker T. Washington. However, the ex-slaves had developed sophisticated skills in farming, carpentering, house building and they taught lessons themselves to newer members. Temporary relocation could regenerate cooperation through daily contact with others. Gender equality was also inscribed within racial recovery. The workshop became an icon of reform. Washington emphasized that each person had something different to offer
Frances Johnston’s images show ethnic differences resolved by people working together, rather than simply being together; they make a point about the tools that enable workers to cooperate. In this famous photo, six men are constructing a staircase, each deploying a different skill yet locked together. The photo is staged, it is a narrative of the stages needed to build a staircase. They are relaxed but absorbed in performing a demanding task [image retrieved from: http://www.oxfordartonline.com/page/American-Women-Photographers-c.-1900-1940, Frances Benjamin Johnston: Students at work on a house built largely by them, gelatin silver print, c. 1899-90 (Washington, DC, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division); image courtesy of the Library of Congress]
Excerpts from Richard Sennett’s book, Together: The Rituals & Politics of Cooperation, 2012, London: Penguin Books
Cover Image available here
In the 1970s, idealistic young activists created a wave of experimental schools – no compulsory lessons, no timetables, no rules (…) “no headmaster, nor hierarchy nor recognise any central authority, but be controlled by the parents, children and teachers together”, the Times Educational Supplement reported in December 1970 (…) There were trade unionists, parents, community activists. It became a destination for idealistic university students. The school had to move frequently to find affordable spaces big enough for the growing numbers (…) There would be no timetable, no compulsory lessons, no uniform, no hierarchy. Teachers would be called by their first names. The children would make up the rules and decide what they wanted to learn. There’d be no fees, fixed hours, term times or holidays. They were to be schools without walls – and open whenever the community wanted them. Many of them quickly folded – with some communities not receptive to the idea of educational anarchy. But a few put down solid roots.
“Free schools” mushroomed in the UK in the 1970s, but few survive. State school heads who tried to implement A.S. Neill’s ideas – notably at Risinghill in London –were smartly removed. Half Summerhill’s 68 pupils are from overseas, many from east Asian countries where some parents find the schooling too rigid.
- Tom de Castella, The anarchic experimental schools of the 1970s, BBC News Magazine, 21 October 2014
- Peter Wilby, Summerhill school: these days surprisingly strict, The Guardian, 27 May 2013
Image available here
Northern Beaches Christian School (NBCS) is a co-educational K-12 school of 1300 students in the northern region of Sydney, Australia. The school draws from a range of socio-economic backgrounds.In 2005 NBCS planted a research, development and innovation unit within the school – the Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning (SCIL). It was a means by which to support educational innovation at the grassroots. Seven years on and SCIL (http://scil.com.au) is now the public interface of the school with the global education community.
The industrial-era experience of education is centered around ‘separation’ as a key concept (…) The area that presents the greatest challenge – and has arguably lagged behind in institutional planning across the world, is to consider how to create or transform the physical spaces so that they better support learning in a twenty first century environment of constant change (…) In the last decade, there has been some advancement in spatial thinking related to school designs for the future – creating new spaces by altering existing environments or creating new environments for learning.
- Stephen Harries, 2010. The Place of Virtual Pedagogic and Physical Space in the 21st Century Classroom. Paper presented in Presented at EduLearn 2010 & ICICTE 2010, published by Sydney Center for Innovation in Learning
- Stephen Harris, Redesigning Spaces Around Collaborative Teaching, in wise ed review, full article available here
Images available here and here
In spatial terms, the plan becomes flexible with moving partition walls and soft flooring where students walk wearing socks instead of shoes. The footprints of the plans are usually elongated to separate the noisier parts of the school , plus special acoustics are being applied for the same cause. Refurbishment includes sofas, rocking chairs and big cushions instead of traditional desks and chairs.
In teaching and learning terms, there is a greater autonomy in what is learned for both teachers and students, there are no divisions between ages and a there is a great variety of learning situations where children get paired despite age difference. Class time is dedicated to real life problems and their relation to mathematics or physics instead of abstract manifestations to favor cross curricular connections (phenomenon based learning).
- Feargus O’ Sullivan, 2017. Why Finland Is Embracing Open-Plan School Design. In www.citylab.com, article available here
- Madeline Will, 2016. Finland’s Education Minister Discusses New National Curriculum and PISA Scores. In Education Week, article available here
Image available here