In Bratsch, children are prepared for daily life responsibilities like cleaning, or cooking.
The organization is rigorous : each child has its place, each child has its own task. Children are facing with learning that seems more tedious than school lessons, but which will be useful and beneficial to the individual throughout his life. He is trained in autonomy, activity, and even mutual aid, because exercise helps teach children to be able to deal with community life. Simple lessons that rhyme with "well-being" and "development" because the child helps to make himself useful.
That gives this mutual added value, this social situation, helping with the cooking, and that is like life in reality. You might burn your fingers, but it’s also part of the job. - Damian Gsponer
Imagine a school that places children into miniature ‘leadership’ roles within a small community – suddenly making them aware of how their local world works.
Damian Gsponer is the head teacher at the Bratsch School, in the Swiss canton of Valais. He doesn’t have fond memories of his own school years. “Public schooling is not suited to the needs of today’s schoolchildren,” he says. A psychologist and a specialist in human resources, he has published a number of books on new pedagogical methods.
Today, a father of two children, he is the head of a very special school – one where children face real-life challenges. The model at Bratsch offers children the possibility of learning about life through concrete projects, bringing to life a community that has suffered decades of decline through rural desertification. They run the town hall, the local shops, the post office. They have fun as they discover the workings of each, accompanied by teachers who develop a personalized approach for each child.
“In their early years here, the children can still be kids. In a playful transition, they begin to explore how society works, and how to better choose their path in the world of study and work…They very quickly learn to recognize their personal limits, and to identify and develop their particular talents,” says Damian.
“By combining school with the purpose of reviving this mountain village, the children learn to take responsibility in society, and they see the results of their engagement with each other. It’s an excellent preparation for becoming conscientious citizens.”