Since most of us have grown up in a westernised, mainstream education system, it can be quite hard to imagine what an age mixed self directed learning community looks like. It’s great to read the corner stone bibles of SDL (link to resources) but then the manifestation of that requires a deschooling process. And even then it is very different at home and in a setting. It involves open minded and compassionate engagement with your own boundaries, your assumptions about the values of different subjects and styles of learning, a respectful mutuality despite natural hierarchies and it is a lifelong process.
Gamechangers is a space where the children are empowered away from their parents to practise community building and follow their interests. This has to be balanced with building trust through sharing what happens there with parents as we value our relationships with the families of individuals. We recognise how fundamental relationships are to gaining insight and supporting the gamechangers. With all of this in mind I am going to sketch out what an “average” day looks like in a constantly evolving space like gc.
The day has some timetabled anchors, so that the gamechangers feel held in the space and are free to develop. People arrive at 9.30 and then the daily meeting is at 10.30. Here we check in how we’re feeling, what the plans are for the day, and any other ideas for how the space operates. Our plans might be from the week before or a prior commitment, on the spot, co-created, child led or an offering from the facilitators. Then there is a morning session followed by lunch together or apart at 12.30, an afternoon session and tidy up time at 2, usually followed by a chill group game or story. That is the basic format if we are on site, but trips off site differ.
What happens during the day depends on the gamechangers interests, the resources, and that ancient balance between individual and community, freedom and licence, autonomy and solidarity. Examples so far have included art, band practise, planting, tornadoes and weather systems, reading, group games, and of course the adventure playground structures and imaginative free play.
We are also open to trips, we've been on a few. We're privileged to be located within visiting distance of the museums and galleries of central London, parks, swimming pools, libraries etc. As the children have become more settled in the regular space more will probably happen.
Consent is fundamental and explicitly negotiated. The facilitators might strew resources around the site or make offerings with no attachment to specific outcomes or participation. If something specific is embarked upon it is sometimes discussed and defined in advance so a commitment to following it through can be reached.
Of course conflicts do arise as they do in all settings and in resolving these we are guided by our values,. There are some basic “hard no’s” (no walking in front of the zip line, no climbing up the outside of adventure play structures) that are defined by our environment and our insurance policy! Then there is the pact, which has been established by the facilitators and the gamechangers when they envisioned the space they wanted and this is responsive to situations as they arise. At present this covers being physically and verbally respectful of each other and each others belongings, and taking care of the environment. We practise both sociocratic and democratic solutions, and lean towards a restorative justice culture over a punitive system. It is crucial to the Gamechangers to feel safe and for their needs to be met in order to fully participate as equals in the space.
Overall we are proud that the gamechangers often come out exhausted and smiling from their day.