Germany – Concept
The Foundation St. Johannis Evangelische Jugendhilfe is a decentralised youth welfare association that operates as a regional provider in the cities of Magdeburg, Bernburg, Dessau and Halle as well as in the districts of Salzlandkreis, Anhalt Bitterfeld and Harz. The fields of work cover outreach and stationary youth welfare, various types of educational assistance, day care for children, vocational promotion, vocational training and vocational orientation, intercultural and migration work, youth social work, religious education, schools and foster care.
In the range of offers in the area of vocational (early) orientation, it became clear that children or young people only insufficiently reflect upon with their vocational future and also receive little or no impulses from their parents. For these reasons, they are often left without a career perspective at the end of their time in school. The aim of the Kinderstadt/Children’s Town project is to counteract this problem at an early stage and to initiate incentives for an intensive examination of the topics of work and career.
After discussing this situation in the regional network of schools and companies, the foundation’s board approached the press and public relations office with the task of planning a children’s town. In addition to working on the problem situation described above, the board expects an image boost for the organisation as well as a large media response.
The rough outline of the project idea is that the project should be offered on 7 to 14 days in the summer school holidays against a minimum financial contribution. It is aimed at children between the ages of 7 and 14 from all social backgrounds in the city and the district. In a miniature representation of a city, the participants are to gain an initial insight into occupational profiles through typical activities in a wide variety of trades. Approximately 75% of the required budget is to be provided by subsidies and donations. If the project is successful, it will be repeated annually.
The project “Kinderstadt Bärenhausen” (Children’s Town Bearville, since a bear is in the city arms) is supported by the Stiftung St. Johannis Bernburg Evangelische Jugendhilfe. It is a recognised voluntary youth welfare organisation and offers a wide range of services in accordance with the German Child and Youth Welfare Act. An important building block in the work of the organisation is the networking and use of different competences and resources of staff and cooperation partners. For this reason, staff from the vocational centre, open child and youth work, school social work, religious education service and the special school have joined forces and are committed to the social project “Kinderstadt Bärenhausen”.
The “Kinderstadt Bärenhausen” takes place on the grounds of the Foundation St. Johannis Bernburg Evangelische Jugendhilfe, Dr.-John-Rittmeister-Str. 06, in Bernburg/Germany. It is embedded in the foundation’s park-like grounds (approx. 62,000 m²). A section of this plot will be fenced off and wooden houses, pavilions and a wooden church in the shape of a small town will be built on it.
The project duration is one year, usually from November to October of the following year. During this period, the preparation phase, implementation phase and follow-up phase are planned. The following activities will be carried out during the project period:
- updating the concept and finding a motto
- acquisition and application for funding
- calls for donations
- updating the homepage and flyers
- create children’s planning group
- regular meetings of the planning group (at least once a month)
- search for helpers and drafting of contracts
- repair and extension of the wooden houses
- procurement of materials
- 8 consecutive days during the summer school holidays (region Saxony-Anhalt)
- statistical surveys as a basis for securing results
- securing results through written documentation and pictures (final report)
- evaluation of the statistical surveys
- inventory of material
- evaluation discussions with helpers
- repairs to wooden houses and other materials
- report on expenditure of funds
The “Kinderstadt Bärenhausen” is aimed at children and young people between the ages of 7 and 14 from Bernburg, the Salzland district and neighbouring regions. All young people with and without impairments, regardless of nationality, denomination or social and ethnic background are welcome in the “Kinderstadt Bärenhausen”.
The Kinderstadt Bärenhausen offers children and young people:
- participation in social life
- a meaningful way to spend their free time
- an opportunity to spend their holidays
At the same time, it appeals to people who want to volunteer and contribute to the success of the project. For these people, the project offers
- a training ground for practical direct experience regarding jobs in the socio-educational and youth work fields
- participation and social civic engagement
- the opportunity to pass on their own knowledge and skills and to guide children and young people.
With the project “Kinderstadt Bärenhausen”, we want to animate young people to social interaction, mutual appreciation and acceptance as well as to take on responsibility.
By living an everyday life similar to that of an adult but in a playful manner, the children and young people are to learn about the connection between work, wages, sales, leisure time, culture and consumption as well as political participation, democratic forms of co-determination as well as ecological issues and develop individual skills and abilities. We want to promote a sustainable awareness of participation and the acquisition of competences for self-determined and responsible action among the children and young people. The children experience democratic processes, e.g. through the election of the city council and the mayor, and are directly involved in decisions.
We also see the “Kinderstadt Bärenhausen” as an educational project, as an open and complex learning environment. It enables the participating children and young people to shape their living space in a self-organised and co-determined way.
The offer of different trades and professions enables the children and young people to get an idea of the different jobs, to try themselves out and to identify their own abilities and skills. They learn to act in an independent and successful manner, to communicate confidently and to apply the knowledge they have learnt. The gender mainstreaming approach is a natural part in all offers in the Kinderstadt.
Contents and methods
The Kinderstadt Bärenhausen is a miniature replica of a real town. It is a pedagogically supervised large-scale game project for the participation of children and young people who become citizens of a city. The game is based on the rules of the game, which can be amended or changed by the citizens via a majority vote in the citizens’ assembly.
For eight days, the children and young people manage and shape their “Kinderstadt Bärenhausen”. The supervisors act as helpers and motivate the participants to act independently and on their own responsibility.
The children pursue professions that they choose according to their wishes and individual abilities or they try out “new things”. They dare to take the leap into independence and receive value for their work in the form of money (“bear paws”) and fun. They enjoy their time off work in the service trades (hairdresser, cosmetics, gym), spend their earned money (bear paws) in the department stores and gastronomic establishments (pizzeria, bakery, cafe) or simply have fun in the leisure activities (cinema, theatre) and the highlights of the day. A fundamental part of the children’s city is the election of the mayor and of the city council, whereby the children are taught how an election process works and this in a playful and understandable way.
Parents and relatives as well as educators from the schools and after-school care centres are not allowed to interfere in or determine the rules of the game on their own authority. In the “parents’ garden” they have the opportunity to observe the game and their children from the outside. Parents are offered additional activities in the parents’ garden in order to integrate them into the Kinderstadt programme. Parents or visitors can visit the “Kinderstadt Bärenhausen” on weekends (open day) or take advantage of the guided tours offered by the town information office.
Within the Kinderstadt, the children and young people find themselves in different professions, such as construction worker, pastor, painter, town councillor, mayor, cook, carpenter, gardener, salesperson, etc.
Within the Kinderstadt, also events take place such as concerts and theatre, visits by important guests, an election day, a topping-out ceremony, market days and action days.
For their work, the children receive money – in the form of “bear paws”. The children can spend these paws in the available shops and services or take them to the bank and save them.
As in real life, the children have to give part of the money they earn to the tax office. From there, the money is in turn distributed to the church and the town hall, so that activities can also be realised from this side, e.g. making the town more beautiful.