Four walls, desks and a blackboard and you have a school classroom? Book bags, homework and break time. Think again!
Most of us have attended traditional schools but for thousands of kids worldwide, school is not as we know it. While some may seem a bit unorthodox or strange, one thing they have in common is a passion for learning. Let’s take a trip around the world and pop in at some of the most unusual and unconventional schools.
Elf School in Iceland
The Elf School is entirely dedicated to learning about elves. In fact, an entire curriculum about the 13 types of elves in Iceland. With published text books, a five hour class and elf habitat tour for curious travellers, this is where elf experts are born.
Boat schools in Bangladesh
Twice a year, Bangladesh experiences floods and it becomes difficult for children to attend schools and for those schools to keep their doors open. To combat the challenges of twice yearly floods in Bangladesh, a non-profit organisation called Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha came up with a brilliant solution. They built houses, health care centers and schools that float. The organisation operates almost 100 boat schools and each is solar powered and equipped with a laptop computer, Internet access, and a small library. They pick their students up from docks and riversides, then dock somewhere so that class can begin. After the lessons are through, the boat schools return the students to their homes and another group of students are picked up. About 70,000 children have benefited from the boat schools since they were established in 2002.
The West Philadelphia School of the Future
was opened in 2006. The school does not require students to have books. Instead, students use computers. Mathematics is taught with OneNote, a note-taking app, and teachers use computerised smart boards instead of traditional dry-erase or blackboards for instruction. Students use digital lockers that open with the flash of an ID card.
Familiarity with Microsoft Office and other programs gives students a higher chance of employment after graduation. Rather than using the normal letter grading scale, the school uses grades ranging from “Advanced” to “Not on the Radar.” The schedule begins at 9:00 AM and ends at 4:00 PM to replicate a normal work day instead of a typical school day.
The Ring-around-a tree kindergarten
in Tokyo Japan was designed by architect Takaharu Tezuka, who wanted to create a space that allowed children to be free. The school is in the shape of an oval with a perimeter of 183m and three trees sprout from the ground through classrooms and high into the sky. The school roof is a giant ring in which 5 year olds joyfully run around in circles - expending excess energy and having simple fun. With no formal classroom furniture, the structure was designed to have zero acoustic barriers – making for a noisy and engaging setting. While running an average of 4km a day around the roof circle, the kids are developing some great athletic skills in addition to keeping fit.
School at Sea
For six months of the year, teens aged 14 - 17 who have a penchant for adventure, can attend school on the high seas. Departing from the Netherlands to the Caribbean and back, School at Sea
works in conjunction with the students’ home schools. Students learn the ins and outs of sailing, and visit a variety of countries along the way while also being exposed to supplementary courses and leadership programs. As the six months progress, the students are given control to steer the ship and take over all of the safety and maintenance.
Picture courtesy of School at Sea.
School on a bus
A non-governmental organisation in Karachi, Pakistan, launched its first mobile school when it bought a bus in 1993 for the purpose. The foundation aims to educate children in slum areas in the port city of Karachi. Equipped with benches, desks and a large blackboard, the bus picks up children from different areas of the city. As many as 160 students study inside the bus in four shifts of two hours each. Each student is taught on an individual basis.
Founded in 1961 by Ray Kroc to teach the secrets of McDonald’s to eager minds, the first Hamburger University was located in Oak Brook, Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago. Today they are also located in Tokyo, London, Sydney and Shanghai. Before you laugh, keep in mind that getting into Harvard is currently easier than in McDonald’s University in China, since less than one percent of the applicants will eventually be accepted there.
Picture courtest of McDonalds.wikia.com.
Hamburger University in China - picture courtesy of del.h-cdn.co/.
You still can't go to Hogwarts — but budding Harry Potter’s and Hermoines can attend a wizarding school
in California started by a real-world Dumbledore. The Grey School of Wizardry is an officially recognised academic establishment and offers amongst others Beast Mastery, Alchemy, Wand Making and Defence against the Dark Arts. Pupils are split into four houses too – Gnomes, Winds, Undines and Salamanders.
Oberon – headmaster at Grey School of Wizardry. Picture courtest of i.huffpost.com.
Encouraging kids to interact better with their surroundings, Forest Kindergartens are springing up across Europe. Educating 3 - 6 year olds, all classes are held almost exclusively outdoors, come rain or sunshine. If you think these schools are different, give a thought to some pupils from exotic countries where the daily school commute can be incredible adventure in itself.
For example, some Colombian school students every morning cross river Rio Negro on a 400-meter zip line.
Picture courtesy of thechive.com.
Or how about a treacherous and long trek to school each morning like the pupils of Gulu Elementary school in China. Located within the mountainous village of Gulu, pupils can only access the school through the Luoma Way – narrow passages, rickety bridges and sheer precipices on their five hour journey to school.
Picture courtest of dramafever.com.
Picture courtesy of dramafever.com.