Playing in a Mercedes Benz

One of the basic aspects in life-derived learning is to allow children discover the real world, through play. Because children, when given the power to choose, always transfer their play into reality.

One of our pre-k classes developed a genuine interest on how cars work! They talked about cars, read about cars, saw movies, played with toys, even constructed fake cars in various forms .

Were these enough? Of course not! Children went on asking more & more things, so we had to give them the chance to see a place where a car is born…

Unfortunately, in Greece we do not have a single car making factory. However, we do have many car import and repair companies and Mercedes Benz Hellas proved so willing to let our children visit their premises, ask questions and even play in their cars!

Children came back in school full of enthusiasm. Because it is not what you learn in such a visit – it is how it makes you feel; and our pre-Ks returned in school feeling as great as any of us after having played in a Mercedes Benz!


“What is in a TV?”

Everyday, children bring in school questions and ideas arising from their own life. For example, they all have in home displays and other IT equipment but hardly ever have the chance to find out how do those things look, from inside.

So, whenever this question comes in school, and the truth is it comes quite often, we just give them old pieces of HW and screwdrivers, to find out on their own. It’s always so much fun!

Transferring play into real life conditions

We do offer a DIY class in kindergarten, in order to introduce 6 y.o. children into creative thinking & problem solving attitude.

For example: by  constructing a hydraulic robotic arm from scratch, children transfer their play into real life conditions by engaging in the following. They:

  • Derive the plan
  • Measure the dimensions
  • Cut the wood
  • Trial and error to make the junctions work
  • Understand how the hydraulic pumps work
  • Team & coordinate to make the arm move in all three dimensions

While the above consist the most fascinating play, yet encourage children to develop numbers of skills and engage deeply into creative thinking and innovation.

But most of all it’s just freely selected & non-directed play. Adults do not direct or impose, only inspire and facilitate. It’s not by coincidence that, when such a project is over,  children rarely play with the outcome. They have enjoyed most playing during the construction!

Visiting the historical National Library of Greece, just before its relocation after 114 years

In our play-based school, we always look for opportunities to mingle with fascinating reality.


A coming cornerstone for Athens, our city, is the relocation of National Library of Greece and of Greek National Opera to the very new and impressive SNF Cultural Center, near city’s coast.


Since 1903, National Library of Greece has been located into a historical building in the very heart of the city, designed by Theofilos Hansen and constructed by the great Ernst Ziller.  This status-quo will end by September 2016, so these days it was really the very last chance for our pre-K and summer campus kids (kindergarteners & alumni) to visit it.


Children of both classes have been working lately in a variety of projects on sea and volcanoes. So, it was a great opportunity for kids to visit the old building and utilize library services in their research, getting thus a good idea on why we need libraries!


Library policies are tough and usually do not allow hosting preschoolers, but our fantastic kids proudly made it!


Children searched their subjects in library computers….


….identified the needed sources….


…and copied all information needed.


All in all, it was a fantastic day for our kids. They grasped a lifetime experience, just days before it become a gone-for-good memory!

(big thanks to Library staff Ms. Vasiliki Tsigkouni, Tonia Pateropoulou and Agathi Papamichael, for their assistance.)

We are the robots (II)

Everything started with Christos’ idea for a “rain-robot”. But what is the robot; Our hypotheses were verified by watching videos with robots in school ‘s projector room.

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We copied the moves of the robots

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We made the faces of the robots from recycled material

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We became the robots by wearing tin uniforms

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We split into groups and played a board game, cutting parts for a robot’s body

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We rolled the dice, found the corresponding member of the robot’s body and stuck it on the paper

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And so we made our robots!

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(by Eleni Triantafyllopoulou, teacher in post-toddlers’ class in Athens)

Is Tech taking Edu?

While attending GESS 2016 education exhibition in Dubai last week, I was once more hit by the extensive use of technology in schools, nowadays.


I’d dare to say almost 90% of exhibited stuff was somehow tech related. Never in my life before I’ve seen so many 3D printers working together and so many robots roaming around, at the same time. Absolutely impressive!


But, wait a moment. GESS 2016 was an education event, right? Not a tech show. So, why so much about technology?

Well, I’m the last person in the education world to claim that tech world should be out of schools. On the contrary: despite running a play-based curriculum in our preschool, we welcome and enforce the use of technology.


But, that use of technology arising from children own needs and ideas and aiming to add real value in class. And that means, to assist children in their life-derived inquiries, not to dominate those inquiries or transform their mud-hole play into a virtual playground!


Let’s be honest with ourselves. As GESS 2016 proved once more, contemporary education storybook is mainly written by the tech companies’ point of view. And this is the book societies gladly buy at the end of the day. Why? Because, technology companies dominate the universe and own the big money – while schools don’t.


Two years ago n IPA 2014 conference in Istanbul, I was eager to discuss this issue with many wise play gurus from all over the world. Their sayings were enlightening: tech companies die to captivate their users from as early age as possible. By managing to lower kid’s entry point in tech world just by one year, they can make billions of extra money yearly on phones, tablets, games and the similar. Is there any better way to achieve that than entering schools, early on?

Their strategy is well known: on the one hand, societies are getting terrorized on the dangers of letting children play freely, outdoor, unattended & taking their own risks. And on the other hand, societies are over-bombed regarding the urge for constant tech advancement and children’s future capability to compete.


All we early education people know the result: instead of raising generations of happy children freely playing, we end up with stressful children coping with complicated numerical tests, in front of a screen.

I say again: technology is a good thing for education. However, education is so much more than tech. Learning how to code, for example, is fantastic, no doubt it teaches children a concrete way of thinking. But, education is more than learning the technical stuff, no?


Education is actually a continuous process through which societies nurture citizens capable of managing their own lives, learning to depend on their own will and being able to adapt in changing environment on a solid and constructive way – both for themselves and for the benefit of the society. Education is more of a continuous & balanced self-advancement process than a mere learning of facts. And is highly dependable on the human factor.


So, my point is the following and is loud and clear: we, educators and school people, should keep writing the education story on our point of view and not on the one of the governments and of the marketers.

We need to keep finding new ways of improving children’s ability to progress on their own feet and on their own judging will. Keep helping them become strong, independent and self-confident citizens and develop a genuine interest on how to discover their very own life path. Keep observing kids in no prejudice as they grow, understanding their needs and respecting their unique pace.

Technology can definitely be a good tool to achieve the above, in a school. But is neither the only, nor the most important one.

We, people responsible for educating young children will always be the critical factor on how things move, in school. Not the printers or the robots…

Great teachers will keep inspiring kids and families by their paradigm and their passion.

Bad teachers will keep demotivating by their incompetence and lack of interest. But in that case, they can still blame the machine…


(by John Yiannoudis, co-owner and director of Dorothy Snot preschool)

Ophthalmology class in school bus (II)

After the experience children had in school bus with Spyridoula’s eye glasses, they asked me if I can see clearly while not wearing mine.


I replied that when not in glasses, I use eye-lenses. Next day, I gave them a pair of lenses to come in contact with. They touched them, smell them and realized that after a while they got dry.


So, I told them to place them into their own case with the special liquid and lenses became wet and resilient again.


Since then, every time that I don’t wear glasses, children look into my eyes and try to “locate” my lenses.

(by Chrysa Vaitsi, cross-class projects’ coordinator in Athens school)