About Us –
The Offene Schule Waldau’s Pedagogical Concept in Brief
The Offene Schule Waldau or OSW (Waldau Open School) is an integrated, comprehensive secondary school. An all-day school, it opens its doors to students at 7:30 a.m. From then until 8:45 a.m. when the first class period begins, the children may gather during the “open beginning,” work on assignments, play or simply “get settled” and converse amongst themselves. Starting in 7th grade, the students’ schedules are expanded to include elective courses, so that, in part, classes in higher grades commence as early as 8:00 a.m. From 8:45 a.m. until 12:15 p.m., there are four class periods divided by a half-hour-long breakfast break. We forgo the use of a bell between periods and to announce the beginnings of breaks. We also allow the children and adolescents to decide where and how they would like to spend their breaks. After an hour-long lunch break, during which students are provided the opportunity to eat and participate in free-time activities, there are two more class periods, which last until 2:35 p.m. At this time, the compulsory classes are over. From 3:00 p.m. until 4:30 p.m., elective classes are offered.
Straightforwardness and reliability are important pedagogical principles that we have implemented at an organizational level as well. The school, for example, which has six-classes per grade level, is divided into six smaller units – the grades five through ten. Each grade level, with its six classes, “inhabits” its own area complete with six classrooms, a common area in which students can gather, celebrate, perform and work, as well as a teachers’ room. Classrooms and the common area are arranged and decorated by the students and their teachers. A teaching team of approximately 12 educators teaches predominantly in one grade level and “accompanies” the students over the course of their six-year education. The teaching teams are individually responsible for the majority of their own day-to-day organizational and content-related planning and meet every two weeks in a team meeting. They elect a team speaker and one or two organizers. They also delegate one person to the school’s central pedagogical workgroup, which is mainly concerned with the implementation of curriculum and pedagogical exchange. For each of the individual subjects, one representative from each subject coordinates the teachers of that subject. Besides the team meetings, subject conferences, combined conferences and many other work-group meetings take place regularly.
We strive to organize the analysis of the world and the acquisition of qualifications and skills into larger content chunks and encourage the development of the required social skills in stable learning groups. This includes why, for years, we have combined the subjects of social studies, history and geography to form “social education.” Physics, chemistry and biology are taught from 5th through 8th grade in the subject group “natural sciences.” In 9th and 10th grade, students, with the guidance of their subject teachers, place themselves in natural science aptitude groups, which are taught differently with regard to topic and level of difficulty. We try to coordinate the year’s curriculum across the various subjects to create interdisciplinary units. Interdisciplinary teaching mainly occurs in the “compact weeks,” which take place three times a year. Here additional time is provided to facilitate visits to educational destinations outside the school, combined group projects, excursions and class trips. The foremost interdisciplinary learning space is “free learning,” which, particularly in the higher grades, provides a place for interdisciplinary topics and questions.
In view of the very diverse religio-cultural backgrounds of our students and in close cooperation with representatives of the Protestant and Catholic churches, we have implemented an exemplary concept for religious education. This concept is supported by regular continuing education courses in collaboration with the responsible religious institutions, interdisciplinary activities – e.g. within the framework of the “Bauwagentage,”1 – as well as regular “religious conversations” with church representatives.
With the help of “free learning,” which is allotted two periods a week in lower grades and three periods a week in higher grades, but also through targeted methodological training in the individual subjects, we build up the competencies for key qualifications and autonomous learning step-by-step. The purpose of this is so that students, upon reaching 9th and 10th grade, are capable of working on a topic of their choice and presenting it in a manner befitting the topic and the student’s ability to their class, grade and, should the occasion arise, to the entire school. The variety of topics and approaches shows the diversity of the students’ talents and gifts.
As is the case in “free learning,” the children and adolescents’ differences in various areas also play a large role in regular class and school life. We strive to impart an understanding of social experiences and skills for dealing with each other to children of different descents, talents and abilities. Additionally, we are in the process of practicing and further developing concepts of within-class ability grouping and individualization so that we can meet the individual needs of each child to the full extent of our ability. Beginning in 7th grade, we implement between-class grouping in basic and advanced English classes, math classes and, beginning in 8th grade, in German classes. Further between-class groupings based on aptitude and performance are implemented in elective courses and language course offerings.
We award all secondary-school certificates according to current regulations: the Hauptschul certificate upon completion of the 9th grade, the extended Hauptschul certificate upon completion of the 10th grade, the Realschul certificate (with the option of specialized-high-school qualification) and admission into the 11th grade at Berufliche Gymnasien (vocational high schools) or allgemeinen gymnasialen Oberstufen (general high schools). The students are guided through their six years at the OSW by school social workers and the school guidance counselor. Beginning with the assignment to classes at the end of 6th grade, they provide the students with individual academic advising as well as socio-pedagogical and academic-psychological counseling. In 9th and 10th grades, vocational and degree orientation plays a larger role. Some students extend the compulsory internship at the beginning of 9th grade with an internship in England.
On a path towards more environmentally conscious living, learning and working, we maintain the care and upkeep of the school garden, the school campus as well as a nearby orchard.
Work in the School Garden
With the help of “energy spokespeople” in the classes, we carry out our energy conservation program.
The Waldau Open School is primarily for children and adolescents from the neighborhood of Waldau who apply, but is also open to applications from Kassel’s municipal area and, in some cases, from surrounding communities. The 5th grade classes are each assigned 25 students as well as usually one “integrated class,” in which, with the help of a special-needs teacher, special-needs children and regular children are taught together. As Hesse’s Versuchsschule (experimental school), we have an early application deadline: parents who are interested in the OSW should submit an informal application briefly introducing their child and stating their reasons for choosing this school along with their child’s last report card. The deadline for applications varies from year to year and is posted on this website.
The status of “Versuchsschule” means that through special duties and assignments, the school is expected to contribute to the further development of the school system and is required to provide stimuli for other schools. For this reason, providing tours to visiting groups is just as much a part of our responsibilities as documenting our work in our school newspaper Schulleben (School Life) or in other publications. Once a year in a “planning discussion,” we are faced with a critical discussion with representatives of the hessischen Kultusministerium (Department of Education of the state of Hesse), the state school board and the city of Kassel.
1The “Bauwagentage” (construction-trailer days) is a project designed to open religion class at the Waldau Open School to church congregations and municipalities on the school grounds. The students meet with experienced adult representatives to discuss certain topics, questions and problems, which in the past have included violence, the history of National Socialism and sexual identity. The name “Bauwagentage” refers to the first implementation of the project in 1993, which took place in a converted construction trailer. (http://www.fachportal-paedagogik.de, “Waldauer Bauwagentage”)