Learning on the Farm: Roaner Lernfreunde

Learn from living – that is the motto behind the work of Roaner Lernfreunde. The newly founded learning centre on the fruit farm in Sarns near Brixen (South Tyrol) has a very practical approach to learning. The children take part in the daily work of the farm owners Sabine and Klaus Mader, helping out in the barn and garden or participating in smaller construction projects on the property. Nevertheless, traditional classroom content is not neglected. On the contrary, it is applied and integrated into the practical projects: mathematics and geometry, for instance, can also be practised while laying the new terrace.

“The concept of the hands-on farm school, which has already proven itself elsewhere, has a special focus in Sarns,” explains educational scientist and SAGST project leader Dirk Randoll. “Here, the needs of highly sensitive children, who can easily get lost in the normal school day due to their strongly pronounced sensitivity, are addressed explicitly.” The school days are clearly structured with a deliberate alternating of practical activities and rest periods. Beyond the school and common rooms, an extensive orchard, woods and meadows offer a learning environment without hectic and overwhelming external stimuli. Three highland cattle, a family of pigs, sheep, chickens and rabbits await in the stable and meadow, and the children are also involved in their care.

The founding idea came from a request from the neighbouring Waldorf School in Brixen, which was specifically looking for alternative formats for highly sensitive pupils. After initial positive experiences with individual children, the decision matured to expand the offer and jointly found a small learning centre for up to 15 children and adolescents. Together with the development facilitators Michael and Johannes Harslem, an intensive preparation phase began. Despite the difficult conditions caused by the coronavirus-related restrictions last year, the first larger learning group can now move into the newly furnished premises in autumn 2021. Meanwhile, further fundamental processes have been initiated: In the medium term, the farm will be organised as a farming community based on solidarity and its management will be changed from organic to Demeter criteria.