A Different School Is Possible

Participatory and Peaceful Toys: The Project on the Development and Popularisation of Learning Materials

A Different School is Possible Association (BBOM) received support from the Support for the Civil Society Foundation’s Institutional Support Program and Turkey Mozaik Foundation. The project aims to design various toys to be used by teachers and children to support the BBOM Training Model, with the help of a grant provided by our foundation, within the framework of the Children Fund. Below please find the interview for BBOM’s vision and project.

A Different School is Possible Association operating with a participatory and peaceful learning vision, had previously received support from the Support for the Civil Society Foundation. Could you please provide some information about the activities of the association?

BBOM Association focuses on education during early childhood and primary school years. The existing standardized education system disregards differences and imposes a discriminatory and oppressive perspective. This is the basic social problem our foundation focuses on.
BBOM association engages in activities to expand participatory and peaceful classroom environments. It aims to increase its outreach by opening schools that implement our model, and running programs to support teachers. Our alternative education and storybooks printed with ecological concerns in mind serve as the main pillars of BBOM Publications.
Most recently, we have been implementing the “Participatory and Peaceful Classrooms” project in cooperation with Sabancı Foundation and the Violence-Free Communications Association, and the “For Kids, Teacher First” project in Köyceğiz district of Muğla, in cooperation with Muğla Provincial Directorate of Education. Both projects focus on expanding the capabilities of the teachers so they can implement a participatory and peaceful learning environment. Furthermore, we support the widespread adoption of the education model by carrying out activities with working groups organized to develop the BBOM Education Model.

A Different School is Possible Association developed an alternative to the existing education system of Turkey and you have been improving that model through experience. What can you tell us about the basic principles of BBOM system?

The BBOM Model is based on a number of pillars: Alternative Education, Democratic Governance, Ecological Attitude and Authentic Financing.
This approach help children learn at their own pace, in tune with their interests and needs. The BBOM Model accompanies all children on their learning journey, supporting them to take control of their own learning processes while acknowledging each child is unique.
Each BBOM school focuses on learning outcomes the Ministry of Education stipulates as part of the curriculum. In parallel, a second curriculum based on BBOM values such as empathy, solidarity, peaceful attitude, and participation is also taught at BBOM schools. The whole schooling process is planned with the goal of helping children discover learning at their own pace and using their own methods. BBOM schools are not about implementing a single alternative educational approach such as Montessori or Waldorf. Instead,  we implement a combination of multiple approaches to respond to the needs of children.
At BBOM schools, the decision-making processes grant equal say to each participant, namely teachers, children, and staff. The School Assembly convenes each week, to discuss the relevant items on the agenda. Children, as the most populous element of the school population, can bring up their own agenda at this assembly, and enjoy it as a venue for debate. Moreover, in order to allow children participatory and peaceful learning environments, daily class circles are organized. In this context, children themselves use dispute resolution approaches and the intermediation to settle various disputes in the class. BBOM schools are not characterised by a top-down hierarchy extending from adults to children.
All BBOM schools embrace ecological sensitivities regarding a number of issues, from meals to the physical structure of the school and the materials used. The food in the cafeteria is based on the vegetables of the season, procured, if possible, directly from the producer. The school environment facilitates children’s bonding with nature. The materials used at the school are chosen to minimize the carbon footprint. These are a few of the principles of BBOM’s Ecological Stand.
BBOM schools are opened as education cooperatives set up by parents and volunteers who embark on a journey to set up a school based on the BBOM Model. The parents hold equal shares in the cooperative and are responsible for the financial operation of the schools. The schools and teachers, on the other hand, have autonomy and are not associated with a cooperative. The schools are non-profit entities.
In this context, our model proposes a perspective that is different from the existing education system. The BBOM Model developing learning environments position children at the central axis, operate with the democratic decision- making mechanisms extending from classrooms to school management. It believes in the importance of maintaining ecological ties and establishes non-profit schools. That perspective sets it apart from both state-owned and private schools.
The BBOM Teachers Village programs and the BBOM Association Model Development supports teachers, who implement this model at district schools.

What can you tell us about Participatory and Peaceful Toys: The Project on the Development and Popularisation of Learning Materials?

BBOM Association accumulated vast experience in distinctive, creative and practicable educational materials. These materials help foster a peaceful environment of communication, support learning and facilitate children’s participation. The project focuses on activities to empower teachers and their efforts to implement the BBOM Education Model at schools set up by BBOM cooperatives. This project started with the aim of expanding the scope and reach of the educational materials and toys, the teachers with BBOM association had implemented or produced in their own classes. A manual containing instructions on how to produce a number of educational toys/materials and a number of distinct recommendations, to support learning will be produced.

We understand that you are planning to produce a toy, which will be chosen among toy camps within the framework of the Participatory and Peaceful Toys. How do toys and playing games contribute to the learning process for the children?

The standardized education system disregards children’s differences, as we discussed previously, makes the learning processes hard for the children. Each child is truly unique, and the learning environments should support the child in expressing his/her own potential. In Turkey, the curricula are prepared by the Ministry of Education, and are applied at all schools. The teachers already engage in the design of the learning processes associated with the learning outcomes covered by such curricula. It is imperative to support this process designed by the teachers, with games and toys, which are the basic elements of the language children use to communicate. Through games, the children discover themselves, learn about the environment, express their feelings, and socialize with their peers. Innovative, creative and easy-to-produce toys, designed for learning environments facilitate learning by making good use of the child’s internal motivation, taking into account the pace of learning and various development characteristics of the child. Moreover, playing games with children is also important to overcome the hierarchical arrangements between the child and the adult and establish safer bonds.

What can you tell us about the A Different School is Possible Association and the cooperative schools plan for the coming period?

Currently, the model developed by the A Different School is Possible Association is applied by the Curious Cat Primary School in Ankara, the Colorful Forest Primary School in İzmir, the Flying Bike Primary School in Eskişehir, as well as the Colorful Forest Preschool in İzmir and the Running Turtle Preschool in Istanbul. Each school implements the BBOM Education Model in tune with the conditions and requirements of the local context. The Association, in turn, engages in various activities to support these schools.
In addition to the schools mentioned, BBOM Ayvalık Cooperative is also working on opening a school to implement the BBOM Model. The Association is providing assistance for its establishment.
Moreover, the teacher support programs, one of our primary lines of activity, are also in progress under the coordination of BBOM Teacher Village. The “Participatory and Peaceful Classes” and “For Kids, Teacher First” projects which began in 2018, and which continue through 2019 aim to transform the teachers into a community of sustainable learning, with a view to popularising participatory and peaceful learning environments. Our work on this front is in progress.