(3) Moving School
Moving School is the umbrella for a range of projects undertaken by Ludwig Möller and his fluid, international team, to explore a new kind of education that is about ‘learning from the future’. Their aims: to bring together local questions and global knowledge, to connect people with a shared vision, and to move around the world to change education. Wherever the opportunity arises, Moving School can appear – usually in collaboration with existing universities, art schools, and educational programmes. The courses and workshops, which have been based in Germany, Iran, Ireland, Greece, and South-Korea, are structured around topical issues such as the refugee crisis, the role of women in society, or the growing disconnect to nature. Although the Moving School projects can be very different, what links them together is a communal and hands-on approach that encourages participants from mixed backgrounds to explore the direct relevance of these themes to their own life.
Moving School as a ‘free space’ within the system
Dr. Ludwig Möller is based in Kassel, Germany. He started Moving School in 2012, after having stepped back as a pastor of the Protestant Church. He also works as a teacher of Integrative Therapy and holds a sports degree. During his time as a school and university chaplain, Ludwig witnessed how even in one of the richest countries of the world, educational institutions are having difficulties to make already disadvantaged young people flourish. Too many enter society without unfolding their full potential, with low self-esteem and few aspirations. The question how this could be different, and how education could be more empowering and inclusive, has been driving him ever since. In that sense, Moving School is not only a way for Ludwig to carry on making a meaningful contribution to society, it is also his life research into enabling others to do their life research. Inspirations for this endeavor include Martin Luther King’s fight for justice and human rigths, Paulo Freire’s emancipatory pedagogy, Joseph Beuys’ ideas about social sculpture, and alternative educational projects such as Black Mountain College, an experimental and interdisciplinary art school based in North Carolina that ran from 1933-1957.
Talking about his motivation, Ludwig says: “I want to offer students a framework for exploring what they want to do with their life, and for finding out what they can contribute to society. I’ve noticed that they are not used to that. They are used to being told what to do, instead of being asked what they want. And yet, I think it so important for young people to tap into their own interests and motivation, especially if it can be sparked off in relation to the problems that our world is facing today. In our workshops, we challenge them to initiate their own projects, all the way from generating ideas to putting them into practice. This way, they can experience what it means to engage in a creative process together with others. Understanding creativity as co-creation, we emphasize the communal learning dimension, because we believe that collaborative skills are essential for the future. Also, because we bring together people from different disciplinary, social, and cultural backgrounds, students get the chance to learn from diversity. By creating such ‘free spaces’, Moving School acts like an intervention in the current educational system, in which opportunities for future-oriented personal and social development are rare.”
Recent projects: Social Catwalk - Fashion for Integration & Design Your Life
Over the years, Moving School has facilitated many different projects, ranging from collaborations between Greek and German students to develop new social meeting spaces and teaching Iranian PhD students creativity in therapy to forest bathing weekends. The Social Catwalk - Fashion for Integration and the Design Your Life seminars are some of its recent initiatives.
Social Catwalk brought together German students, refugees, migrants, and unemployed people in Kassel. With support of a professional fashion designer, they created their own upcycled garments and organised a public fashion show. Ludwig: “There are special challenges to a project where you want to integrate refugees. If their status is not fully cleared, we can't show their mastery and faces. Somebody else had to wear their creation on the catwalk.” The Social Catwalk has been nominated for the German Integration Award. In May this year, a crowdfunding campaign on Start Next will start to enable a follow-up.
The Design Your Life seminar is facilitated by Ludwig and colleague Friederike Siebert. It offers students from across the university a space for reflecting on their abilities and skills. The aim is to help them make future choices that are not simply based on expectations from outside, but on an awareness of their talents and interests. Ludwig: “With the arrival of the Bologna system, spaces where students from across the disciplines can meet and work together are getting less. Also, there seems to be little room for taking a look at your life and considering a direction that suits you as a person. The Design Your Life seminars have proven very popular, since they address this need for orientation. It is great that the Entrepreneurship Centre is supporting all these different workshops for students from all departments of the university of Kassel.”
Towards finding an appropriate form for sustaining Moving School
There are plenty of moments when Ludwig feels that all the effort that goes into setting up and running Moving School’s projects is worth it. For example, when students reflect back to him how their participation has given them a new perspective on life, when he sees how they start to develop their own ideas, and when these ideas become projects that continue running beyond the course setting. Yet, he also grapples with the question how Moving School should move into the future. For 6 years, Ludwig and his team have been operating as an ever-shifting international network, an organisation without a fixed framework. Whilst this has allowed them to be flexible, tapping into opportunities wherever they arise, it has posed challenges towards securing and distributing funding for ongoing work. Therefore, in December 2018, they decided to register as an association (German: Verein). This fairly low-key legal structure will make it easier for the team to operate on a more professional level in the future. However, it also compels them to engage with questions regarding their working ethos. How would pinning down what Moving School is about impact on its ability to shape-shift and develop as it happens? How does defining an entrepreneurial niche and establishing a brand to be better able to ‘sell one’s expertise and experience’ go together with working for social and ecological causes? At the moment, Ludwig and his team are in the process of trying to navigate these dilemmas, as they work towards finding an appropriate form to contain and sustain their growing initiative.