The opportunities for promoting physical, mental and emotional development are at their greatest and most promising during the first few years of a child's life.
This is precisely where early learning is applied, to avert noticeable problems or health impairment and to alleviate or eliminate any disabilities and their consequences. More than 20,000 children are assisted in corresponding Bavarian institutions, according to a publication of the Bavarian State Government from the year 2005. The focus is generally on educational aids, which provide stimulation with appropriate and generally very playful methods.
In the Büchenbach factory of Memmert GmbH, the early learning group of the Hans-Peter-Ruf school in Schwabach was able to experience and learn about technology in a playful manner. Managing director Christiane Riefler-Karpa and factory manager Werner Gerhard took the 5-year-olds around the factory from one manufacturing stage to the next, starting with the sheet metal processing centre. As was to be expected, a big attraction was being allowed to operate the two welding robots, Max and Moritz. Werner Gerhard did not miss the opportunity of pushing the children along the conveyor belt, which had been converted into a slide at short notice, and which is normally used to transport the finished casings.
How much enjoyment children had can be seen from the present that they gave to their hosts after the visit. Each child painted a picture of their impressions, and they were busy talking and laughing as they did so, as the group's teacher, Mrs Kempel, explained.
A pioneering school project of the Johannes-Helm school and the Lebenshilfe* Schwabach-Roth e.V. promotes social behaviour even at primary school. (* Association of people with intellectual disabilities.
In a Schwabach school project; primary school children learn in a very natural way not to exclude other children because of mental disability, but rather to accept them on the basis of their personal skills. The so-called external classes of the Johannes-Helm school are taught together with a class from the Lebenshilfe during the years of primary school. In neighbouring rooms, each class has its own teacher, following the curriculum or an individual support plan. Wherever it makes sense, the children meet for projects in art, music or sport, field trips and learning excursions. In this context the fourth school year also visited our factory in Büchenbach. All the young guests were allowed to work a little bit, and they were so enthusiastic that nobody could tell the difference at first glance.
This cooperation has already been running for five years and the headmistress of the Johannes-Helm school, Julia Baader, draws positive conclusions: “The children of the normal class benefit from the class size. Because it takes only twenty children at the most, teachers can focus on individuals and give them selective support. Children are taught how to work in a team, and are encouraged to take responsibility and display positive social behaviour.
The disabled children become more confident and are incredibly proud of going to a “normal” school. They learn to appreciate their own knowledge and skills, which helps to prepare them much better for their future life at work and in society.”