“Our schoolyard used to be divided up by steel fences and barbed wire." Kindergarten Principal Popi Basdeki recounts what it was like to have five adjacent preschool yards divided by high fences and barbed wire:
"Three and 4-year old children were prevented from mingling with each other and could only use the yard according to a strictly regulated schedule."
"It halted the children's desire to freely explore their surroundings and connect with their peers."
Through the Athens Partnership’s Designed for Better Learning (DBL) program—and expertise from the Technical University of Crete Transformable Intelligent Environments Lab—that complex has been redesigned into an open, connected play space for children at all five schools.
Since 2016, the program transformed the physical environment and educational experience in 24 public schools, from preschools to high schools. Co-designed with each school community, renovations include new outdoor classrooms, interactive learning equipment, and multi-use play spaces. Studies showed that students at these newly designed schools displayed a marked increase in educational engagement and families a more positive connection with their schools.
Faced with the promise of change, Popi was initially hesitant:
"The overhaul planned was so ambitious that I couldn't believe it would actually happen... Yet, over the course of just one summer break, everything changed!”
“I still remember the moment when our children got to cross over the old boundaries and play with other children. I hope this unique change, a first for Greece, can be offered to more schools”, says Popi.
This Holiday season, can you offer the gift of a better learning experience for children in schools across Athens?