Mikros Dounias is an educational project on the Greek island of Lesvos. Every day, local and refugee children of early childhood age play and learn together in the small forest of the open refugee camp Lesvos Solidarity. We, the parents, the educators and the children of Mikros Dounias, organize our learning processes collectively, beyond any form of discrimination. We respect the rhythm, the needs and desires of each person by encouraging freedom of choice and self-regulation. Outdoor learning brings us closer to the creatures and the elements of nature, reinforcing our relations to everything around us.
What are we doing?
We play ...
Playing involves the body and soul of the participant holistically, bringing balance and harmony and promoting action instead of passivity. It cultivates spontaneity, creativity and imagination.
During play, unexpected events are many. Players have to handle these events and come up with creative solutions. Moreover, the relationships between them are constantly tried. Consequently confidence in themselves and the others is being established.
Play is one step outside the “ordinary” life and in a temporary sphere of activity. It is a different reality with different functions and results - less specific, more open and free. We want our children to spend as many hours per day as possible in this serious and yet entertaining, invented and yet real world.
... and we learn ...
We consider that learning process is connected to the mind, body and soul and stimulates all senses. We recognize that it takes place throughout the day in many different levels. We think that regardless of age everyone can learn from everyone else.
It is common knowledge that children have an inherent curiosity; our goal is that this curiosity becomes deeply rooted and blooms. Learning in Mikros Dounias is based on action, experience and exploration. We try to always have an open eye and ear in order to perceive what each child wants to learn and to support him/her in his/her research. Therefore emerges a cooperative dimension of learning, since the learning needs and ideas of each one easily inspire his/her companions.
Contact with nature is of great importance for wellness and personal development. We want children to have the opportunity to move, play, observe and explore in natural environments throughout the year (according to the people of the Nordic countries, there is no bad weather, only unsuitable clothes!). Being in constant contact with nature, children learn to understand and trust her, to respect her and to love her, to live in harmony with her.
In Greek and in English, with respect to all mother languages
Apart from body language, in Mikros Dounias we speak mainly Greek, English and even some Arabic that we learn day by day. As far as possible, we incorporate mother tongues that children and their parents bring with them, into our everyday life - as we have already mentioned, our goal is to constantly learn from one another. Verbal communication in more than one language enriches our everyday life and broadens our perception of the world.
Freedom of choice and the right to participate
We create a framework within which children can satisfy their needs, as we believe that the child is more capable than anybody to recognize his/ her own needs. The process of filling these needs starts from him/herself and is supported by educators, other children and parents. For much of the day, children are free to choose where they will be, what they will do and whether they’d like to rest. It has been observed that the above does not work at the expense of the team spirit, since children work collectively anyway when they need to do so and not when this is imposed on them.
We believe that children need to have the right and means to influence all aspects of their lives. That's why we support them as best we can to express their opinions and fulfil their wishes.
Feeling of safety. Of being seen, listened and respected.
We want to create an environment where every child will feel safe; a group of people in which each child will feel he/she belongs. We believe that these feelings can be experienced in an environment of friendship and understanding where stable and close human relationships can flourish. We do our best to welcome each child with love and warmth and to help it feel confident and secure. We are committed to respecting the identity, biorhythm, skills, rights and needs of each individual. We believe that an experience such as this is internalized and leads to relations of mutual appreciation and love among the people involved.
Equality & integration
Mikros Dounias is actively opposed to any form of discrimination. All together, we ensure that each child and his/her family have their diversity respected regardless of age, gender, abilities, nationality, etc. Thus, we come closer to one of our main goals: To help everyone build trust in himself and his personal, linguistic and cultural identity.
Mikros Dounias is our joint venture together with Lesvos Solidarity, its aim being focused in the co-existence of refugee and local children and their parents, so that they can create, learn and explore the world together. Solidarity, respecting differences and care for the natural environment are amongst our main values.