17 March 2022

There's a horse in the school corridor

Oberviechtach, 17 March 2022. Little Franz-Josef got up extra early because today is a very special day: together with his mum Gusti, he wants to get a taste of school air and find out whether Ortenburg-Gymnasium Oberviechtach is right for him. It takes a whole 45 minutes to drive from his home, the Baby & Kinder Bio-Resort ULRICHSHOF in Zettisch, to the new school, where 17 pupils of class 5 c are already waiting for him with great joy.

The fact that Franz-Josef is not a little boy but a one-year-old mini-shetty has a special reason. Because when it comes to promoting the everyday skills of school children, Ortenburg-Gymnasium Oberviechtach is taking a completely new approach. Together with Michaela Lankes, member of the management at ULRICHSHOF, the teachers are developing an offer for the pupils to experience the “school for life” with horses. “My colleague, Mrs. Schneider, read in a newspaper article about a job application training with horses at the ULRICHSHOF and we were both immediately enthusiastic about it”, reports Director of Studies Silke Zettlmeißl. “That’s why I contacted Michaela Lankes and together we want to promote the topic at our school.”

Bye, primary school - hello, grammar school

For all pupils, the first day after the big holidays is something special. While most are looking forward to seeing their old school friends again, others are terribly excited because they have changed schools. The subject matter, classmates, teachers: everything is strange at first. “For us, the change to a grammar school is often associated with uncertainty,” Silke Zettlmeißl knows. “The longer journey by bus, new teachers, large rooms and many pupils can be intimidating. And while you were one of the tallest at primary school, you are now suddenly one of the smallest again. On top of that, there are often questions about whether the others like you and whether you can make it to grammar school.”

And this is exactly where Michaela Lankes is supposed to help: “I want to support the children in developing their emotional intelligence and at the same time strengthen their resilience so that they can deal with difficult situations – i.e. fears, negative experiences and problems – more easily,” she explains her approach. “The whole thing happens with the help of the animals, who teach them this 1-to-1. The fascinating thing about horses is that they perceive things energetically. And when the children see and understand this and then behave in the same way themselves, they realise how easy and joyful life can be – even when things get wild.”

I want to support the children to further develop their emotional intelligence and at the same time strengthen resilience.

Michaela Lankes

Lighthouse project at Ortenburg Grammar School Oberviechtach

Silke Zettlmeißl describes: “We see, especially with the 5th graders who are often overwhelmed in the current situation, that it is particularly important to act now and to set a counterpoint as a school. As a grammar school, we want to go new ways and show the children at the beginning of the school year how to cope with new situations with a project like this. For us, the whole thing is a lighthouse project.” Headmaster Ludwig Pfeiffer is also behind the new offer: “We believe that teaching is one thing, but also giving our children skills for everyday life is another. We have been living this so-called “school for life” for a long time, for example with courses in first aid, rhetoric and self-defence to increase self-confidence. With numerous offers, we convey to our students what is simply important for their personal development. For this reason, we are also firmly convinced that the children are learning for life with Michaela Lankes’ programme.”

Learning with joy

While the pupils of class 5 c spend time in the playground together with the mini-shettys Franz-Josef and Gusti, Michaela Lankes explains her work: “The great thing about it is that the children enjoy it because of the animals and don’t even notice that they are learning and what basis they have just acquired. They absorb the knowledge in a playful way, so to speak.”

At the end of the day, the children tell us exactly what they have learned: Franziska has remembered that “you can also go to animals and tell them what your problem is and they will comfort you. And Michael realised “that you mustn’t always think badly, otherwise you’ll sink into bad thoughts at some point.” Korbinian has remembered that “when you don’t feel so good, that it can help to go to someone who makes you feel good.” Director of Studies Silke Zettlmeißl nods in agreement. “We know from our own experience that it is not quite so easy to get from a primary school class to a grammar school. But especially then it is very important – and that is exactly what Michaela Lankes showed us today: I just have to look at how I accept it and how I deal with it.”

In order for the future grammar school students to be able to accept the new offer at the beginning of the school year, the next meeting will take place at the ULRICHSHOF at the beginning of April, where the planned concept will be worked out together.

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