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The Sustainability Adventure: From Schillinghörn to Brazil, Asia and Poland

Guest contribution by Sandra Lachmann


“Selin, your group is in Brazil. Aneta, you’re going to Greece.”
“Nah, but I wanted to go to Poland!!”
“Well, you’ve got Greece though.”

No, this dialogue between a teacher and a pupil didn’t take place at an airport, it was in the youth hostel in Schillinghörn. To be more precise, in front of the red, double-storied extension, that opened up for the first time this year. During my tour through the youth hostels I see and hear these dialogues. When the rooms are distributed in the youth hostel in Schillinghörn, it’s an international affair, because the children don’t get room numbers, they get countries.

And that has a reason: As the first youth hostel in the north-west of Germany it has put its focal point on integration. But to be considered an intercultural and integrative place of education, of course it’s not enough to give the rooms names of countries. And indeed, this is only the visible tip of an extensive programme that has one central aim: to stimulate children’s and teenager’s understanding and acceptance of people, who are different to themselves. Different can mean many things: different religion, different origin, or a different appearance. Multicultural thinking as a team: that’s what the employees on site try to achieve.

The moment I walk through the main entrance I notice a large board with a picture of a, literally, colourful group of children. “Different? Of course!” I can read next to it. One of the children asks in a speech bubble: “Where do you come from? What’s it like where you’re from? Why are you now here?” The board starts a dialogue, that is continued by the young visitors of the youth hostel, and through which the teenagers also learn to understand themselves a little bit better. It’s about differences but also about similarities.

So that the dialogue doesn’t come to a standstill, there are similar boards in all of the rooms. They inform the children in an age-appropriate manner about the features and traditions of the respective countries.

The pupils don’t only see and discuss what the interaction of different cultures leads to, but they also taste it. International meals are served, some prepared by the pupils themselves. And the other offers also follow the multicultural idea: two examples are the campaign “My favourite country” and “Our Net”. In “My favourite country” the children describe their favourite country. Why is it their favourite one? What do they like most about that country? After that they discuss, which different cultures exist in Germany, Turkey, the USA or other countries. What characterises that culture? What are the differences and similarities between the different cultures? What does it mean for a country, when it houses many different religions and cultures?

“Our Net” is a biographic game: Using a ball of wool, the pupils make a net that becomes ever tighter, so that they notice that they are similar in many aspects.

And what does all of this have to do with sustainability? Well, quite a lot:

Social sustainability means to come up with a consensus on values and ideals on how society should evolve. An inherent feature of our society are immigrants, who have to be integrated. Understanding each other and tolerating differences are vital for this. The youth hostel in Schillinghörn is a good example of how educational and recreational facilities can promote both understanding and tolerance in a sustainable manner.

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