The time children in Germany spend in nursery care and primary school lays the foundations for their lives. According to a study carried out by the University of Aalen, physical exercise – or, more specifically, the sense of balance – and mental performance, are key factors. The study examined the hearing, eyesight and sense of balance of more than 3,000 children at ten primary schools.
One of the scientists working on the study summarised this impressive achievement: “Tell me how long you can stand on one leg and I can tell you what grades you get in maths.” But playing and romping around in playgrounds and sports fields obviously has other benefits for a child’s development. Children seldom hurt themselves seriously if they fall in the playground, but in doing so their reflexes are being trained for real accidents and falls.
Variety is an important factor for children to enjoy this 'training for life' as well as what the facilities are like, e.g. attractive playgrounds and sports fields. Creating safe and motivating places for games and sports is a question of financial resources, and these are distributed very unevenly throughout Germany. The city state of Hamburg, for example, spends EUR 8,700 per primary school child, but in North Rhine-Westphalia EUR 4,800 has to suffice.
To counter this imbalance, schools depend on help from volunteers. Savings Bank employees carry out volunteer work for children and young people in nurseries and schools – but also on completely different social projects. The Savings Banks support their employees in many ways.
With their minds, hands and hearts: vocational trainings at Sparkasse Essen working together for a good cause.
Recognising commitment: Volker Behr, Chairman of the Management Board of Sparkasse Essen, Thomas Kufen, Lord Mayor of the City of Essen, and headmaster Birgit Kuth-Widera.
On the fifth day everyone is overwhelmed with the results. School principal Birgit Kuth-Widera and Essen’s mayor Thomas Kufen stand on an improvised stage in the school yard together with Volker Behr, Chairman of the Board of Sparkasse Essen, and give thank-you speeches. The 44 first-year vocational trainees, as well as members of Parkschule – pupils, teachers and parents – listen attentively. Where, only a week ago, there was nothing but tarmacked ground, a universe-themed playground spreads out in front of them.
The trainees have had four days full of adventure and excitement. Together with ten pupils from the school, which is located in the Altenessen district and serves children with learning difficulties, they have built a planetarium, a rocket to climb on, a circuit with a balance course, wooden loungers and traffic practice roads with pedal car parking spaces – all around the school building. “Tackle it” was the slogan of the five groups of eight to nine people, whose work during these four days only finished in the evening when they had reached the day’s goal. “When we started here on Monday, there was nothing”, trainee Leo Elsenheimer says.
To keep to the tight schedule, the trainees even slept at the school. At the beginning, some of them didn’t know how to use the tools, “but over time we have become real professionals”, Linda Hackenberg, who worked on the planetarium, says. She particularly enjoyed the group work. “Working together with the others and creating something to help others – that was amazing”, she adds passionately.
Andrea Koch, training manager at Sparkasse Essen, is also happy about the impressive level of commitment for another reason. On the one hand, the trainees improve their social interaction skills, on the other, their personal development benefits from the experience: “Our vocational trainees learn how to plan, organise and successfully complete a big project like this together”, Koch says. “And, by the way, we aren’t the only institution whose trainees build or renovate playgrounds in the regions. For years now, many of the nearby Savings Banks, e.g. in Solingen or Neuss, have also been involved in such projects.”
Hands-on, and on site: Andrea Koch, Head of Training at Sparkasse Essen.
A team-building exercise – with saws, drills, and hammers.
Serjan and Kai, two of the pupils who joined the project, are thrilled with the new universe-themed playground in their school yard. And they also really enjoyed being able to help. “I learned a lot working together with the trainees from the Savings Bank”, Serjan says. His hands are still spattered with yellow paint. Kai grins as he adds: “Now we can really let off steam when we play here with our friends during break.”