Vilnius develops an open lessons platform to transform the capital city into one large school

Vilnius is set to move lessons out of classrooms and into open urban areas including squares, streets, museums, and companies. Today saw an official introduction of the project Vilnius is a School (Lith. Vilnius yra mokykla), which aims to move at least 10% of lessons to urban spaces. Last year, the initiative helped Vilnius beat 600 cities around the world in Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge and win one million dollars.

The project will work as Airbnb or Netflix for lessons as each teacher will get the chance to build and upload their own lesson or choose from a collection of lessons in different spaces around the city.

Photograph by Eitvydas Kinaitis

“Transforming a city into one large school sounds like an impossible idea; however, this project makes it a new reality for those attending schools in Vilnius. The 700-year-long story of Vilnius has brought a wealth of information. History lessons could take place on Vokiečių Street. For mathematics, pupils could calculate the area of the old Cathedral on Cathedral Square. Any park in Vilnius could house a biology lesson, while a certain company or even a bus could replace an economics classroom. With the help of teachers, the abundant resources offered by the city become a part of a compelling learning process,” says the Mayor of Vilnius Remigijus Šimašius.

Photograph by Eitvydas Kinaitis

According to him, the idea has great potential for expanding to other Lithuanian cities and even abroad as Bloomberg Philanthropies leadership is also closely monitoring the project.

Deputy Mayor of Vilnius Tomas Gulbinas says it took exactly one year for the project to transform from a winning idea into a fully functioning platform. “We have been building the prototype and testing it in cooperation with real teachers and students, taking their notes into account. What I find particularly charming is the fact that the project is an outside-the-box school, which also allows for expanding the curriculum. We invite socially responsible businesses to take part in the project as your business could become, say, a seventh-grader’s favourite lesson,” says Mr Gulbinas.

Photograph by Eitvydas Kinaitis

According to him, several businesses, institutions, and museums have already joined the project, namely Ovoko, the Ministry of National Defence of Lithuania, Lithuanian Red Cross Society, Lithuanian Railways, the Money Museum of the Bank of Lithuania, Civinity, the State Data Agency, Markučiai Manor Museum, and a film and media space Planeta. Dozens more companies and institutions intend to join in the near future, including Lukiškės Prison, where the project was introduced to begin with.

The platform already stores 112 lessons, the majority of which were developed by teachers from Vilnius.

“Learning outside a classroom is not a school trip. Outdoor classes are still lessons, they are intended for helping pupils deepen their knowledge and apply it to real life. That’s why all lessons for this urban learning collection were designed in cooperation with teachers, taking the curriculum into account. The project will also offer the teachers targeted training and provide them with the tools they need,” says Unė Kaunaitė, Director of the Centre for Educational Progress Edu Vilnius, which is in charge of implementing the project.

Vilnius City Municipality hopes that within three years, the project will help move one-tenth of the lessons from school buildings into parks, streets, museums, businesses, laboratories, and other locations where real life happens. While the platform stores curriculum-specific lessons, it is also available to curious parents looking to join their children for meaningful activities in the city. All they have to do is choose a lesson they find interesting from

The project is funded by the Bloomberg Philanthropies Foundation founded by former Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg and Vilnius City Municipality.

Photograph by Eitvydas Kinaitis