Think back to when you were a teenager. Can you recall all of that angst, confusion, and depth of emotions mixed with a free spirit and endless daydreaming of what you’ll do when you’re older? Imagine how those feelings change and transform when asylum-seeking unaccompanied minors — teenagers — are stuck, separated from their families, traumatised, and left out of normal teenage activities.

“The energy of Gekko Kids is insane, so fresh, powerful and so Better Days”

Now, what if you had a positive place to go as a teenager? What if you had learning that encouraged you to think creatively, critically, and collaboratively? What if you were motivated by inspiring teachers who used current events, sound, video, and movement as teaching methods? What if you were challenged and encouraged to challenge other ideas in return?

This is the approach Gekko Kids takes in education for unaccompanied minors here on Lesvos. In early 2017 Better Days Iliaktida AMKE joined their resources, experience and knowhow into scaling up Iliaktida’s existing unofficial education center for unaccompanied minors.

In this project, Better Days was responsible for funding, designing and managing ‘Phase One’ of the scale up which included the set-up, re-imagining operations and programming to the actual launch of the new space. As a team, we aimed to see the project double its capacity not only in physical space but also in building capacity and training for the teachers, broadening the curriculum with at least 5 new topics to include amongst other, History of Art & Mythology, Mediation & Yoga, Physics and Thematic Workshops. The new premises were identified and equipped supporting over 15 local businesses in the sourcing of furniture, technological equipment and services. A super intensive programme of trainings was customized in collaboration with Oxfam and Save The Children, to address the needs and thirst of Iliaktida’s ‘super-nova’ teachers. We designed sixty hours of training, to include seminars and workshops, in which Iliaktidas and Better Days’ teams had to work together in rethinking the curriculum and discussing assessment methods and alternative methodology in the new space. Through learning partnerships with inspirational professionals such as Leia Anastasiou, Shelley Shoaib Le Breton, ESET Ireland’ IT support, Bierre and Laurie-Carroll Berube, Sudnya B. Shroff, Emily Paulin and the generosity of our biggest sponsor, Institut Le Rosey, we were able to launch Gekko Kids on August 25th, 2017. This is the first unofficial educational center in Lesvos for unaccompanied children with focus on alternative teaching methodologies.

Our investment in this scale up was foremost in creating the space: our aim was to match the functionality and practicality of a facility to meet the needs of an education center with the inspiration and positivity we want every person who walks in the space to feel. In Gekko Kids, our energy has gone to designing a safe environment for learning, curiosity and play. Everyone should have that opportunity to discover new things, challenged to think beyond boundaries, ask questions and learn in an interactive, collaborative approach.

Gekko Kids was created to provide alternative education to vulnerable youth, but it also is a standard that should be held for all students, regardless of social status or contexts. This is the education approach we hope for children all over the world.

Gekko Kids is both the space as well as the students, the teachers, and anyone who shares our vision and ethos of this project. It gets its name because geckos, small, colorful lizards, are found all over the world, in over 1000 patterns and sizes. They have resilient and adaptive characteristics, something our own Gekko Kids exhibit. This is a place of healing, opportunity and experience.

“Let’s inspire everyone who walks through the door. Let’s create energy and discussion and curiosity”

Our classrooms embody this merge of physical and mental. They are designed to meet the flexible needs of our students, teachers and subjects. Different subjects should be taught in different ways, embracing that everyone processes information uniquely. Our Madiba classroom is considered to be more traditional, and yet with the desks in a shape to foster discussions, interactions and attention. The Malala room is a world café style-learning environment, where the students are at round tables for team-building and group work. Each table has a corresponding whiteboard to complete assignments, problem sets and present ideas to the class. In addition to group learning, this set-up allows for different levels to be taught within the same room and for peers to help each other learn. The Gandhi classroom is created to promote engagement with the global community. Equipped with an interactive panel, this room is excellent for interactive learning on subjects such as geography and geometry, to name just a few, but also to watch documentaries, TedTalks, explore other cultures and ideas. The chairs allow for flexibility to watch the display and also rearrange to discuss what they’ve viewed.

The rooms are named after inspiring people: Madiba (Nelson Mandela), Malala Yousafzai, Mohandas Gandhi, Albert Einstein, and Sappho. Individuals who are examples of great achievements, courage and tenacity in the face of great adversity.

We’re very excited to have launched this project and share our vision of collaborative, interactive education with teenagers who need it most. We’re excited to see it grow, evolve and expand to fit the needs of students, teachers and community. Gekko Kids is not perfect; it is just the beginning and its life and use will adapt to those who fill it with energy, questions, and innovation. Although we have been working for months already opening the space is just the beginning of the journey for this learning vessel and we can’t wait to see where it goes. Cheers to everyone who has made this possible.

Come explore with us.

Together for Better Days | Gekko Kids