The school in movement, an innovative initiative being trialled in Switzerland

The “Netzwelten – Learning in moving” project, which looks at how children learn in movement, challenges traditional teaching methods and the static seated setting. Supported by Innosuisse, it illustrates perfectly the fruitful collaboration between companies, research institutions, public authorities and schools in the field of social sciences, paving the way for potential innovations in learning methods.

Today, the importance of movement in daily life and its health benefits are widely recognised. This understanding also extends to education. Launched in 2021, the Netzwelten project, literally “worlds of nets”, has enabled the concept of a school of movement to be trialled for two years in two different primary schools. At schools in Allschwil (BL) and Lichtensteig (SG), movable nets have been installed at height and round tables have also been fitted with nets and comply with safety standards. This furniture was designed by Jakob Rope System and Novex AG in collaboration with the School of Education at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW)*. The aim of this new learning environment was to encourage active and dynamic teaching.

Innovation at school?
At first sight, innovation in the field of education may seem unusual, far removed from the usual technological innovations. However, this project demonstrates the opposite. “Schools and teaching are constantly evolving, as is society,” confirms Karin Manz, Professor of Teaching Development and Teaching Research at the FHNW. This evolution requires a response to a number of challenges. “The educational challenges faced by most schools are linked to the lack of space. A modern school needs multi-purpose rooms and group rooms to meet the specific needs of each pupil,” says Mathias Müller, a project implementation partner to the Lichtensteig school.

Elmar Fischer, Managing Director of Novex AG, highlights the impact of spatial planning on the way we work and learn. “The link between movement and learning or work is important. We all spend too much time sitting in our everyday lives and don’t move around enough. Not moving enough is a health risk, even for children. That’s why incorporating the notion of space into learning is such an innovative idea.”


Innovative furniture for cutting-edge teaching methods
Over a two-year period, different classes trialled the new learning spaces, navigating between group work, discussions with the whole class, silent learning and active breaks. “We examined how children’s learning, concentration and motivation, as well as classroom culture, change when greater emphasis is placed on the natural need to move,” explains Karin Manz.

For Raphael Dudli, a teacher at the Lichtensteig school, learning in movement represents real added value. “It complements traditional teaching. The nets encourage physically active learning. Pupils individually choose the learning locations that suit them and are able to organise their learning independently."

A possible revolution in school furniture as well? Elmar Fischer agrees that it is essential to start planning for this today. “We have been manufacturing tables, chairs and school equipment for the whole of Switzerland since 1991. This project, combined with our collaboration with a university, will enable us to test new ideas and work with our teams to develop new products that could one day be launched on the market”.


Delighted children and a call for expressions of interest
The Netzwelten project came to an end in June 2023. The challenges were great right from the start. “Collaboration with commercial partners is something of a novelty for Swiss schools. The advice given by Beat Dobmann, an innovation mentor, was a great help to us at the start of the project. In the end, the results were conclusive. “Thanks to the trials we’ve carried out, we’ve been able to see that the children are enthusiastic,” adds Karin Manz, who sees a promising future for the project. “We are now going to inform the public authorities and schools. We are also looking for new Swiss schools interested in trialling our concept”. 

*The design, planning and educational and spatial application were carried out by school space developer and architect Andreas Hammon (Architektur & Entwicklungsräume, Mogelsberg) in collaboration with engineering and safety expert Thomas Ferwagner (MSIng officium, Stuttgart), an international specialist in movable nets

Last modification 11.12.2023

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Karin Manz, Professor of Teaching Development and Teaching Research at the FHNW, Mathias Müller, a project implementation partner to the Lichtensteig school and Elmar Fischer, Managing Director of Novex AG.