unschool berlin, urban commons tour

Day 4 was one that exercised our bodies as much as our minds…. We walked 12.5 km together before the day was done! We spent the first few hours of the day on an incredible “Urban Commons Tour” which started out at Prinzessinnengärten, a vibrant urban vegetable garden and community space. After exploring the garden and learning about its origins (it used to be a wasteland) and aspirations, we explored Tempelhofer Feld which used to be an airport and is now an amazing public park.

unschool berlin tempelhofer feld

Our last stop on the tour was Am-Urban, an old hospital that was transformed into a “Bau-Gruppe” (co-living space) thanks to 140 parties pulling their resources together, buying the vacant hospital and then working together to codesign it (quite a feat to co-design with input from over 100 people!). 

The walking tour – which has since been referred to as “the most epic walking tour ever” – led us to Malzfabrik, a former brewery turned into creative event space. We ate a farm-fresh lunch family style on a table long enough to accommodate all 25 of us. After warming up and filling up, we walked next door to visit EFC Farm, an aquaponics farm that produces resource-friendly and high-quality food for the local community. We sampled some of their delicious tomatoes and learned about their use of aquaponics, an environmentally friendly food production method that combines aquaculture and hydroponics. We saw how their dual circulatory systems allowed the farm to grow fresh vegetables and raise fish in a mutually beneficial way.

unschool berlin EFC tour

Back at AHOY we had a mentor session with Julia Kloiber, an activist who leads open data projects in collaboration with the government, private sector, and civic tech community. She discussed the need to overcome the “geek bubble” in tech and coding and to be more inclusive. This led to an interesting conversation on designing with people instead of for people. Julia ended the session by having the fellows practice a stakeholder mapping activity and apply the technique to projects they are currently working on

unschool berlin mentor session day 4

Fellows thought they were going to a restaurant but we led them through the garden at AGORA (a center for contemporary practices) and up a few flights of stairs that opened onto our secret dinner party. Lights were low, candles were lit, music was playing, wine was opened, and all seemed fit for a relaxing romantic evening… until the team announced an experimental dinner game that was designed as a fun way to explore tough global environmental issues: "So You Think You Can Design?"  

Our alumna cohost, Mariana, had been invited to participate in Low Carbon City Forum (which is happening now in Medellín, where she lives) and, with the forum as inspiration, she was challenged to designed a game that would connect our Berlin fellowship to it. She adapted Designercise and created a ridiculous and fun TV game show of sorts wherein teams were challenged, throughout rounds, to design a solution in response to a sustainability-related problem.  The initial challenge didn’t seem too tough, but 5 minutes into it, the team announced that there was a roadblock– a new scenario was added to their problems. The game continued over a delicious veggie-packed Turkish dinner that our team has cooked up, and our team continued to add layers of complexity to the game. In addition to a LOT of laughs, the game encouraged fellows to stretch their brains, practice rapid prototyping and evolve new techniques in storytelling (after a half hour they were informed that they would have to perform their ideas without breaking their assigned character roles!).

Lots of fun was had, the team adopted alter-egos and became the judging panel, and the dinner room was turned into an electrified stand-up space of sorts. Teams gave 5-star performances as they acted out their problems and proposed solutions, incorporating and overcoming the roadblocks they were given. Ideas ranged from cross-species collaboration to bee farms to weather-related family planning. At the UnSchool we are really into pushing boundaries through experimenting with challenges and mixing up the status quo, so this dinner really allowed for the fellows to see idea diversity in action.