Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, has just become one of the 15 cities worldwide to win Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge this year. The idea that secured a million-dollar prize was to shake the notion of learning by converting the entire city into an open school and testing out a blended educational model. The project is expected to help reflect each student’s individual learning needs, and reduce the pandemic after-effects on the educational system.
“There is no better learning environment than the city itself, which has everything the students might need—history, nature, businesses, technologies, and other educational means. It is a natural platform for integrated studies, which has the potential to bring the educational model from the 19th to the 21st century,” said Remigijus Šimašius, Mayor of Vilnius. “Since going to the cinema was replaced by Netflix and staying at hotels—by staying at AirBnb, this idea will transform Vilnius’ education in the same way.”
The project, called “Vilnius as an Open School,” was developed specifically for the Challenge, and will therefore receive technical help and consultations from Bloomberg Philanthropies during its entire duration.
The capital expects the project to boost blended learning and combine traditional classes at school, project and phenomenon based learning, and classes in the city—museums, city parks, and other public spaces. Students will also be encouraged to use a virtual class library. The different educational settings are supposed to increase student involvement and motivate them to apply their skills to versatile activities.
During the project development, the blended educational model was tested with five Vilnius’ schools. Students had the opportunity to experience the city areas as school rooms: biology and physics were organized in the oldest park of Vilnius. Geography, physical education, and English were conducted in a cinema where the students watched a movie about climate change and performed themselves.
The creative team behind the project will also merge technologies with hands-on experiences outside the schools to balance out the pandemic-induced educational and social deficiencies.
Vilnius’ schools will collaborate with private and public institutions to flesh out the idea, as well as bring the best practices back to schools. Teachers will get additional support during the transformation: they will have the opportunity to get internships in participating companies and seminars, as well as consultations from the industry specialists.
This is the first time Bloomberg Philanthropies organized the challenge at a global level, involving 631 mayors from 99 countries.