Three years ago, Tierra y Sal, a “sand school,” was born in the pine forest near La Barrosa, one of the longest and most famous beaches in Spain. In their unique pedagogy, as the day begins, the teacher Inma Urbano accompanies boys and girls between the ages of three and six, who meet every day in what they call “the cave of the birds.” Here, they wash their hands and spend the day climbing trees, among other things. If the weather is good, they decide democratically whether or not to go down to the beach. If the majority decide yes, they apply cream, wear swimsuits, and put on booties to avoid slipping on the rocks. When the parents arrive, the little ones return home with their backpacks full of treasures: shells, branches, fallen flowers and animal bones found under the sand.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the limitations of traditional education in Spain, with its overcrowded classes, closed spaces, and teachers who are prisoners of protocols, unable to support children in emotionally complicated situations. This has led to the resurgence of alternative and nature schools, which have been around for years but are now increasingly attracting students and parents from various communities. Spain’s Andalusia is among the regions where this change is quite visible.
Despite ranking third in the country for school dropouts, Andalusia has been at the forefront of the educational revolution in the last decade, winning awards for a number of alternative projects: forest schools, Montessori institutes or learning communities born from the initiative of families. Ludus, an online alternative-education directory created by the web programmer and author Almudena García, states there are 92 projects in Andalusia, 127 in Catalonia and 112 in Madrid.