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Evangelisches Ratsgymnasium - Student Company ARTemis-Schüler-GmbH

This case study was prepared by Jürgen Junker from Evangelisches Ratsgymnasium, edited by Joseph TIXIER from the OECD LEED Programme 

Introduction

The ARTemis-Schüler-GmbH project is a students‘ enterprise in “Evangelisches Ratsgymnasium“, a school offering higher secondary education in the city of Erfurt, East Germany, run by the Protestant Church with almost 600 students between 11 and 19 years of age. It started in autumn 2000 and almost 160 students (between 15 and 18 years) have participated in several teams throughout the years. ARTemis-Schüler-GmbH is the most known and consistent working group of the school. Evangelisches Ratsgymnasium has a long tradition; it was founded in 1561 by the Erfurter Rat (city council) to give young people the chance to acquire a good education. The school was open until 1950 when it was closed by the SED government in order to realize its plans for a centralized system in politics, economics and culture. In 1992 the school has been reopened by the protestant church of Erfurt. Beside optional ancient languages, English and French are obligatory. Every student is involved in religious education. Another focus in the curriculum is visual arts, music and theatre. The school’s theatre groups are well known because of the students’ self-management. Even former students can take leading positions in the theatre groups. The school’s teaching concept is more conservative although the school attaches great importance to extracurricular activities and project-learning of the students enriching the lessons.

Rationale

ARTemis-Schüler-GmbH started in economics and law lessons that have practical relevance. It was the intention of eight students to form an enterprise in autumn 2000 in order to strengthen the focus of applied learning in school. These students were interested in art too. So they wanted to combine their interests. An organisation called Deutsche Kinder- und Jugendstiftung (DKJS) followed goals similar to these and contacted the school to offer support. Relations between DKJS and the school resulted in a greater knowledge about the regulatory frameworks of founding a students’ enterprise. The innovative business idea and the continuous engagement of the students led the DKJS to provide with a small seed capital. Since then, the school have maintained a close collaboration with the DKJS. In 2000 there were only a few students’ enterprises in Thuringia, but it became more popular under the impulse of DKJS between 2002 and 2005.The first customers of ARTemis have been parents and their circles of friends. ARTemis-S-GmbH developed as a students’ extra curriculum enterprise with a voluntary participation. Nevertheless the connection of the ARTemis’ work to the regular lessons is always present, especially to the art courses. The engaged students receive a certificate from the school at the end of the academic year, awarded during the last assembly of all students. The engagement of the supporting teachers is extra-curricular with a fee given by the “Förderverein” (supporting association of friends) of the school since 2010.

 

ARTemis business idea presentation
Figure 1: Students started with ARTemis- S-GmbH in 2000, here in 2002 during a presentation of the business ideas.

 

Description of the activity/project

 The business idea of ARTemis as an “artothek” is to rent art products and works of art created by the students managing the structure themselves, other students of the school in art courses and in school projects, or students who have personal artistic activities. This is based on close contact to fellow students and teachers. Today most of the art produced is photography although classical drawings and printing techniques receive a strong attention. The students’ works of art are usually given a place in the schoolhouse, with an exhibition area. The ARTemis idea is promote this art to the public. Most of today’s customers such as lawyers, doctors, insurance companies and banks are interested in special pictures framed by the team for their business premises or conference rooms.

The students have given a legal form to ARTemis similar to that of the famous German “Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung” (GmbH), the S-GmbH, which gives the members of a company the right of a full co-decision. This implies that each member of ARTemis has one vote in the assembly which has to take place once a year, as a minimum, during which an activity and financial report is presented.

From time to time ARTemis is commissioned by local authorities to install special exhibitions, for example “Deutsche Stiftung Denkmalschutz” in architectural photography of historical monuments in Erfurt, and by a local puppet theatre which asked to document their work photografically.

A special engagement of ARTemis-Schüler-GmbH is to contact cafés in Erfurt. Since 2008 in two of them ARTemis is allowed to take part in the internal design twice a year. ARTemis - students are organizing with fellow students expositions with an opening (Vernissage).

 

 

ARTemis Latest exibition
Figure 2: Exhibition of the 14 July 2014

 

The work of ARTemis’ students is to create the art products or instruct other students to create, select the pictures, frame it, acquire costumers, get into contact with them, cooperate and advise and –finally- mount the pictures. ARTemis‘ students are responsible for the advertising, maintaining a homepage (www.artemis-schuelerfirma.de/ ) and maintaining the regular contact to the costumers. Last but not least the students have to make an agreement with them and write a contract including provisions for rental periods and product prices and maintain a bookkeeping/accounting system.

In the last nine years, students have introduced a new idea, the idea of respecting ecology in the ARTemis organisation. Great importance is now given to environmentally compatible material (such as frames and papers). To rent art products, take them back and reuse them is called Kreislaufprinzip (circle principle) by the students. To engage in ARTemis is a voluntary activity to the students, in many cases their work starts directly after school.

 

ARTemis Students at the workplace
Figure 3: Students at the workplace, 2014[1]

 

ARTemis working in custommer office
Figure 4: ARTemis’ students working in a custumer’s office

 

After the set-up phase of ARTemis-Schüler-GmbH the enterprise has become a respected and cherished initiative of the school, well known and recognized by parents. The public recognition has steadily grown. Students of ARTemis-Schüler-GmbH were invited to give an insight in their ARTemis-work by public institutions, such as the chamber of commerce, and –for example- by young entrepreneurs in the region. The regional ministry of education has mentioned the Schülerfirma as an example of a successful students' work. The support of Deutsche Kinder- und Jugendstiftung (DKJS) has been very important for the school in encouraging the students’ talents. For example DKJS invited the school to take part in supra-regional meetings of students’ enterprises to exchange their experiences and to develop the idea of ecological thinking for two years. This has been both a challenge and an opportunity for the students. DKJS also introduced the school to special events such as company fairs where they got the chance to represent the idea of students’ entrepreneurship. An advantage for the anchoring of ARTemis in the community at this time was the extraordinary business idea in combination with the burning idea of young entrepreneurship. The quick success of ARTemis and the clear view of the leading students to find an own alternative of learning were stabilising effects in this beginning. As a desideratum we are concerned with the question of how we can get in an even closer contact to the (ordinary) lessons of our school, for example as teaching materials.

Anchoring of the activity/project in the school

The Evangelisches Ratsgymnasium, is a city school situated in the centre of Erfurt. It is well known for teaching ancient languages and modern languages as well. It is also recognised for its practice-oriented subjects such as music, art and theatre. The school and its students are working with local experts and other institutions. Most of the subjects are taught with a project based and transversal approach, especially in social sciences. This transversal approach is managed by the teachers in each discipline who organise regular meetings to agree on their educational aims and practice. Our school is part of the initiative School without racism, a regional rhetoric competition for students and participate to Herbstlese, a literature event with public readings by authors in Erfurt. Most of these activities are based on the individual initiative of teachers or teacher circles, and the links they maintain with their local communities.

Links of the activity/project with the external world

In 2002 the DKJS introduced “NaSCH21” to the school, a starting network of students’ enterprises in West- and East-Germany with a special regard to ecological issues: NaSch21 - Nachhaltige Schülerfirmen (www.nasch21.de/)Then in 2011 the regional ministry of education founded a working group for the idea of sustainable development and the implementation of the idea of ecological responsibility in school curriculum. Since then, ARTemis-S-GmbH belongs to this group. The same working group is organizing a “Schülerfirmen-Gipfel”, a summit where students’ enterprises meet once a year. These events are taking place in the premises of companies in the region with special interests in the green economy. Another partner of ARTemis is the Förderprogramm Demokratisch handeln, a German-wide privately funded competition which supports students’ projects in schools, based on the own initiative and activities of the students themselves.

Achievements and impact

ARTemis Schüler-GmbH has been active for 14 years, which is already a remarkable success. Students have been performing exceptionally well in the student company as it has won several prizes, including the first prize of the students‘ enterprise federal competition (Schülerfirmen Wettbewerb) and the prize for one of best Eco-based students‘ enterprise between 2000 and 2004. In 2010 ARTemis was one of three students’ companies invited to take part in the Founder’s Week, an event for company founders in Berlin. Between 2011 and 2013, ARTemis has been an offical UN-Decade Project on Education for Sustainable Development.

In 2011 ARTemis has won a special prize for students’ projects with a strong foundation in own activities and entrepreneurial spirit, a prize awarded by Förderprogramm Demokratisch handeln.

The continuous involvement of ARTemis’ in regional and supra-regional events, especially international fairs of students’ enterprises, such as the Berlin-Wuhlheide, a meeting of students’ company on a European level every second year.

 

ARTemis Stand in the fez
Figure 5: ARTemis students with their stand in the “fez” in Berlin - Wuhlheide

 

Success factors

ARTemis’ mains success factor is the high motivation from the students who take the leading positions in the company. Students are motivated to give shape to their own ideas, taking risks, and appreciate the possibilities of creation and the impact they can have on the community.

Students are responsible for formulating rules, structures and regulation in a secure environment. They are also responsible for most of the activities of their enterprise, especially products and results. These responsibilities, and the meaningful contacts and partnership students have with authorities and experts outside the school gives the students a sense of responsibility and skills that are useful to their future professional life.

Obstacles and ways to overcome them

There is still a gap between the learning occurring in ARTemis and in the class room which is a more traditional 90-minutes-intervalls, tested and effective teaching method. ARTemis work should be more embedded into class-room learning. On the other hand ARTemis students identify themselves with the enterprise just because of its alternative spirit and the creative freedom they have. Students have found a place where they themselves can decide what kind of art, art products and aesthetic design they prefer –and which kind of organisation, regulation and structure they would give ARTemis.



[1] On the wall behind the students you can see pictures and photos in frames for visitors who may be interested in the work of ARTemis and who want to gain an impression how the pictures will look after mounting.