Byskolen Gnist™

How do you create systemic transformation in school and education?
Art direction Concept development Content development & strategy Copywriting Human insights Innovation process Insights Project design & strategy Project execution and iteration Strategy

For several years, we have been working, researching, experiencing and gaining insights on children’s wellbeing, education, development, play and learning – all of which initiated this project of creating a new school.

At the same time, more and more research shows that children and young people today are struggling with wellbeing, and that while it’s a complicated problem that calls for several actions to be made, part of the solution is to look to the schools and the educational system – because unfortunately, significant discomfort and lack of enthusiasm for school has become a common problem.

To us, all this begs the question: If school were to be the most exciting place in a child’s life, what would it look like? Byskolen Gnist is our answer to that question.

Process overview
Turning vision into action

In 2018, we started developing a new school concept in collaboration with a growing network of other like-minded people. In 2021, we reported the school to the Ministry of Children and Education. In November 2022, we found a potential building for the school. By January 2023, we had created a website, social media accounts, sent out press releases and put together the first of many open houses to engage parents, gain their support for our vision, and get them to sign their children up for the coming school year. In May 2023, we got the official approval from the Ministry of Children and Education to start a school. So in August 2023, Byskolen Gnist opened at Studsgade 33 in Aarhus with 55 students across all age groups in primary school. 

Byskolen Gnist is an independent school located in Aarhus’ Latin Quarter in a historic building complex, which previously belonged to the School of Architecture. We were fortunate that Tækker Real Estate (Tækker Group), as a stroke of serendipity, happened to acquire these listed premises, just as we were in search of the ideal location for our school.

Education redefined

The fact that Gnist is an independent school allows it to differentiate itself from traditional schools in the way they teach. However, the school is still subject to the same legal requirements for subject matters and supervision from the Ministry as every other primary school in the country (public and private). Hence, how they teach is up to them, while what they teach remains unchanged.

Gnist’s approach varies greatly from that of traditional schools by combining project-based, age-integrated and research-based learning in a new way. Also, the school actively integrates with the Aarhus community through collaborations with local businesses, institutions, artists and organizations. Here, the children confront reality and collaborate with other people to solve relevant, real-life problems.

Gnist, at its core, is based on contemporary findings about children’s wellbeing, development, play and learning patterns. Thereby the school offers an innovative, new educational model that challenges conventional norms. Additionally, we aspire to establish accompanying research at the school, so that we can continue to ask meaningful questions, learn, and hopefully contribute to the generation of solid empirical data on the field of learning.

How to build a school?

Let’s be honest: building a school is not easy. Nor is transforming the way we think about learning and education. So with an ambition to transform the whole school system over time, we have not set ourselves an easy task.
That’s why it feels insane for us to say that Byskolen Gnist at this moment is a fully operational independent school with all that it entails in terms of classmates, recess, wardrobes, field trips etc.

Prior to the opening of Gnist, we spent hours of groundwork including research, networking, talks, conversations, meetings, discussions and inspirational trips. We at Gejst Studio have thus been serving as the initiator for this project while also contributing to project management, design, communication, strategy and insights. 

A catalyst for educational change

The ambition for Gnist is to be a beacon of inspiration for other institutions, serving as a real-world open-source community for educational strategies, tools and methods. We aim to engage with the local community and are eager to collaborate with other schools and partners around the city. Transforming the school system and the way we think of education has to come from within the system. Luckily, many others are doing important work to help accelerate the change, and we will continue to do so ourselves. 

We believe in leading by example; accordingly, we aim to not only shape the future of our students but also to redefine the paradigms of education for the generations to come. 

If you want to read more about Byskolen Gnist, visit the website, or follow on Instagram and Facebook to see updates on the school life, projects, interior design etc.