In the fall of 2022, Social Science Works conducted a project with children in Rangsdorf who live with their parents in the two refugee homes located in the community. These are often children who often have not attended a daycare center and therefore start their school careers with learning difficulties. Among other things, this project arrives to familiarize the children with society outside the homes, with social norms in groups and school classes, and with the other children (and their parents) in the homes. Zak Reimer and Kim Blokland met the children 16 times for two to three hours. As the number of children far exceeded expectations, they were regularly assisted by Isabel Romijnders and Samah Al Mohammad. The project was made possible by the Deutsche Kinderhilfswerk (German Children’s Fund; project F202246068). In the following, we briefly describe the activities carried out and the results achieved. 

We spent the first few weeks at a playground, which is about a 15-minute walk from the refugee homes. Managing the walk was a challenge at first. Instead of the intended eight children between the ages of five and eight, we had 12 children most days, with the youngest being three years old. The attempt to introduce different strategies such as hand holding was only successful with the assistance of another childcare attendant. The addition of this person was made possible by the municipality of Rangsdorf. Some examples of the activities we undertook in the fall were “nature treasure hunts” (comparable to bingo), fantasy games such as running an “ice cream parlor” with the help of sand toys, or, for some children needing more physical activity, activities such as soccer, basketball, and races were popular.

At “snack time” we came together for a few minutes at each meeting to eat something small together and have a drink. This quickly became a welcome routine that the children always looked forward to. This activity quickly strengthened the sense of community within the group. 

We also spent some afternoons in the community room of the shelter. There we carried out various handicraft projects. In all activities, the difficulty was to offer something that appealed to all children, regardless of age or language ability. The additional childcare professionals made it possible for us to separate the group from time to time and thus address different needs. This was also a great relief in conflict resolution within the group. Many children come to our group together with their siblings. Thus, we also had to deal with the quarrels and rivalries among the siblings and friends. With the help of so-called “time-outs”, the quarrels (hitting, shoving, pinching, etc.), some of which were physical, became less frequent over time. The meetings at the shelter, however, proved more difficult, as the available space was not suitable for exhausting the children’s energy. Thanks to the excellent cooperation with the municipality of Rangsdorf, we were able to get free access to an exercise room. During the colder season we used this room several times. Here the children could be physically active even in cold or rainy weather.  

In addition to our regular locations, we also went on one-off excursions. For example, we went to the Rangsdorf forest together with the team from the regional landscape conservation association. This was made possible with the help of a volunteer driving service, which picked up the children with a bus and brought them home again. The municipality of Rangsdorf once again provided great support in organizing this. On site, we had a guided walk, where the children were introduced to nature in a playful way. In the last weeks, excursions to the youth club “Joker” were planned. Here we played board games together and baked cookies. Despite the fact that the youth club actually focuses on somewhat older children, the social worker was very obliging and offered her help several times to keep the children occupied. 

On the whole, we have seen several positive developments. The children got used to certain procedures and rules over time and are thus better prepared for everyday school life. The community in the group enabled them to form friendships and work on conflict resolution strategies. Furthermore, we could perceive that the parents of the children also got a chance to network with each other. However, all of this would have been more difficult to achieve if the community of Rangsdorf and the local volunteers had not been so helpful.

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