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Want to educate confident, proactive knowledge producers?

Snail-Based Learning

location_on Copenhagen, Denmark
A model for structuring learning activities and projects that fosters sustainable learning by integrating different 'ways of knowing' in each activity or project.
Karen MacLean, Den Grønne Friskole co-founder
The students do not only equate learning with the classroom, but deploy curiosity wherever they are.

Karen MacLean, Den Grønne Friskole co-founder


HundrED has selected this innovation to

HundrED 2018

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Innovation Overview

Target Group
4 965
Updated on March 17th, 2022
about the innovation

What is Snail-Based Learning?

How can learners be equipped to be at the cutting edge of knowledge production? How can education promote life-long deliberate learning? How can young people develop the tools to unlearn and discard obsolete knowledge? How can learners be taught that knowledge is not monolithic and distant, attainable only through teachers, books or screens?

The goal of Den Grønne Friskole (The Green Free School) in Denmark is to foster a confident, creative and proactive approach to learning. In doing so, the school hopes to educate children who will participate actively in meeting environmental, political and social challenges and transitioning to a more sustainable global society. 

Den Grønne Friskole aims to frame traditional content in such a way that the act of learning positions young people in different roles, demonstrating that there are different kinds of knowledge. Students learn to interact with the world, information and one another in such a way that they become knowledge producers.

Learners work only on projects, focusing on various themes. The school gives the same importance and time to arts and crafts as they do to academic disciplines. One day each week is spent in the school gardens. Students get out of the classroom every day, learning in the park or working in the school yard. They go on field trips every week, to museums, nature spots or local businesses.

There is little focus on organised sport, yet movement is central to the school day. Long breaks between lessons give an opportunity for learners to have their physical, social and emotional needs met through activities like yoga, dancing or climbing trees. Learning activities that require lots of movement are integrated into lessons.

The school’s most important innovation is Snail-Based Learning, a structure created by Beverly Derewianka based on her observations of how children naturally learn. This form of learning teaches children an alternative model of knowledge to that which is commonly practiced in classrooms around the world. It positions young people as knowers of different kinds and engages them in a knowledge practice that is both creative and reflective.

Snail-Based Learning is free, easy to implement in a short lesson, a one-day field trip or a longer project. It is a sophisticated tool that lets teachers plan learning experiences in order to educate children to be confident, proactive knowledge producers.


HundrED Academy Review


Using the frame (rather than the content) of the learning activities, children are engaged in the business of producing knowledge, instead of passively receiving and regurgitating it.


Young people gain a greater sense of themselves as learners and producers of knowledge, as well as a lot of confidence. They don't only equate learning with a classroom setting, but learn to look at the world with curiosity wherever they are.


Snail-Based Learning is eminently scalable. It could be replicated in any school. The most important ingredient is imagination!


See this innovation in action


Achievements & Awards

May 2019
September 2017
HundrED 2018
September 2017
Innovation page created on

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Inspired to implement this? Here's how...

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There are 5 phases within Snail-Based Learning, based on Beverly Derewianka's model of learning.
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Sense and experience
Pick a topic and then choose a learning activity that immerses students in a new environment.
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Record and retain
Reflect on the experience, through discussing, writing and drawing, for example.
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Manipulate and experiment
Create an experiment for the learners to run - this could be planned in advance or could grow out of the students' engagement with the earlier activity.
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Frame academically or technically
Now, students can deepen their knowledge of the subject through listening to or reading more technical academic texts.
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Synthesise and produce
All the previous learning experiences and knowledge gained are combined into a product with a clear recipient.
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