Skateboarding at school – isn’t that a dream come true? Nothing but like-minded people in class, teachers that can teach tricks – even a principal who pushes? Utopia for most – reality in Malmö. To learn more we sat down Bryggeriets Gymnasium vice principal and long time Malmö local John Dahlquist to learn about the Mark Gonzales of teaching and a school system benefitting from the creative energy inherent in skateboarding.
Words: Jan Kliewer | Portrait: Simon Jorliden | Skate pic: Isak Gustafsson
Where did you first get the idea to start a school out of Bryggeriet skatepark? Where did you see the potential of tapping into the energy inherent in skateboarding to improve schooling?
The idea came from the board of the skatepark that the school now share the building with. Due to a change in the law in 2005 it was possible for NGO´s (the school is a Non Profit Non Governmental Organisation) to start schools. The application was passed and the permit granted. Bryggeriets Gymnasium started in 2006. The idea was simple: To start a high school and include skateboarding as a subject. I got the offer from the hired principals to take care of skateboarding and build a subject according to the laws and regulations around the curriculum. We started ten years ago and it´s under constant change. My approach is to take in the students interests and build the subject around that. Today the courses include injury rehab, nutrition, individual goal setting, studies about the industry, guests from all walks of skateboarding (skate pro is just one thing in skateboarding, filming, photography, organizing contests, art and running companies are just as relevant). It changes all the time depending on what the different groups want to get into. Students tend to be less skate-nerdy and more into the wider perspective the older, which is fun.
How did you build up the schooling department’s and the parents’s trust in “a bunch of skaters” to let you take over responsibility for the first classes of kids to start the school with? What’s been crucial for Malmö skate scene to build this relationship? Why do you think Malmö/Scandinavia is so avant-garde on realising the potential of skateboarding and making the public, the deciders aware?
The first couple of years people were skeptical. I liked that. I was too. It gave us a sense of being the underdog and underground. That´s were skateboarding thrives the most. It was also good since I wasn´t sure myself it was a good idea to institutionalize skateboarding the way it is, per definition, when you make it into a school subject. I decided to take the skaters/students interest and suggestions into consideration and that became my guarantee for keeping it “real” so to speak. Pretty much everything we do has come from students from the start. My job is to make it into something relevant for the course. That´s the easy part.
»The first couple of years people were skeptical. I liked that. I was too. It gave us a sense of being the underdog«
As far as parents go we’ve found that all they want for their kids is a good education. When they’ve come into school and realise that there is more to school than just skating they tend to be just as stoked as their kids. The first couple of years were all trial and error. Ten years deep I think it’s safe to say we’re offering a solid education with teachers that are there to do their best and with the students best interest in focus. I´m proud to be able to write that and I really believe that’s what makes our school special.