1st Gymnasio Avlona
Address: M. PAPAIOANNOU 1, AVLONAS 190 11
Project: Bridging languages and memories to foster multiple identities: “Never leave your backpack behind!” (“Backpack ID”)
Working language during the project:
Themes of the Council of Europe campaign “FREE to SPEAK, SAFE to LEARN - Democratic Schools for All” covered:
- Making children’s and students’ voices heard
- Addressing controversial issues
- Preventing violence and bullying
- Tackling discrimination
Competences from the Reference Framework of Competences for Democratic Culture (CDC) addressed and where / how they were integrated:
- Valuing cultural diversity
The specific competence is among the main objectives of the project. The personal books, the e-book and the videos that were created by the students aimed at revealing the students’ multiple identities and diversity as a source of power and richness.
- Linguistic, communicative and plurilingual skills
The project is based on students’ expression and communication. It encourages them to be flexible and discover ways in order to overcome obstacles so as to express themselves creatively and communicate using a variety of means.
- Knowledge and critical understanding of the self
While working on their personal books as well as on the material produced by their classmates, the pupils were urged to express their thoughts and emotions, to reflect on their motives, values and beliefs, to challenge their prejudices and stereotypes and to work on the relationship between them and the wider context they live in.
Target group age range:
Level of education:
- Lower secondary education
Short description of the project:
1st Gymnasio Avlona is a secondary school in a semi-rural area in Attica. The area has been host to a large number of immigrants over the last decades. Furthermore, a refugee reception centre was set up very close to school four years ago. Adolescents from this reception centre are pupils at our school. As a result, some classes have up to 37% immigrant/refugee pupils. Therefore, issues such as inclusion, tolerance, diversity, intercultural understanding, human rights, discrimination, and culture of democracy in school everyday life are crucial for our school.
The above issues are the core of our project that is part of a 3 year Erasmus KA2 programme entitled: “Bridging languages and memories to foster multiple identities: “Never leave your backpack behind!” (“Backpack ID”) with 7 partners: two universities, one network, one municipal reception unit, one NGO, one research centr and our school.
The main purpose of the project is to promote the inclusion of refugee children and adolescents at school while fostering harmonious inter-group relations in local communities. As part of this programme, our school took part in the design of the project, in the production of the educational material and in the development of innovative practices. We also led the pilot implementation required for most of the stages.
More specifically, using a narratives multimedia approach, the pupils who participated created their Personal Books. The Personal Books are multi-dimensional and include written narratives, graphs, maps, photographs, videos, music, songs, hobbies or recipes, which reflect the pupils’ personal and family history as well as their contemporary everyday life. After the collection and selection of the Personal Books, we created an e-book and some videos. At the next stage, we developed teaching scenarios and we created videos reflecting the teachers’ experience, to be included in the anthology and the teachers’ kit that were produced.
- a) The innovative Backpack-ID programme was implemented in front of the whole school during the thematic week which was closely linked to the notion of human rights.
- b) The Backpack-ID programme was linked to the “Reference Framework of Competences for Democratic Culture”. More specifically, the same narratives multidimensional approach was used to help the pupils reflect on their democratic competences, speak about their experiences, and prepare their portfolio.
- c) The Backpack-ID programme was linked to the programme: “School for All – Integration of Refugee Children in Greek Schools” (Greek Ministry of Education, funded by the European Wergeland Center).
- d) A part of the Backpack-ID material will be included in the adolescent museum we are creating at school, the main aim of which is to make pupils’ voice heard on several aspects of their everyday life.
- e) The Backpack-ID programme was presented by teachers of our school to teachers and stakeholders involved in refugee education as an example of our school’s good practices (e. g. seminars: a) Teach4Integration (EKPA & UNICEF), b) “It Could be Me – It Could be You” (Hellenic Theatre/Drama & Education Network & UNHCR Greece), c) Freinet schools network)
The main purpose of the project is to promote the inclusion of refugee children and adolescents at school while fostering harmonious inter-group relations in local communities. It also aims at empowering all students, both new-comers and majority-group members, and places emphasis on students’ own multiple group memberships and multiple skills and assets.
The main objectives pursued by Backpack-ID are:
- 1. Empowering students by encouraging them to draw on their cultural, linguistic, and other identity resources;
- 2. Creating a safe space, developing an inclusive atmosphere and promoting intercultural awareness in school;
- 3. Making children and students’ voices heard;
- 4. Promoting students’ ability to reflect on similarities and differences amongst them, and on the positive elements of diversity;
- 5. Mapping the variety and multiplicity of students’ identity resources on a comparative transnational basis;
- 6. Strengthening the ties between school, family and local community;
- 7. Producing a set of comprehensive, innovative educational materials for multi-media use by students and teachers.
Participants are expected to:
- Become familiar with the concept of multiple origins and multiple identities.
- Realise that multiple identities are elements of enrichment and empowerment, and realise the complexity of their own identity and their own origin.
- Recognise the pupils’ right to be heard and feel safe to express themselves.
- Develop the ability to recognise similarities and differences between people at different levels, and be open to learning about the differences in those around them.
- Be able to challenge their preconceptions and ask more in-depth questions about themselves, the differences they see in others, and the world around them.
- Develop their sense of self-esteem as a result of the systematic work with their identities.
- Improve their literacy in the new language.
- Realise and strengthen the bonds between their family, their school and their social environment/local community.
“Working with the Backpack in the classroom gave teachers the opportunity to design experiential lessons based solely on material created by teens. The students in the class worked on texts, videos, and drawings that had been created by their peers. This was something that both children and teachers experienced for the first time, as most lessons are usually based on textbooks written by adult writers. In contrast, during this project, we worked on material created by 12, 14 and 16-year-old students. This mobilised the pupils a lot. But beyond that, it empowered them. The students felt that it was possible for their own speech to be part of the school curriculum. They thus started talking in a way that most of them had never done before. Through this process, we got to know each other better, even those we thought we already knew well. Somehow, Backpack ID gave a voice to the children, gave a voice to the students and brought them to the fore.
The fact that the material is created by children from different countries - Greece, Italy, Albania, Germany, Afghanistan, Syria … led to this change. In addition, it is multilingual and multimodal. These characteristics particularly unlocked the refugee children. A comfortable atmosphere of tolerance and acceptance of various ways of communication was created. Our refugee students began to struggle to express themselves in many ways and in any language they could...” (from a video included in the teachers’ kit)
“What impressed me is the process of searching for family stories with the kids. Their initial attitude was awkwardness. But little by little, step by step, by insisting and being patient, we managed to lead them to discover details about their lives. The involvement of the family was something that excited all the members and the students and the parents. We, the teachers, as well, discovered and saw the children in a new light. This was a great joy. The parents embraced the whole procedure with great enthusiasm and were very supportive of their children's research. The children shared their stories not only with us but also with their classmates. This gave them the opportunity to get to know each other better, more deeply and, different relationships were thus developed.” (from a video included in the teachers’ kit)
Challenges you faced
The main challenges we faced were:
- How to link the project with the school curriculum
- How to create a safe environment which would help the participants to express themselves and communicate
- How to overcome students’ standard mode of expression or standardizing their mode of expression
- How to persuade ourselves – the teachers - to stand behind and give more space to the pupils.
Time-frame of the project:
Council of Europe materials on citizenship and human rights education used while preparing or implementing your practice:
- Reference Framework of Competences for Democratic Culture
- All Different – All Equal