School of Tomorrow: Athens meeting 6-9 July 2017

Lilian Jüchtern (European Forum for Freedom in Education, Germany) reports about School of Tomorrow prototype kick-off meeting in Athens.

My flight to Athens takes off in Frankfurt on time. It takes me a while to realize that the flight to Athens will actually take 3 hours. In my ’internal map‘ Greece is much closer than the Baltic states where I have recently been twice and which have been cut off behind the ‘iron curtain‘ during my childhood and youth. It is fairly amazing how much has changed since then and how much ’the world‘ has expanded. I take a mental note to keep this in mind when I feel desperate about on how slowly things seem to move when it comes to major changes in education. For now I am fairly excited that I will soon be in Athens to meet the group of people again who is set on to work towards the School of Tomorrow prototype.

Wednesday, 5th of July – Lilian (Germany)

Upon my arrival in Athens I take the metro to the city centre where I meet Angeliki who is going to be our host for the next days. Next to arrive are Radoslav and Pavlina from Bulgaria, Ildiko from Hungary and finally Ed from the Netherlands. Apart from Radoslav who has been invited as an external expert, we are all members of CitizensLab and we are involved with civil society organisations who are working to strengthen local communities. Faced with the impacts of globalisation and climate change, our local communities struggle to overcome the financial crisis and social cohesion issues and thus dissipate vast amount of their efforts.
During the next days we discussed how schools can prepare children and young people for a changing world. Our aim is to support schools that introduce alternative learning approaches to inspire children to become active citizens. We all believe that schools need to connect with the local communities in order to benefit from the numerous learning and teaching opportunities these communities offer.

We chose Athens as a location for our kick-off meeting because the city of Athens run a local pilot project where children explored public art in their local area as well as the idea of taking responsibility of the public space. One of our goals was to learn about this pilot project at Technopolis where all our meetings took place and where it actually all started.

Technopolis is a hub of cultural events in the historic area of Athens which creates a focal point in the cultural identity of the city. It attracts a wide variety of cultural events every year in music, dance, theatre and performing arts, plastic and applied arts, entrepreneurship workshops, temporary exhibitions and most importantly educational programmes for children.

Technopolis City of Athens

On our 1st day, Thursday, after reviewing what we had already accomplished in the planning phase preceding the meeting in Athens, we discussed the mid- and long-term goals of the project of the School of Tomorrow. Our intention is to launch an Erasmus+ application in order to finance a joint project involving schools in our home countries.

After Ed joined us on Friday at Technopolis, we discussed the idea of commoning and what it means in the context of our project. We had a further look at the Erasmus+ application and its requirements. Angeliki on behalf of Technopolis and representatives of the Hellenic Ministry of Education presented the Athens pilot to us.

Meeting inside Technopolis

The Athens educational program ’kids4thecity’ was born as a response to constant wide-ranged damages of Athenian outdoor sculptures which have become a part of everyday life while creating an image of abandonment. The efforts of the municipality to maintain the art works were not enough in the tackling of the problem and it was thus necessary to embrace the care for the city as the core value of democracy and civilization through education. Children from first schooling years as future citizens and true owners of the city were involved in the project.

More specifically, we learned that during the pilot phase of the programme pupils had an opportunity to choose a sculpture or a monument in their neighborhood and learn about other significant sculptures in Athens. They were also expected to create projects to tell their ownstories about the city’s sculptures, using audiovisual tools along with vast information gathered from their actions and visits. They explored how sculptures are linked to the history and memory of the city, while learning to identify its landmarks. They approached the meaning and value of the public space. Finally they learned how to be future citizens of Athens, no matter their ethnicity, religion or mother tongue, thus demonstrating the universal language of the programme. It was a very interesting presentation which showed us a general direction for our Erasmus+ application along with useful empirical evidence of the pilot’s approach.

Exhibition of the pilot phase for the primary education - art projects of the 20 participating schools
Children’s short plays of their experience with the sculptures
Sculpture-inspired activities with animator

On Saturday we had a quite intense working session covering the different areas of the Erasmus+ application form. Ildiko was facilitating the session and we looked into the specific aims and goals of the project, the impact we are hoping to have, the requirements of project management including risk management and the intellectual output we are planning to produce.
Both Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning sessions were dedicated mainly to wrapping up and planning our next steps for the months ahead.
During the past days we covered many questions. What will the school of tomorrow look like? How can schools connect to the local communities and encourage children and young people to get involved in community projects? Which of the practices, methods and tools developed by actors of civil society are useful to design alternative learning and teaching approaches? What does commoning mean in the context of our project?
A vital part of the meeting was to get to know each other and to find a way to work together. We exchanged our different experiences and perspectives. At times we struggled to understand each other or to reach a mutual understanding. We had a few tense moments but mostly a lot of fun. To sum it up – we believe that we have laid a foundation for our future work together.

Airbnb meeting

Our impressions of ’Athens outside of Technopolis‘ are brief snapshots which form a kaleidoscope in our minds. In the evenings we had dinner in different places in Athens. After having spent the major part of the day indoors it felt inspiring to have an impression of the life in Athens. The food in Athens is delicious and the city is populated by many families the warmth of a summer evening outside. We noticed that everywhere in Athens there are graffiti which stand as the initiative for the implication of the pilot e in secondary education. We also joined a dinner event of cultural managers organised by Robert-Bosch-Stiftung in Athens. We met some people (we already met in Berlin or Brussels) and got to know some new ideas and their projects. On our last evening we took part in an event with beat boxers and break dancers in the area of Kypseli, organised by Kalliga Sq. Association, an active citizens’ initiative coordinated by Angeliki and her husband Babis,. Among other things we discussed the Greek crisis, life in Greece and Greek history and politics.

Kalliga square
Break dance and local vibes in the vibrant district of Kypseli (organized by Kalliga Sq. Association)

Watch a video about School of Tomorrow meeting in Athens. Author: Ed Santman

Read more