HanDS: Democratic Schools-an etwinning project 2019/20

When this pandemic began, teachers all over the World were given little notice to shift very quickly to distance learning or e-learning, sometimes with no training. In many cases, we had 48 hours or a weekend to reinvent lessons for an already planned curriculum, learn new technologies, find non-technology solutions to student learning, and figure out how to keep students engaged. But all us etwinning teachers ,also had to balance home and work and how to do our life’s work from afar while simultaneously caring for students, grieving losses, and so many more challenges and obstacles!

For all those -mainly non-European -teachers who keep asking me about what etwinning is about: eTwinning is the community for schools in Europe.

I personally realised that there was only ONE thing that was still there for both me and my students, during the lockdown: etwinning!

eTwinning offers a platform for staff (teachers, head teachers, librarians, etc.), working in a school in one of the European countries involved, to communicate, collaborate, develop projects, share and, in short, feel and be part of the most exciting learning community in Europe. eTwinning is co-funded by the Erasmus+, the European programme for Education, Training, Youth and Sport.

eTwinning promotes school collaboration in Europe through the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) by providing support, tools and services for schools. eTwinning also offers opportunities for free and continuing online Professional Development for educators.

Launched in 2005 as the main action of the European Commission’s eLearning Programme, eTwinning is co-funded by the Erasmus+, the European programme for Education, Training, Youth and Sport, since 2014.

Its Central Support Service is operated by European Schoolnet, an international partnership of 34 European Ministries of Education developing learning for schools, teachers and pupils across Europe. eTwinning is further supported at national level by 38 National Support Services.

TwinSpace

The place where eTwinning magic really happens is the TwinSpace; a safe platform visible only to the teachers participating in a project. Students can also be invited in the TwinSpace to meet and collaborate with peers from their partner schools.

One of the most important elements of eTwinning is collaboration among teachers, students, schools, parents, and local authorities. In eTwinning teachers work together and organise activities for their students. They have an active role, interact, investigate, make decisions, respect each other and learn 21st century skills. eTwinning projects involve the contribution of each member of the team. Take inspiration and explore these awarded projects.

Finally, in eTwinning, our work is important and deserves to be shared and recognised locally, nationally and Europe-wide. eTwinning recognises the work carried out by teachers, students, and schools through National and European Quality Labels, eTwinning Awards, eTwinning Schools and the eTwinning Portfolio.

One of our school  inspiring etwinning projects, this year, was a project about DEMOCRATIC VALUES.

About the project

This #eTw4Democracy project, provides an opportunity for students to make connections with students of other European partner schools, sharing and enhancing democratic values, at the same time.
Our schools are microcosms of the communities in which they exist. They are the perfect environment for students not only to learn about civics and democratic values, but also to experience democracy in all aspects of school life cultivating the way the students become citizens. In a democratic school students and teachers should participate equally in the shaping of school life, thus realising their right to have a say on matters that affect them. The activities in this project aim to support students in promoting democratic values within their school communities ensuring that students understand their rights and responsibilities and have strategies for building an inclusive and equitable school environment for all.

AIMS

The overall aim is to share school democratic values, with others! Children will recognize that their actions affect themselves but also others.
Our “HanDS” project, provides the opportunity to break down classroom walls, too. It gives our students a chance to see a world outside of their walls and teach about Democracy, at the same time. Additionally, our aim is that, the concept of Europe will be understood and our students will become fully aware of the other European partner schools. Therefore, citizenship should become a practical ,rather than theoretical, part of the curriculum.
All in all,our aims are:
To prepare students for their future role as citizens
To provide students with opportunities for learning in a democratic environment
To promote active participation and responsibility in the school environment
To improve students’ communication, collaboration, decision- making and problem- solving skills

WORK PROCESS

The tasks, will be set by all partner schools; the activities and work produced will be shared on twinspace by the schools, on a monthly basis and the work process will be communicated using the journal, on a weekly basis. Depending on the activity, pupils will have the opportunity to work independently or with talk partners and will have membership / access to twinspace to share and see the other school’s work and join in forums. Children will also have the opportunity to work in mixed ability groups in each school or in teams of pupils in different schools, sharing responsibilities. They will also have to work in teams, to think of ideas about collaborative projects and about the hand-print crafts, to fill the parcels that will be sent to the other schools, on different topics. Those parcels will have themes, such as:school life in the past, school life at present ,a day in a democratic school etc
The project, works on two levels: sharing on twinspace and parcel exchanges, by post.

EXPECTED RESULTS

Children will learn about civics and democratic values, but also experience democracy in all aspects of school life,through their dialogue, written work and the parcels that they will send and receive! Children will also practice writing and communicating in English and children in all countries will familiarize themselves with aspects of each other’s school life, promoting democratic values within their school communities.


Our project, helps us to widen our horizons, reconsider our perspectives, improve self-esteem, increase understanding of different cultures and values , enhance democracy in the school environment and prove that “communication is at the basis of understanding others”.The process is always constantly about learning to learn collaboratively, building an inclusive and equitable school environment for all.
The pupils are expected to be inspired and motivated and participate equally in the shaping of school life .

Life Skills-a British Council project: Activity 3-Every vote counts

 

Giving our letter to the Town Council President.

Giving our letter to the Town Council President.

Global Citizenship means that as citizens of the world, we have responsibilities to each other and to the Earth itself. Whether through sharing knowledge, volunteerism, advocacy or philanthropy, everyone, including young people, can make a difference.

I always tell my students: “Participate in the global community – take steps to make the world a better place for everyone”.

Our third activity, started a week before the Greek National Elections and it was a great chance for me to teach citizenship and democracy!

Our suggestions to the Mayor....a draft...

Our suggestions to the Mayor….a draft…

In this third activity:

Students  organise and take part in a voting process.
Students:
•  participate actively in various decision-making
and voting processes;
•  discuss what is fair and unfair in different situations,
and realise that justice is fundamental to any democratic society
• comprehend their role in society
Print the role cards.

Our class "town council" !

Our class “town council” !

• We explain that we will be using democratic
decision-making methods in this activity.
We read the following story to the students:
A citizens’ group has sent a letter to your city’s
Municipal Council stating that the atmospheric pollution
has risen dramatically in recent years, making life in the city unbearable. They are therefore asking for traffic arrangements to be made to reduce the atmospheric pollution.

A citizen is  talking to the Mayor about the problems our town has been facing!

A citizen is talking to the Mayor about the problems our town has been facing!

The Mayor organises a public consultation and invites the representatives of the citizens groups which who made the complaint, citizens who use vehicles in the city centre and disagree with the traffic arrangements, as proposed by the first group, and representatives of environmental organisations. During the public consultation, each group has the opportunity to present its arguments and propose any amendments that will then be put to the vote.
• We split the students into 4 groups. We give each group a role card which they are asked to read carefully and prepare a presentation of their arguments and statements/proposals that does not exceed 3 minutes.
• The Municipal Council group is then asked to initiate the process. We support the setting up of the debate and voting process, but let the students take initiatives and coordinate.

Brainstorming!

Brainstorming!

• As soon as the debate and voting have ended, we invite the group to discuss the following questions:
a) Do you believe that the voting during the roleplay
was fair and democratic?
b) Did you recognize any real life situations during this activity?
c) How are decisions of this nature usually taken?
Do children have the right to express
their opinion or make choices?
d) In your group, were decisions usually
taken democratically?
Why, or why not?

Working hard to find solutions to problems!

Working hard to find solutions to problems!

Municipal Council
You are the Organisers of the Public Consultation.
• Set up the venue for the Public Consultation
• Define the order of and time allocated to the speakers
• Keep notes of the proposed statements/proposals that will then be put to the vote. Remember that you will be voting for statements/proposals, not for groups or speakers!
• Try to group the statements/proposals
so that there is no repetition

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• Come up with some proposed statements/proposals
of your own, since you also have the right to voice your opinion
and vote as citizens of this town
• Remember! Everyone has the right to vote!
• Don’t forget that, as the Municipal Council, you want to satisfy the majority on the one hand, but are also under pressure from the European Union which, according to European regulations,
is asking for a reduction of pollutants in all European cities
Add your own arguments
and the statements/proposals you are proposing

Busy groups of citizens...

Busy groups of citizens…

Citizen representatives – Drivers:
• Getting around the city on foot is difficult
• Public transport is not satisfactory
• We pay taxes, so we can thus use the city with no restrictions
Add your own arguments
and the statements/proposals you are proposing:

At the town Council , before the meeting with the Mayor.

At the town Council , before the meeting with the Mayor.

Citizen representatives:
• There are several health problems affecting you and your children due to the atmospheric pollution
• Life in the city has become unbearable. There is too much traffic and you see cars everywhere. Parked vehicles even block the pavements.
• The cars’ horns and noise pollution bother you
Add your own arguments
and the statements/proposals you are proposing:
Representatives of environmental organisations:
• Life in the city has become unbearable
• The smog is causing respiratory problems
• Car use increases environmental pollution
Add your own arguments and the statements/proposals
you are proposing

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What we added to this project was:

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1. Each group wrote two different letters to the Mayor and Municipal Council: one with the problems our town citizens have  been facing and a second one later with all their suggestions about how  to solve each one of them! I wanted to show them that it is much easier just to mention what’s wrong or missing in life than find practical solutions to our problems working collaboratively!

At the town Council

At the town Council

2.We decided to write a real letter with our final suggestions after the elections  and hand them to our hometown  new  Mayor ! We talked with  the  Town Council president and attended a municipal council meeting, too!

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And here’s the Mayor’s reply letter!! We are so proud!!

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