January 2020 saw the launch of the ‘Young Europeans’ Erasmus project, involving eight partners from seven European countries. This project uses an action-based learning approach to encourage young people to make positive changes in their school or wider community through the development, implementation and evaluation of projects. It is focused specifically on countering disinterest among young people in politics by fostering early political interest and engagement in school. The young students involved will work together to co-create what politics, democracy and European values mean in their world and consider how schools can provide the necessary space for such youth-driven innovation. They will then undertake their projects, based on local issues that are significant to them, and engage in a democratic process in an attempt to implement change. With these students, project partners will co-create attractive and practically useful guidance to secondary schools on how to foster greater engagement in politics, democracy and European values.
The Kick Off Meeting held in both Cheltenham and Gloucester allowed partners to initiate important working relationships, develop a mutual understanding of the purpose and requirements of the projects and agree on the first steps that must be taken in order to run successful projects that will benefit not only the students involved but will have a lasting impact. Each partner provided a presentation about their institution, which often offered an insight into their backgrounds and gave us an idea of some of the projects that the students are currently working on. For the University of Gloucestershire, Cathy Burch led an activity based on Engeström’s work ‘From Teams to Knots’ that made clear the importance of the link between all partners as active members of the project. Our school-based colleagues brought along some of their students to the meeting, which provided an opportunity for them to not only gain valuable experience but ensure their voice was heard. They had the opportunity to work in groups to discuss the projects they may wish to run, how the project website could be designed and how they could work together across countries. The results of these discussions where then presented to their teachers and the other partners in attendance.
At the end of the visit Paul Vare (University of Gloucestershire) took partners on a tour of Gloucester Cathedral making use of his long-mothballed knowledge of the Cathedral’s history and architecture. It allowed partners to relax and immerse themselves in a beautiful cultural setting following a very busy and productive two days.
Partners involved this project will next meet in Pasvalys, Lithuania in March. We can’t wait to get started and see the fantastic work that the students produce.