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Rationale

by Philippe Jeanjacquot last modified Jan 23, 2014 02:29 PM
The first motivation for this intercultural project “C.I.T.I.E.S.” concerns the intrinsic cultural value of the theme. “The city” is humankind’s greatest creation. Cities represent the ultimate handiwork of our imagination, testifying to our ability to reshape the natural environment in the most lasting ways. From their earliest beginnings, cities have been the places that generated most of mankind’s science, technology, art, culture, religion, & economy. The evolution of cities embodies the story of humanity, and the history of European cities encompasses the history of Europe.
 
The discovery of the multicultural aspects of European cities will give powerful tools to enable pupils to take their place in society as active European citizens.
 
This growing awareness of both civic identity and European citizenship can change their perspective on society. They may learn from the past and take responsibility for the future, as society increasingly understands the importance of caring for the environment and the earth.  Education has a role in giving students an insight into these topics. Developing students’ understanding and awareness of the many areas related to the concept of “ European citizenship” is the rationale behind the theme we propose in this Comenius project.
 
Another need derives from the relevance of the chosen topic to all the participating schools after the successful results of three previous Comenius projects on the Sun, the Measurement of Space (M.E.T.E.R) and the Investigation of Time (T.I.M.E.). The effectiveness of these projects in stimulating the process of scientific enquiry and pedagogical innovation and motivating pupils of all abilities towards the sciences, makes us feel it is imperative to complete the astronomy and intercultural curriculum development with a new project that can be “the pinnacle” of the previous “trilogy”.
We are keen to pursue the theme ‘cities’ - interrelated with the previous ones - more systematically, building on and bringing on to fruition our earlier work. The aim is to develop an innovative curriculum related to the Investigation of Time & Exploration of Space in the cities that could be implemented in our science courses, integrated into the regular activities and in the school curriculum. 
 
Archeo-astronomy -the influence of astronomy on the architectural structure of the city – will be a focal point. 
Another strong point of the Project is related to specific geographical and historical conditions of the cities involved in the partnership, that represent examples of some significant periods of the European history:
1. Classical cities in Europe: Rome, the archetypal mega-city
2. From Rome to a confederation of urban cells: Lyon
3. The emergence of the North: Amsterdam, the first great modern commercial city
4. The Anglo-urban revolution: Birmingham, the industrial city.
 
Parallel research and visits will be performed by the schools in the various cities: thus providing a practical context to identify both the local and the European history & identity and promoting an active citizenship.
The third reason for this proposed project derives from our common goal to reinforce basic skills and transversal key competences and to promote higher achievement in science, technology and mathematics by making these subjects more appealing to pupils. 
 
‘The city’ offers an excellent opportunity to look at the contribution of different cultures to scientific discovery and to identify and develop the integration of the European dimension in teaching and learning.
 
‘The city’ is also a favoured field for outdoor education that we have found very inspiring and motivational for a wide range of students. In fact, several themes of our project address the most recognized concepts, approaches and best practices within outdoor education. Trips into nature and visits to city  monuments as outdoor education sites will promote environmental education and sustainability; to understand city and landscape qualities as a source of education, recreation and play will offer stimulus for the most able pupils and opportunities for the less able to become increasingly motivated towards science and intercultural knowledge.
 
The interdisciplinary approach of this project gives pupils the opportunity to develop  motivation in learning both outside and inside the regular school curriculum. This will undoubtedly translate into an enthusiasm for life-long learning. Specifically, the project will focus on examining European cities via scientific disciplines (astronomy, mathematics, physics, technology) but also via humanities (history, geography, languages, art). The goal is for students to develop an integrated knowledge of the theme and to understand the interconnection between curriculum areas that may seem to be separate in their normal studies, hence encouraging a wide-ranging interest and curiosity about the world. 
 
We aim to involve students of all ages in our schools (11-18) and to build a complete course of study accessible to all abilities, from students with special needs to higher education. These should be complemented by the development of other transversal competencies, such as research and communication skills, practical abilities and improved confidence and innovation in the use of ICT. Pupils will also be encouraged to take responsibility for the future and consider issues important in current society, such as care for the environment. An example of this is the involvement in the Dark Skies initiative.
Also the wish to improve the learning of students with migrant background and reduce early school leaving inspires this projects: the partner schools are going to organise astronomical clubs in extracurricular time (“open school”), intercultural courses (Science in English), astronomy laboratories, outdoor activities. 
 
These offer stimulus for the most able pupils and opportunities for those with migrant background or with special needs, to become increasingly integrated in the school community and motivated towards education. We are keen to be able to offer these motivational opportunities to pupils who might otherwise be less engaged with scientific subjects.
The interdisciplinary approach makes scientific subjects more interesting also for girls and promote gender equality.
The last motivation concerns the common interest of the participating schools in reinforcing pedagogical innovation. Although this project has an intercultural & scientific focus, it also emphasises pedagogical issues. This is achieved by helping pupils and teachers acquire and improve skills, not only in the subject area on which the project is focussed, but also in terms of motivation, teamwork, social relations and communicative competencies (in collaborating with each other, with pupils' families and with the outside world).
 
The European partnership will give teachers of our schools the opportunity to share, test and put into practice innovative pedagogical methodologies for the development of new ways to engage a wide range of pupils via group work and peer support. 
 
It is an added value for this project that the national coordinators of the partnership have great experience in science teacher training and astronomy education as members of European Association for Astronomy Education (EAAE).
The active participation of these experts will facilitate the involvement in the project of national and European institutions in order to support improvements in pedagogical approaches and to enhance the quality and European dimension of science teacher training.
 
- IC Parco della Vittoria in Rome will implement effective inter-agency approaches to support new teachers at the start of their careers. By a partnership with the Teacher Development school (TFA) of  the University Roma Tre, several “teachers to be” will practice in the school, and they could be involved in the Comenius Project.
- The French school has a partnership with the French Institute for Education that will help for the set up, analysis and evaluation of the project.
- OSB in Amsterdam cooperates with the Education Departments of the Universities of Amsterdam and Utrecht (Freudenthal Institute).
- The Comenius cordinator of KEHS in Birmingham, Dr B. Tedd, has been awarded the 2013 Patrick Moore Gold Medal for astronomy teaching by the Royal Astronomical Society
Thanks to these effective partnerships with Scientific&Educational Institutions, our Comenius  cross-curricular project can:
- be an effective model to enable teachers to gain the attitudes, skills, & competences to improve the quality of their teaching and develop collaborative ways of working with students as facilitators of learning
- help teachers learn to work together collaboratively across subjects
- facilitate students to understand at a personal level the need for lifelong learning and to acquire the basic life-skills and competences necessary for active citizenship at European level.

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