ContextPeople usually consider their membership to the community as a factual situation, in particular those whose citizenship condition is legally recognized at birth. Citizenship is often conceived as a series of rights and duties to be accepted, in particular because they are recognized by the Law; however, these laws are written by professionals and are usually accessible only by experts. The last School Reform, entered in force in September 2010, promoted “Constitution and Citizenship” as indispensable subject of study in all schools of the country. However, the subject of citizenship is wide and deep, and one hour a week is probably not enough. The aim should be to recover the active involvement of members of the community, in particular of the young. That mission should not be exclusively delegated to schools, it must also be a responsibility of the community itself: in order to stimulate young people to actively participate many other institutions must be involved, like municipalities, associations and educative cooperatives on the territory. The project “Citizenship Pool” is promoted by the Municipality of Reggio Emilia and Cooperative “Reggiana Educatori”, and it is conducted in Blaise Pascal Institute, Reggio Emilia.
Measure“Citizenship Pool” aims to train about active citizenship and aware participation of young people. This projects starts with only one high school and will expand gradually to other schools of the city. It is called "gym" because it works just like a gym where one can have work out on the exercise of rights and duties: in sports one has to train in order to become a champion, and in the same way it is necessary to train the civic sense and one’s own ability to operate as a proactive citizen. Just like in sports, the work of civic education has a strong motivational value in itself: actually doing things feeds the desire to understand and pushes to action.
The life of a community is indeed based on civil rules that must be interiorized by young people both through knowledge and observation of "good practices" (implemented first of all by the adults around them) and through direct experience and active participation in the life of their community.
The specific goals of the project, referring to the students, are the following:
Learn the values of the Italian Constitution and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union
Raise interest on issues of social and cultural life of cities and the country
Understand the mechanisms of representative democracy and the methods of participatory democracy
Become active in the life of the school and of the city
Target GroupThe project is addressed to students attending the third year in high schools, beginning with High School B. Pascal, where the project started. Students can sign up freely and voluntarily, up to a maximum of 50 participants for each training module. The school provides a teacher coordinator of the project. Participants of “Citizenship Pool” are the main target of the project. In addition to these, a secondary target is represented by the classmates of the participating students. Through the involvement of teachers, in the morning there is the possibility to discuss in class the issues examined in the afternoon meetings of “Citizenship Pool”.
Methodology“Citizenship Pool” is located at a high school that joined the project and is included in the curriculum. The project is presented to the classes at the beginning of the school year by the educators who will lead it. Interested students can freely sign up at the administrative office of the school. The activity of the gym is organized around consecutive "modules" of variable duration (from 8 to 15 meetings), each of which has a focus on the articles of the Italian Constitution. The last meeting includes the presentation of the work to classmates and the school. Each module includes meetings for reflection on the subject, focus groups, tours (visits to exhibitions and historical and institutional places); watching movies, documentaries and theatre performances; meetings with experts, witnesses and local administrators (some meetings and/or performances are open to all students in the school). The implementation of the measure is both quantitative (extend the project to more schools in the city) and qualitative (the possibility that the students' proposals are discussed by deliberative bodies of the municipality).
StakeholdersThe stakeholders of the Pool are: Cooperative Reggiana Educatori(educators), Local Administration (Officina Educativa, local administrators and councilors, specialists), experts in the fields discussed within the project, associations and collaborators networks. The educators of the Cooperative, the reference teacher and Officina Educativa train the educative team of the Pool, which co-plans, conducts, supervises and evaluates the Project. Local administrators and politicians supported the visibility of the functioning of the democratic system. Networks of associations, experts strongly contributed to the meetings with the students, with their specific competences and original methodologies.
AssessmentStudents had the possibility to examine in depth topics related to rights, duties, law, legality and justice. They could experience the mechanisms of representative democracy through direct participation; they became promoters of many projects within the school’s activity; they presented to the local government a sort of manifesto of young people including the requests of their classmates; they got interested in the social and cultural life of the city and of the country.
The achievement of these targets was also evaluated through questionnaires filled in by the students.
ImpactThe effect of “Citizenship Pool” is linked to the implementation of the participatory skills of the students, regarding both school and city life as well as its democratic institutions. “Palestra di Educazione Civile” works both on a cultural level (to increase democratic awareness of the young as well as their knowledge of specific social issues), and in terms of experience (to train them to participate directly in all the contexts in which they are acting as individuals or associations). Overall, it is a promotion of youth empowerment in the city.
Swot1. Strengths (characteristics of the measure that give it an advantage over others):
Involvement and attendance rate of students
Originality of work methodologies
Informal approach of educators
Recognition with formative credit by the School
Association networks’ and collaborators’ free contribution
Accessible to all students (free)
2. Weaknesses (characteristics that place the measure at a disadvantage relative to others)
Difficulty to discuss topics in depth because of scheduled plan
Restricted duration of meetings
3. Opportunities (elements that the measure could exploit to its advantage):
Visibility and financial resources to enlarge the project to other schools