In Memoriam of Roy Hellenberg: Towards inclusive classrooms in South Africa

The following article takes a look into the life and work of the South African educator, Roy Hellenberg. First of all Roy’s career and his personal connection to Apartheid are explored. The relevance of the past in education is next reflected upon, from the standpoint of Roy’s position as a history teacher. Lastly, informed by decades of experience, we take the time to acknowledge Roy’s takeaway solutions to teaching in post-conflict societies.

“How can I expect students to make themselves vulnerable and expose their ideas to criticism if I am not willing to do the same myself? How can I encourage my students to become active citizens and challenge the people and practices that undermine democracy, and then fail to take any action myself in the face of injustice?”


Roy Hellenberg and Apartheid

These are the words of the late South African educator, Roy Hellenberg, who sadly passed away towards the end of the summer. The questions posed above are not rhetorical nor merely reflections on society, but were huge motivations for Roys’s career. His values and work, however, cannot be viewed in a vacuum. To understand his approach to pedagogy, which focused on post-conflict environments as well as the role of the school in establishing democratic beginnings in society, it is important to understand that Roy grew up under apartheid, was educated under apartheid, and became a teacher during this time. 

As a result, his understanding of apartheid is not just because of his professional choices but his life experience--and he knew that he was not alone in that reality, that all South Africans were shaped by apartheid and carried apartheid's legacies. He also understood that he was shaped by his family, by dinner table conversations, by an emphasis on respect, on listening, on being informed and negotiating with others who might not be like you. He knew that his education was incomplete because he saw and heard the contradictions---this piece--the conversations, the respect, the engaging people outside the classroom and school--this is also critical.

Aside from being a teacher, he was heavily involved with developments in teaching methodologies. Since 2006, he has worked with the organisations Shikaya and Facing History and Ourselves to develop resources, design and run teacher training programs. In line with his teaching philosophy, these programs encourage the development of critical thinking in the classroom and stimulate democratic debate with the purpose of allowing young people to develop as compassionate, engaged, and active citizens. Additionally, Roy co-founded FutureProof Schools with Dylan Wray - an initiative that strives to ensure that education is offered to successive generations and will provide students with the critical skills needed in today’s society. One of the outcomes of this was a program entitled A School Where I Belong, that addressed exclusion and discrimination across South African schools. Together with Prof. Jonathan Jansen, they published a book with the same name. 

In many ways, Roy will be remembered as a trailblazer, one of the educators who supported the schooling system through this process of significant societal transformation. 


Relevance of the past

"The past defines us, ... So whether we study it or not, the reality is it affects us as a nation and it affects us as individuals as well. The advantage of studying it is it gives us an idea of what streams have impacted us and to what degree, and also, how it has unfolded in our community, in our society and the institutions that we are a part of. Until we understand where we come from, we don't really appreciate where we are. And we can't really define the pathway forward."

Roy was a firm advocate for history education. He believed that too often the focus is placed on the here and the now, that the past can become easily neglected. He understood that people inherit the legacies of the past and carry that “residue.” For that reason, it is important to compel young students and their adult teachers to gain a deeper knowledge and understanding of history. Particularly in countries of social unrest, or those experiencing societal transformations, a lot of attention is given to change, developments, and other progress but little thought is given to the very recent tumultuous history. However, how then can we aim to move forward after such times?


Solutions to teaching in post-conflict societies: Make it personal, recognise the challenges, the legacy

"One of the challenges is overcoming the baggage that we carry, ... Facing the Past, and participating in it as a teacher in that program, helped me to open the suitcase that I was carrying around, to take the articles out. I wish I could say that the suitcase is empty--that I've moved on from there--but it's not true. But at least I understand what's inside there and what's affecting me."

Roy’s approach to dealing with the legacy of societal inequalities and struggles is simple: the past cannot be ignored, nor swept under a carpet. On the contrary, persisting challenges and the legacies of past history need to be recognised, and only then can we begin to address them. In this way, Roy encourages teaching to be personal, not only for the students but also for the teacher who themselves need to grapple with the legacies they have inherited. The mutual willingness to face the past is what ultimately fosters a relationship of trust and a comfortable environment, where ideas can be freely discussed.. This philosophy sees the school as a ‘playground’ for the future, where it shapes citizens that are respectful of one another’s opinions and thereby encourages students to become active participants in society. 

“Teaching democratic values is not contained in a series of lessons; it is a lifestyle, an ethos that one creates.”


South African educator Roy Hellenberg passed away on 23 July 2021. 

Interested in the intersection of democracy and education? Please take a look at our webinar series: A Resilient Promise: Teaching the Fragility of Democracy

The allure of authoritarianism and modern populism: A keynote lecture with Prof. Takis Pappas

Ralitsa Angelova Articles

On the 15th of September on the international day of Democracy, EuroClio hosted the first session of a series of online workshops entitled A Resilient Promise: Teaching the Fragility of Democracy.

Prof Takis Pappas opened our webinar series on democracy with a compelling keynote lecture on The allure of authoritarianism and on modern populism.


Democracy is something that must be learned at early age

Prof. Pappas commenced with a strong statement that democracy is not something that you can touch or feel. Democracy in his words is something that must be learned at early age. He emphasized that democracy cannot be felt, sensed, or otherwise experienced other than, through formal education and practice from early age, which begins at school. In this respect, he added that teachers are the responsible for teaching young Europeans how to be good democratic citizens.

Furthermore, he noted that there is a challenge how to teach democracy at schools. In this regard, the idea of applied political science helps us to draw lessons from past historical and political experiences to ameliorate our lives in modern societies.


Explaining the concepts

To better understand democracy prof. Pappas highlights some important concepts that we often hear but do not know what exactly the meaning of. He defines democracy as a pluralist political system in which the incumbent party may lose office after free and fair elections.

And what then is liberal democracy? Liberal democracy is a recent phenomenon. According to Prof. Pappas, there was no liberal democracy before 1945. Liberal democracy is a democracy based on the rule of law, i.e., the principles and precepts of political liberalism.

And what is then non-democracy? Non-democracy is a system in which some leaders hold nearly unbounded and arbitrary power even if there are (unfree & unfair) elections.

Modern populism is, in Prof. Pappas taxonomy, a novel political system which is democratic but militates against political liberalism. Hence, democratic illiberalism.

The final important concept is nativism, which is a liberal democratic system meant to protect the interest of native-born citizens against immigrants and other populations. This system is liberal and democratic but prioritize the interest of the natives.

Prof. Pappas clarified the distinction between populists and nativists. When talking about a perceived backsliding of democracy, an association is often made with populists and populism.

The Difference between populism and nativism, according to Prof. Pappas. Source :


Prof. Pappas defines 10 ways to tell populists and nativists apart. The key to distinguishing the two lie with the last three points: power capture, performance in office and core democratic idea.


The lecturer argues that when populist parties come into office they tend to stay in office for many years, while attempting constitutional changes in effect replacing the liberal constitution with an illiberal one. The difference with the nativist parties is that they do not intend to change the (liberal) constitution. In Europe, these parties have so far not managed an outright majority and have only been in power through coalition governments.

­­­­­Prof. Pappas listed some of countries were populist parties won office, amongst which are Greece (since 1980), Italy (since 1990), Hungary (since 2010), Poland (since 2015), the USA (in 2017), Mexico (since 2018) and Brazil (since 2018).

As previously mentioned, when populist come to power, they try to change the constitution. In some cases, they succeed, in others, they fail. In the infographic below you can see the major populist and nativist parties that, according to Dr. Pappas’ research, endanger liberal democracy.

Source :


To better understand the political parties in Europe prof Pappas proposes the following classification, dividing parties into two main groups : democratic and nondemocratic.



According to Prof Pappas, we can successfully located all political parties, irrespective of time, geographical space or political circumstance, in the simple “map”.

Using this overview, Prof. Pappas demonstrates the political landscape in today’s democratic Europe. He claims that in Europe there are no more than six or seven types of parties. We will find liberal democratic, populist, nativist, nationalist, regionalist and secessionist, antidemocratic parties.

Source :


A typology of parties in Europe.  Blue refers to liberal, yellow to nativist, and magent to populist political parties.

Source :


In his lecture, Prof. Pappas introduced the audience to is “typology of parties” wheel. The wheel comprises 19 significant parties in 18 countries divided into seven party types based on the political goals and kind of society each type wants to achieve. In terms of historical evolution, the wheel was largely blue (liberal) until about 1990.

Prof. Pappas underlines that the infographic gives us a very dynamic idea of the forces of liberal democracy, where it is moving towards and what happened with the opponents of liberal democratic parties, both populist and nativist parties.



What can we learn form that? Prof. Pappas summarized several key takeaways from his lecture.

  1. Europe’s liberal democracy is still strong, but fragile. The only countries in Europe in which we currently have exclusively liberal, democratic parties (thus not nativist and not populist) are Portugal, Ireland and Luxembourg. In other countries in Europe, a mixture of liberal, populist and nativist parties exists. That was not the case some 20-30 years ago. The European Union was meant to be a union of countries with liberal governments and we have since its establishment seen an increase in parties on the nativist and populist flank.
  2. The enemies of liberalism are populism, autocracy, nativism. These are the biggest threats of liberal democracy.
  3. Populist parties are strong in Southern and Eastern parts of Europe. We see a lot of populist parties in Eastern Europe, particularly in Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. In the last twenty years there have also been a strong presence of populist parties in Greece, Italy and Spain.
  4. When populists come to power, they usually rule singlehandedly. There is one exception- Spain, where the current government consists of a liberal party (PSOE , Spain’s socialist party) together with a populist party (Podemos, a left wing populist party). Usually, however, when populists come to power, they rule by themselves, and they stay in power for many years.
  5. Nativist parties are strong almost everywhere in Western and Northern Europe (From Norway to France).
  6. No nativist parties have ever come to power singlehandedly. There are only three cases in the EU where nativist parties have been in office as junior coalition partners- Austria, Finland, and Italy. In all those cases, the governments did not last very long. They were not successful governments.
  7. Strong antidemocratic parties are almost non-existent in today’s Europe. They do exist but they are not very strong.
  8. Europe is now faced with having to deal with anti-democratic, “rogue” states. There was a time, not long ago, when Europe was a collection of liberal states, and an ally of a liberal United States. There was a sort of attraction to liberalism, with other countries wanting to “join the club”. Turkey, for instance, had its eyes set on becoming an EU member. Hopes for a liberal Russia were also present, at least up until then occupation of Crimea. The same thoughts appeared about the Middle East after the Arab spring. There was excitement about the Arab spring, however bad the results have turned out to be.

Europe today as an adherent of democratic liberalism is, in a sense, standing alone. The number of antidemocratic “rogue states” includes Russia, Turkey and other Middle Eastern countries. With Brexit one of the most liberal nations in Europe has left the EU.


About Prof. Takis S. Pappas.

Takis S. Pappas is a scholar of political science. He has done research on populism, democracy, and political leadership. Presently, prof. Pappas is a docent and associate researcher at the University of Helsinki, Finland, working within the EU funded Horizon 2020 project “Populism and Civic Engagement” (PACE). His latest book Populism and liberal democracy provides an exquisite and concise analysis on the notion of populism, and how it threatens liberal democracy.

To learn more about democracy, populism, nativism and other important topics please visit prof. Pappas’ blog.

A concise piece of history – a blogpost on the workshop on stamps of the ‘History that Connects – Sri Lanka’ initiative

Charlotte Huijskens Articles ,

On the 24th of August, Niroshana Peiris, Dennis Röder and Susanne Popp hosted a workshop on the use of postage stamps as visual historical sources. The workshop included an approach to promote historical competencies in history lessons and is part of a workshop series on creative teaching methodologies in history education. Future workshops will include topics such as the use of graphic novels in history education, music as a historical source and the use of counterfactual history. The workshop series forms part of the initiative ‘History that Connects - Sri Lanka’, a partnership between Strengthening Reconciliation Processes in Sri Lanka (SRP) of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and EuroClio, in cooperation with the International Society for History Didactics


The use of postage stamps was established worldwide in the second half of the 19th century, during the time frame of imperialism and colonialism. Although postage stamps have been around for quite some time, the use of stamps in history education is relatively new and unexplored. This blogpost will provide insights into the use of stamps in history education. 


Identity politics on a stamp

The beginning of the workshop was kicked off by introducing the most important features when looking at stamps. These include the name of the issuing nation, the denomination of the monetary value and the design and colour of the stamps. It's often the case that persons, events or symbols are depicted that symbolize national traditions and values. Therefore, stamps are usually used by governments as effective tools of national identity-building. Similar to coins, stamps are widely used on a daily basis, but most people are unaware of the messages that are spread with the use of stamps. As stamps are the official accounts of governments, they play a role in how the nation wants to portray itself or its past. It is the invention of identity and tradition on one piece of stamp.


A twofold use of stamps in history lessons

The workshop introduced two options of reading stamps as visual historical sources in history lessons. Firstly, the stamp’s picture can be used to illustrate historical topics. Visual impressions help students to better memorize historical topics. Additionally, students are able to recognise that the topic of the history lesson plays a role in the contemporary history culture of a country. The second option to use stamps in history lessons is to read stamps as a visual historical source for the time of the emission of the stamp. Students can analyse the history culture of the time of the emission of the stamps, and this will help students to become aware of culture of remembrance. It also helps students acquire skills they can use in their daily lives to analyse messages of the history culture around them. It will similarly deepen students’ methodological competences of visual source analysis. In sum, both the historical event that is depicted on the stamp as well as the publication date of the stamp are two angles that can be explored during a history lesson.  


Checklist: four steps to work with stamps as visual sources in history education

What stood central in the workshop was the explanation of a guideline on how to work with stamps as visual sources. The checklist is not limited to the use of stamps as visual sources, but it can be used with other visual sources as well. The following steps and guiding questions will help you to empower your didactical decisions in the classroom, when analysing visual sources with your students. 


Step 1. Give students time to formulate their first perception of the picture: encourage students to think about their individual perceptions of the picture, as this activates their prior knowledge. Give students the space to freely express their associations and to ask questions about the topic. After this, you collect the first information about the stamp, such as text, monetary value, format, size and colours. 


Step 2. Let the students describe the picture: they should try to describe as detailed as possible what they recognize in the picture when they look at it more closely. For example, identity the representation technique (photo, drawing, painting), identify major and smaller elements of the picture (people, places, objects, symbols), pay attention to the way how they are represented (e.g. gestures, facial expressions, postures), describe the major features of the arrangement of the picture (center/periphery, background/foreground) and the colour scheme. 


Step 3. Students will analyse the picture as a visual source. 

Students can make use of the following guiding questions when analysing the content of the picture: 

It is important to look at the year the stamp was published, and the historical event that is depicted on the stamp. Students can reflect on how these times are related. The example below shows how the time of emission and the time of the depicted historical event are related:

Additionally, students can collect additional information regarding the political or social context of the stamp, by making use of the following guiding questions:

When looking at the value of the stamp, it is not automatically the case that the most important event or message is related to the highest monetary value of the stamp. It is often that the lowest valued stamp portrays the most important message or the highest ranked person. This is the case because low value stamps are used on a daily basis so the message will be more widespread. 


Moreover, students can analyse what kind of picture is depicted on the stamp, and how that relates to the date of emission of the stamp.

Step 4. The students interpret and evaluate the stamp as a document of the history, culture and governmental identity policies at the time of its emission. Which conclusions can the students draw? What is the main message behind the stamp? Students can make use of the following questions:

Suggestions and creative ideas for the use of visual sources in history lessons

A general remark on the use of stamps in the classroom is that stamps can be used throughout different phases in the lesson; for the introduction of a topic, for deepening historical thinking or methodological ‘training’ or even during examinations. The workshop concluded with a few suggestions on how to use stamps in history lessons:

  • Compare a historical event and the representation of it on stamps. You can even compare several stamps on the same historical event. 
  • Use stamps for lessons about topics such as history culture, remembrance culture, the use and misuse of history, invented traditions or idendentity policies.
  • Use a complete series of stamps: how did it change? A symbol can be used differently in the 50s, in 60s or even now. Students can explore continuity and change in the history culture.
  • Look at a whole stamp set with the same emission date, from the smallest to the highest value. You can explore the selection and the attribution of value; which stamp was the most popular with which depiction? Which image was attributed the highest value? 
  • Use blank stamps for the students to create a stamp (series) related to a curricular topic. Which persons and events should be depicted in which way? Which symbols could be used and why?

Want to learn more about creative teaching methodologies for history lessons? Coming Saturday 25 September from 12:30 - 2:30 CEST, another workshop is hosted on the topic. This time the workshop will include a methodology on how to use storytelling and graphic novels in the classroom. You can register to join the online workshop here:

Towards a history education for the 21st Century: An interview with Dr. Jochen Hung

EuroClio had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Jochen Hung about the challenges and opportunities for history education at university level in Europe. Dr. Hung is Assistant Professor of Cultural History at Utrecht University and a specialist in the cultural and media history of 20th-century Germany. In his role with the history department of Utrecht University, he is also leading the coordination of the project Teaching European History in the 21st Century, a collaboration between seven European research universities (Utrecht, UA Madrid, HU Berlin, Sheffield, Prague, Budapest, Lille) and EuroClio. 

Q: What is Teaching European History in the 21st Century and what are the challenges you seek to address? 

Dr. J. Hung: The idea for the project started 6-7 years ago as we here at Utrecht University set up an English-language Bachelor’s programme in History. As far as we know, this was the first such programme on the European Continent with all three years of study offered entirely in English. As we were setting this up, we connected with several other European universities who had similar plans or who were already offering much of their history education in English. We really set out to build a network with universities elsewhere, also for our students through Erasmus exchanges, and we were quickly convinced that this would be a much more normal thing in the future: that with Brexit in particular, there would no longer be a need to go to Britain or Ireland to get your English-language degree but that this could be done in Continental Europe. 

While talking to our partners elsewhere we noticed a quite practical problem connected with this development: that the usual entry-level textbooks used in English-language undergraduate teaching were all written by British, Irish or American authors. As a result, they portray a very specific view on European history - essentially the view of European history as seen from Britain and the United States. This is of course entirely normal and expected, but we felt that it did not accurately reflect the European experience: that lots of different nations and countries are connected to each other through various points of interactions and processes. 

Concretely, if you have an Italian student going to study European history in English at a Dutch university, what should then be the national perspective? Our view on that is there should not be any one national perspective, but rather a multi-perspective approach to our shared European experience. 

Formally speaking, the project is now a collaboration between seven different European universities, plus EuroClio, that is being funded through the Erasmus+ Key Action 2 programme of the European Union. We received a three-year grant and the project is designed for creating innovative, multi-perspective teaching material. When our project started, online lectures with a digital platform were still something quite innovative. With the pandemic, this has now become the new normal for universities. In that sense, we see that our project now fits within a larger trend and that we no longer need to convince people that this is the way forward.

Q: What do you see as the key challenges and opportunities facing history departments at European universities at the moment?

Dr. J. Hung: There are of course challenges, but also clear opportunities, particularly connected with Brexit. I expect that students that were planning to go abroad will be going to Britain in much fewer numbers and that we will see a big influx of students coming to Europe, including Utrecht, wanting to study in English. While this is great for us, it does also entail some practical challenges - some of which we are addressing with our project. We also see a larger discussion around the merits of this development. Here in the Netherlands, for instance, there are questions about what will happen to the specific Dutch view of European history. Does this internationalisation mean we are losing something in the process? Personally, I see it as an opportunity. 

An additional challenge is connected with online teaching. Even as the pandemic is less of a concern, it is here to stay. This presents us with some clear opportunities for internationalisation: it might be both easier and cheaper to study abroad with some parts of your degree being offered online. Having said that, we see of course the usual problems with technical challenges and the lack of direct interaction with students. I do think these are challenges that will be solved in the coming years, however. 

A final thought on the challenges we are facing now is the new nationalism that we see rising all across Europe. As far as I see it, it will be good to teach our students that it is totally fine to have national perspectives. It is normal and it is what has made Europe, in a way. What we need is, however, to get to know all of these different national perspectives, acknowledge that there is no hierarchy between them and, in a sense, try to bring them together and teach students how they interact.

Q: Coming back to the project that you are leading from Utrecht University. What are the current plans and when can we expect to see some of the tangible results coming out of it?

Dr. J. Hung: Well, there are three big outputs of the project. That is a handbook, co-authored by the universities involved. It is our magnus opus and will be finished by the end of next year. Additionally, we are at the moment recording a number of online lectures. We hope to make some of these available in the coming months. Finally, EuroClio is working on an online portal where you can find these texts and use them together with primary sources to construct teaching plans and syllabi. 

Q: Do you see any uses for teachers at secondary level education? 

Dr. J. Hung: The aim was to produce a handbook for first and second year undergraduate students. That is really close to high school level and it was always the aim for us that the texts that we author are very accessible, so I do hope that secondary education teachers can use the platform, the texts, and the sources, giving their students an idea of what awaits them at university. It is also a great opportunity to make use of our multi-perspective approach. If you for instance teach in high school about the history of, say, inequalities in Europe, you could pick up these texts produced by authors from four different countries and their corresponding viewpoints. The same topic can be understood and taught in very different manners and these contrasting perspectives can, I hope, be really valuable also for history teachers.

Reflections on democracy and education

Karen Murphy Articles

Guest blog post from Facing History and Ourselves

In 1916, in the midst of a world war, the American philosopher and educator John Dewey wrote “democracy has to be born anew every generation, and education is its midwife.” 

Here we are, more than one hundred years later, with an opportunity to take Dewey’s words to heart and imagine what they might mean for us as citizens and as educators. Over  the last several years, we’ve been reminded--by journalists, scholars, thought leaders, and young people in our streets--that democracy in countries around the world, including the one from which I write, is fragile. So-called “consolidated” democracies have experienced democratic decline and countries once believed to be democratic are now considered examples of competitive authoritarianism. 

Like Dewey, we are living in a period of great change and transformation. We might even think about it as a time of transition. In that spirit, we might consider other periods of transition--such as the period in the US following the Civil War, Reconstruction, the period between the world wars in Europe, including the period of the Weimar Republic in Germany, and the later years of apartheid in South Africa and the early years of democracy-- as windows and mirrors, opportunities for reflection, for hearing echoes and for making connections to our own time and place. These periods provide us with the ability to step back and ask ourselves what undermines democracy, what strengthens it and what do we need in terms of knowledge, skills, behaviors and dispositions to create healthy democracies? And what role does education play in that work?

As educators of civics and of history, we are uniquely positioned to engage in this learning and in conversations with our students and colleagues about these issues. Schools and classrooms--even virtual classrooms--provide us with a golden opportunity if we choose to take it: we can stop and think. We also know that so much more happens in classrooms and schools than teaching and learning about particular subjects. These are spaces where we develop relationships, where we engage with people outside our families and most intimate friendships.  Democracy is about relationships. Trust is the glue that binds them, and classrooms and schools provide a unique opportunity to build trusting relationships across generations and differences.

Moreover, classrooms and schools can provide a context where we engage with ideas that have the potential to inspire us to ask questions and to confront our own beliefs,  biases and prejudices.  And, history classrooms have the potential to provide a rare opportunity --to develop what author Isabel Wilkerson refers to as radical empathy. She writes, “Radical empathy... means putting in the work to educate oneself and to listen with a humble heart to understand another's experience from their perspective, not as we imagine we would feel. Radical empathy is not about you and what you think you would do in a situation you have never been in and perhaps never will. It is the kindred connection from a place of deep knowing that opens your spirit to the pain of another as they perceive it.” 

Many educators in the global North are beginning a new school year. It’s an exhausting and exciting time to re-enter the classroom. As you begin teaching this year (or as you continue your classes for those of you who are in the midst of a school year), consider the possibility of using democracy as a guide. How might thinking about democracy inform the way you set up your classroom? The establishment of a class contract? What you teach and how you teach? How might democracy provide a lens for exploring historical moments and events? What might it illuminate or obscure? What might it shed light on as we grapple with fundamental questions about how we are going to make democracy work in countries around the world? How might your definition of democracy change over the course of the year and in light of the different histories you teach? How might your students’ feelings and thoughts about democracy change your own or inspire you to question your own? How will you share this learning with others?

We hope this blog post has inspired some reflection as we start the new school year. For more on history education and democracy, join our EuroClio webinar series from 15 September to 27 October.


About the author
Karen Murphy, Director of International Strategy for Facing History and Ourselves, is based in New York City and grateful for the opportunity to work with educators and representatives from civil society organizations across the globe. In addition to the programmatic work of Facing History and Ourselves, Karen is immersed in a longitudinal study of adolescents from divided societies with identity-based conflicts (South Africa, Northern Ireland, and the United States), and the ways these young people develop as civic actors, including the factors that impede and support their development. Karen's doctoral work focused on the role of race and racial violence in the construction of United States national identity.

Image: Gross Stadt (Metropolis), by Otto Dix, 1928, Germany. akg-images via Facing History and Ourselves.

Sharing European Histories through stories of the past

Helen Snelson, the Curriculum Leader for History Teacher Training at the University of York and a teacher of 11-18-year-olds with 20 years experience, sat down with us to discuss her role in the development of the Sharing European Histories project and the inspiration behind her strategy – Using stories of the past to teach students about its complexity.  

I was very excited when I first heard about the Sharing European Histories project. For me, the project is an example of history education at its best. It is focused clearly on supporting real teachers, in real schools, teaching real children about history and the past. At the same time, it is a project that is not afraid to acknowledge that the past is a very large ‘place’ and that history is messy and complex.

You will hear a lot of people say that we need to look back at the past in order to understand where we have come from, and in order to learn how different people interpret the past to construct historical identities. I agree! But it makes history a hard subject to teach well in schools. Thankfully, it also makes it a rich and endlessly fascinating subject when it is taught well. In addition, young people who know about the past, and about how history is created, are able to join in contemporary debates and discussions with informed perspectives of their own.

At the heart of the strategy of stories of the past is the idea of focusing on people. These people might have lived through the same time period in Europe, but they all responded to the events and other people around them in different ways. Allowing this similarity and difference to be centre stage in the study of the past is a good way to avoid ahistorical over-simplifications about groups of people, how they thought and how they acted. At the same time, personal stories of real people are relatable and concrete. They enable students to engage with stories of the past in order to draw out bigger ideas and meanings.

Each story from the past tells the story of a different person relating to, or during, a specific event or time period. A set of stories has the event or time period as a common focus. However, a successful set draws on stories of people of different ages, gender/sex, backgrounds, locations and perspectives. That is, a diverse group of people. By engaging with a range of personal stories, students are able to identify similarities and differences between their thoughts and experiences. They are able to see that lives and responses are often full of complexity and nuance. They are better able to understand the context of actions taken and views held. They are also able to read about people whose voices may not usually be heard, and about the ordinariness of past life that may not be dramatic enough to warrant a history textbook chapter.

Stories of the past can help students to gain a sense of what a period was like. This then supports learning about major events that may be specified learning for assessment. They can also gain a richer understanding of these major events by reading about the nature and scale of the impact they had on people at the time. And it is possible to consider the stories as source material in the form of oral histories, particularly if teachers choose to engage students in adding to a set of stories of the past by interviewing friends and relatives about their memories of the time period being studied.

For the collection of stories from the past for the Sharing European Histories project I chose to focus on the topic of ‘After the Cold War: how do different people remember the years 1989-2000?’ The EuroClio network made it possible to contact people across the continent who were willing to share their stories. I would recommend working on developing a set to any colleague as a wonderful way to get to meet other people. However, it is also possible to use ready-made sets of stories from the past, for example, stories from 1945-49 are available on

Students were asked to read the stories and to compare the similarities and differences between them. They were then asked to think about how easy or difficult life seemed for people, how much change was happening in people’s lives, and how much people were focused on wider events in the world. Having become very familiar with the stories, students were then able to suggest the impact of location, personal factors, and other factors on people’s experiences and memories. Using that discussion they could then make more general suggestions about life for people in the period 1989-2000.

The stories of the past strategy provides an accessible way to teach about complex ideas. It makes a virtue of the plethora of perspectives and experiences that humans have, in order to develop a richer knowledge and understanding of events and changes.

Helen’s strategy – Using stories of the past to teach students about its complexity – is part of a five-part teaching strategy series designed and tested by teachers for teachers. The aim of Sharing European Histories is to help young people understand the complexity, multiplicity, and transnational character of European history and recognise how history can engage everyone in understanding Europe. For more information, go to

In Europe documentaries: developing new skills, learning with enthusiasm – A conversation with teachers & students

Giulia Verdini Articles ,

In 2019, EuroClio joined forces with Dutch public broadcaster VPRO for the development of In Europe Schools, an online exchange project meant for European schools, teachers and youngsters to meet and cooperate. By 2021, more than 110 schools from 30 different countries have registered, and many decided to start a new round of the project.

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In Europe Schoolsencourages a transnational approach of teaching Modern European History: European schools partner up to cooperate in the research, filming, documentary-making and finally exchanging not only their respective documentary, but also their ideas, experiences and opinions on rather controversial themes, such as difficult history, migration, climate change and gender equality. The project aims to foster collaboration between European teachers and youngsters and ultimately strengthens students’ capability of doing research and their media literacy skills, but it also enables them to acknowledge history as history in the making.

At the end of the school year 2020-2021, EuroClio sat down with some of the schools that joined the project to know more about their experiences, discuss the strengths of the project, but also difficulties and suggestions for improvement. Several teachers - but also students! - were interviewed, among which Deirdre from the Kandinsky College, Kristina from Elgoibar Ikastola, Matej from OŠ Belokranjskega odreda Semič, and Amaia from Santo Tomas Lizeoa. In addition to that, teachers from different schools had the opportunity to meet each other, exchange experiences and practices, and share thoughts and feedback with EuroClio during the peer learning event, held on 17 June 2021.

Meet the teachers: Amaia, Matej, Kristina and Deidre

Why did you decide to participate in this project? 

Amaia: We wanted our students to connect with students from other European countries, give them the opportunity to discuss their work and exchange experiences with students in other countries.

Matej: I wanted to give my students the opportunity to participate in an international project. The topic of migrations is close to my students, as we live at the Schengen border and illegal migrations are common. I also wanted my students to communicate with students from other countries.

Kristina: Our school is committed to international projects. In addition, the goal of the project is in line with our curriculum and competency model.

Deirdre: It is a great opportunity for students to work on beneficial topics with students from other countries.


How has the response of the students changed throughout the project?

Amaia: In the beginning, our students were not so confident with their knowledge of the topic and their command of foreign languages, but participating in the project has helped them to gain confidence.

Matej: My students started this project very open-mindedly, despite the fact that we live in a conservative region, where immigrants are not appreciated, or rather local people feel a certain amount of fear towards immigrants. Different perspectives, given in the project, even enlarged student’s empathy towards immigrants.

Kristina: Although the task at first seemed abstract and difficult for them, they gradually adapted to the task and came out with a very tidy job.

Deirdre: They have become more involved in the history lessons.


What was the biggest challenge?

Amaia: Finding interviewees was quite difficult. Language has been an added difficulty for some of our students, but not all. Finding the right rhythm for both schools was difficult, since we often had holidays and exams at different moments and therefore, we had difficulties to agree on deadlines and online meetings. We had to make some changes in our organization to be able to keep the contact. 

Matej: Due to Covid-19 our country experienced one of the longest lockdowns in Europe. For 6 months we had online school. Making documentaries was quite a big challenge. All communication was made via online meetings.

Kristina: The hardest part has been finding close and real testimonials. It’s not easy to put people in front of the camera.

Deirdre: Time, planning and research skills of students. While the lesson plans are very clear, we realised that the research part is quite open, so students either step up to the challenge or lose it a bit.


Were there any clashes in the classroom because of different opinions/perspectives?

Amaia: Not really, our students were mostly of the same opinion, and when they discussed with our partner school students, we discovered that they had similar views on the topic.

Matej: No, not really. However, we were not able to discuss the topic as thoroughly as we wanted. 

Kristina: Even though the affair was tough and difficult to deal with, the students kept their distance.

Deirdre: Not really. We do encourage an open atmosphere in class so it was ok to debate some topics.


How did Covid-19 affect the outcome?

Amaia: Last year´s lockdown made it very difficult for us to organise and coordinate the groups. Finding interviewees and making the interview was more difficult due to Covid-19 restrictions. But in the end, we managed. 

Matej: We had some problems finding time for all the activities in the project. That is also the reason why we needed a lot of time for our documentaries. 

Kristina: Of course, the pandemic has not made it easier to interact with people. And in our case, we wanted to deal with similar experiences.

Deirdre: Group work proved to be tricky as well as keeping distance while creating documentaries and carrying out interviews.


Did you create a meaningful relationship with your partner school?

Amaia: I think we did. We ended the project with a final online meeting of the different groups, and this event was highly valued by our students. They were very happy to have the opportunity to get to know students from other countries and talk to them about their experiences.

Matej: Sadly, no. We even changed our partner school. We sent our documentaries to the school and I tried to organise an online meeting. I was not successful with that. We also did not get any feedback on our work or received documentaries from other schools. I am very disappointed because of that. 

Kristina: In our case, we couldn’t fit a better colleague. The teacher is very knowledgeable, hardworking and ideal for directing this type of work and project.

Deirdre: Yes, our Spanish partners were great. With our Turkish partners, it was a little more difficult due to expectations and time differences. 


Do you have any suggestions on how this project could be implemented?

Amaia: The project as it is designed right now does not require much contact between partner schools until the end. We would suggest starting collaborating and getting to know each other from the beginning: instead of each school making their own videos and then showing them to their partner school, it could be more productive to mix the groups from the start, making them international from the beginning, so that the relationship between students becomes more collaborative from the first stages of the project. It would make the organization more complex, but it would also be a more enriching experience.

Matej: I would like to thank Eugenie from Euroclio, for all the help and support. It was very hard sometimes to continue with this project, but her emails of support helped us to finish our work. I think being in contact with project leaders is very important, even when it is only about moral support. 

Kristina: Everything was fine, maybe next year we can share part of the research or we can mix our students up.

Deirdre: Although I know it would be more difficult to arrange, I think it would be more beneficial if the students could actually work with their International partners to create one documentary.

What do students say?

All students agreed that such initiatives offer a new approach to history as a subject, and a different way of learning which enabled them not only to get an insight into specific moments of history, different perspectives and cultures, but also to encounter direct witnesses. 

Although researching is often the most difficult part, students are trained to find reliable information and develop their media literacy skills: overall, they genuinely enjoyed discovering facts that most likely they would have not encountered in a text, and coming across interesting anecdotes that they did not know of. It inevitably pushed them to further investigate their findings, test their knowledge and develop their research skills.

Everybody enjoyed creating a documentary from scratch, starting from researching the topic and then filming. It proved to be an effective way to learn about the past and about the way our past is so deeply interconnected with our present, which positively contributes to shaping a more informed society. It obviously helped them develop their digital skills: they learnt how to record and design the video. Video making was their favourite part: from doing the interviews to filming, video editing and seeing the documentary coming together. They were all excited whilst seeing their ideas taking shape, and eventually satisfied and proud of seeing what they were able to create.

Also watching documentaries from the partner school proved to be fascinating, as they found that they could learn a lot more about different histories of different countries compared to solely reading the history book envisaged in their curriculum.

Students’ views regarding the theme did not necessarily change, but they did get to learn a lot more: researching made them understand the topic better, and encountering multiple, at times contrasting perspectives was thought-provoking. Others affirmed that prior to the project, they did not have much knowledge about their topic, so ‘In Europe’ helped them to form an opinion. For privacy reasons, we cannot share their names, but we are proud to share some of the positive comments we received:

These kinds of initiatives raise awareness, especially among young people, about problems in the world. We were also able to express our opinions. 

We have learnt new things, met people, and practised English, but at the same time you have to work hard and the topic can be sensitive. 

We developed both academic and creative skills. 

It was such a fun way to learn about a topic and it’s very nice to learn differently than just sitting in the classroom. 

You learn a lot more about different histories of different countries than you learn in the book. 

It was an interesting and fun approach to help students know more about world history. 

I got to know the perspectives of both sides of the difficult history and formed an opinion. 

Where are we going from here?

Teachers found the project to be well organized and the different steps clear, and they also appreciated the assistance provided by EuroClio. They were particularly happy about the fact that they could decide which topic to focus on, for example, in order to select a relevant topic for the history of their country or to still be able to follow their history curriculum. 

The main difficulties revolved around the communication and the cooperation between the schools, however, coordinating with the partner school is truly the key to the success of the project: students can benefit a lot from online meetings and they particularly appreciate having the chance to engage with other European students - in some schools, this relationship continued after the project thanks to social media! For this reason, the implementation of a platform for communication could be of great use in order to enable schools to work together and build a stronger network and relationships.

Few schools have mentioned the importance of having clearer guidance on what recording/editing programmes shall be used for the making of the documentary, and others would appreciate having more resources categorized per topic.

We are genuinely grateful for the positive feedback we received, and we are also working on improvements. EuroClio will implement new sessions to explain the project and the toolkits, networking sessions for teachers and try to create an online learning community for students as well.

Both teachers and students really enjoyed taking part in this project because it’s a different kind of activity for teachers, but also a different way of learning for students, that keeps them more motivated and engaged. Some schools are planning to do this project as an interdisciplinary project between different subjects. Most schools will join again next year, because students want to do it again!

Written by Giulia Verdini

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Are you struggling with keeping students motivated and engaged in the classroom? Let them investigate, film and tell their own current (hi)story! Climate Change, Gender Equality, Migration, as well as Difficult History, are the histories and challenges of all of us today. Sign up here for next year! 

Watch the latest documentaries!

You can find all the videos made by students on our YouTube Channel.

Source Image: Turkish Migration | Titus Brandsma College

Reformation or reformations: Gijs van Gaans’ webinar on change and continuity in the context of medieval reformers

Giulia Boschini Articles

On June 16, Gijs van Gaans, a member of EuroClio’s Teaching and Learning team, teacher trainer and lecturer at Fontys University of Applied Sciences in Tilburg, hosted the last Webinar of our Historiana Webinar Series. During this series, history educators had the chance to discuss various historical topics while exploring Historiana’s teaching and learning tools and debating critical thinking skills. In this webinar, Gijs van Gaans presented the audience with an eLearning activity on early medieval reformers designed to promote students’ understanding of the meta-historical concepts of change and continuity. 


How can we teach about change and continuity through the history of medieval reformations? 

Gijs started his presentation by asking two questions to the audience. Namely: “What topics would you discuss when teaching about the reformation? When would your reformation timeline start?”

Most teachers in the audience replied that Martin Luther and its reforms would be central topics of discussion. Normally, their timeline would start in the 16th century, particularly in 1517 with Luther's ninety-five theses. 

However, Gijs decided to focus his webinar on the early reformation, between 1000 and 1517 circa. He then introduced two books, namely Linda Woodhead’s  An Introduction to Christianity and Reformations: The Early Modern World, 1450-1650 by Carlos M.N. Eire. 

Both Woodhead and Eire view the changes that led to the Protestant reformation as part of a lengthy process that started in the Middle Ages with different religious movements from below found in all other Europe and culminated with Luther’s protestant reformation in the 16th century. 

Following this historical approach to the reformation or reformations, professor van Gaans challenged the audience to rethink the traditional approach of teaching this topic by introducing the concepts of change and continuity


The meta-historical concepts of change and continuity

History education researchers Carla van Boxtel and Jannet van Drie included change and continuity among meta-historical concepts necessary for historical reasoning. According to the two scholars: 


“Historical reasoning aims at historical understanding. It concerns one of three

things: the evaluation or construction of a description of processes of change

and continuity, an explanation of a historical phenomenon or a comparison

of historical phenomena or periods.”

                                                                                                                -Historical reasoning in the classroom. 


As Gijs mentioned, along with historical knowledge, historical reasoning skills are crucial for students to come to their own understanding of history. The concepts of change and continuity are central to understanding long-term historical and societal changes. When framing historical events in terms of change and continuity, students can understand socio-political events considered historical turning points as parts of broader changes, rather than standing alone events. 

However, students and teachers alike face several challenges when working with these complex concepts. For example, Gijs van Gaans stressed the difficulties in understanding change and continuity as interwoven factors, and especially, change as a gradual process rather than a single breaking point with the past.

 To address these difficulties, Gijs suggested different strategies to deal with change and continuity in the classroom. 

  1. Adopting timelines and periodization, in a way that students can make better sense of periods of change and continuity.
  2. Sequencing historical facts in order to construct a narrative.
  3. Asking questions on the nature of change and continuity in a specific period.
  4. A living graph: a timeline where events and historical actors are placed on different levels to visualize how these historical elements relate to each other. 


The Living Graph: Historiana eLearning activity

Gijss then challenged the audience to create their own living graph on early medieval reformers with the Historiana’s eLearning activity The Precursors to the Reformation, based on this Historiana source collection. The central question of this eLearning activity is: who was the first medieval reformer? Based on the information given, students have to organize various medieval reformers on a timeline. In the end, the timeline will have different levels, each corresponding to the degree of innovation brought by one or more reformers. This activity allows students to work with the concepts of change and continuity.


The eLearning activity sparked a thought-provoking discussion on the nature of historical facts and differing interpretations. For teachers, it is challenging to present students with a coherent historical narrative that recognizes nuances and the variety of historical interpretations. However, history educators should provide their students with the knowledge and historical reasoning skills necessary to formulate their own historical conclusions. Working with a living graph, such as the one presented by Gijs in his Historiana eLearning activity, can help students develop their understanding of history and meta-historical concepts such as change and continuity. 


Learn more

Want to learn more about change and continuity in the context of early medieval reformers? Watch the full webinar here!

This article is part of a webinar series, in which teacher educators who are experienced in using Historiana show examples of the eLearning Activities that they created, while also diving into a specific topic and discussing a critical thinking skill to teach students. 

On December 9th, EuroClio ambassador Helen Snelson kicked off the webinar series talking about using sources as evidence. She illustrated the eActivity on post-war Europe that she was able to create on Historiana. >> Watch the full event | Read the article to know more.

On February 17th Bridget Martin, History Teacher at the International School of Paris, focussed on contributions to WWI and showed the purposeful eActivity she was able to create by using Historiana’s e-builder. >> Watch the full event | Read the article to know more.

On April 21st, Dr. James Diskant, a member of EuroClio’s History and Learning Team, hosted a Webinar on Women Working in the 19th Century. He used Historiana’s e-builder to demonstrate how different tools have different aims, and how these tools can help students to substantiate a historical argument.  | Read the article to know more.

If you’re not familiar with the platform, we recommend you to watch this helpful video as an Introduction to Historiana’s eActivity Builder. You can also just try out the platform yourself - you’ll see that it is very intuitive and offers you plenty of interesting options.


This article is written as part of the Europeana DSI4 project co-financed by the Connecting Europe Facility of the European Union. The sole responsibility of this publication lies with the author. The European Union is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.



Image: St. Francis preaching before Pope Honorius III, by Giotto, 1292-1296, Upper Church of St Francis, Assisi. Wellcome Collection via Europeana.


Boxtel, Carla & Drie, Jannet. “Historical reasoning in the classroom: What does it look like and how can we enhance it?” Teaching History, 150  (2013): 44-52. 


“Types and components of historical reasoning and individual and sociocultural resources for historical reasoning.” The framework is discussed in  Van Boxtel, Carla, & Van Drie, Jannet. “Historical reasoning: conceptualizations and educational applications.” In S.A. Metzger & L. McArthur Harris (Eds.). The Wiley International Handbook of History Teaching and Learning . Wiley & Blackwell, 2018. Pp. 149-176.


Let’s talk Football History: The social significance of sport across Europe and beyond

On May 28th, Gijsbert Oonk, Kevin Moore & Petra Landers kicked off ‘FC EuroClio’, a webinar series through which we tackled football and social issues to explore how football history and society intertwine. The panel discussion revolved around personal experiences of football pioneers and considerations about football as cultural heritage.

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Football Makes History is a project which aims to promote social inclusion, diversity and non-discrimination. The rich local cultural heritage of football and its shared history covering the turbulent 20th-century history offers direct access to addressing past and present diversity. Gijsbert Oonk, academic advisor of the project, but also founding director of the Sport and Nation research program at Erasmus University Rotterdam, moderated the discussion which saw international footballer Petra Landers and sports historian Dr Kevin Moore as main protagonists. 

The only girl in the field

Coach, mentor, former football player, and contributor to the rise of women’s football. Petra Landers became a member of the first-ever German women’s national football team in 1982.[1]

Petra is an international footballer who also won the European championship, but looking at her, you see a down to earth, yet incredibly determined woman who still has the same passion for football as when she started off as a kid. Petra got an interest in the game in a time when football was a sport only for boys and girls were set to do other kinds of activities. However, she does not shy away from saying “I think football was already inside of me when I was born.” When at the age of 8 she was invited by her cousin to play on the streets, Petra started regularly playing with the boys from the neighbourhood. She was always ready to play, always wearing her football shirt underneath her clothes. Despite being the only girl in the group, she felt welcome and did not have any sort of unpleasant experience. It was only when she joined the women’s team that she started hearing rude comments. “It was very new for me, but it didn’t matter because I truly loved the game.” Women's football was forbidden in Germany (as well as in other countries) until 1970 and Petra clearly remembers that time:

On football pitches you could see only men: women were at home cooking” Petra Landers

Luckily, the fear of discrimination and societal constraints never prevented Petra from trying to enter the footballing world. It was a friend of hers who encouraged her to play for Bergisch Gladbach: when the coach saw her playing, he was amazed by her talent and decided to take her in the team. Nevertheless, it was not an easy game: her boss tried to stop her from representing Germany for the European championship in 1989, but she made clear that she was ready to quit her job to be free to go her own way. In the end, her determination made him change his mind and he eventually supported her decision!

In Support of Women’s Football - from Europe to Africa

After contributing to the rise of women’s football first in Germany and then in Europe, Petra decided to turn to Africa, where she is now training young girls. When she travelled there for the first time in 2014, Africa was obviously new to her, but seeing children playing football in the villages reminded her of her childhood and a strong empathetic feeling grew inside of her. “It was a feeling I got, I can’t describe it, it was amazing”. Watching those kids playing, she could see herself growing up and working hard to become a professional player. Petra is a source of inspiration for those kids: she does not only embody an example to follow, but she also gives them the hope to think that one day, they can become footballers or coaches too.

“You can’t imagine what areas I visited. We are now trying to get those children who can’t go to school. There are so many girls that are working at home, they have to do the household, they have to work, they don’t have the money to go to school. They don’t really have a childhood. We want to give them this chance.” Petra Landers

In 2017, Petra Landers was part of an important awareness programme in which a world record was challenged - the women’s team that played on the highest level on the Kilimanjaro. When asked whether she was willing to join, Petra immediately answered yes. She started to train nearly every day, again after many years. They had to climb and walk a lot, and not always in great conditions “The last night we went up to the mountain, it was -20 degrees, it was so cold. After one hour and a half, our drinks were already frozen, and it was dark and we were walking as fast as snails. The oxygen was getting thinner and thinner. It was hard to breathe, but if you have a goal, you try to give everything until you can.”

“We wanted to empower all the women and girls all over the world. We wanted to give a sign: if you set a goal, you can get everything, you can do everything. It’s true.” Petra Landers

Africa opened up Petra’s eyes to a completely different reality, and after changing the faith of women’s football, she wants to change the life of those African kids. Her next goal is to have her own football school in Ghana. “I want to move to Ghana, but not for talent, I’m not looking for talent. I want to give the children living outside the village a chance. They don’t have the chance to join projects because it’s too far away. They don’t have shoes to walk or run for so long. They are playing barefooted but they are playing with bright eyes. There are so many children who don’t have this chance and I want to give them one.”

Petra’s words opened the doors to a different kind of conversation we should have in current society, where the European situation is rather different: football is often a matter of cups and medals, and football museums end up being places of celebrations rather than an objective look at football history and source of reflection.

Football museums: celebrating heroes or reconnecting with the past?

Kevin Moore, world-respected football historian and founding director of the English National Football Museum, shared with us the reasons why he wanted a National Football Museum for England in the first place. Deeply convinced of the historical significance of football - “there are more nations in FIFA than in the United Nations!”, he observes - he explains:

“The reason why I applied for the job was because I did not want it to be Disneyland football. I wanted it to be an objective look at the history of the game, to treat the subject seriously and with objectivity, not a celebration of football – but an honest look at the game, every aspect, including the negatives such as sexism, racism and homophobia in the game.”  Kevin Moore

Kevin has gladly remarked that whilst setting up the museum, he could freely bring the true history of football into the museum. In club museums the importance of big cups and the heroes they have is indeed too often overvalued. There might be small display elements about WWII, stories about racism, homophobia or other issues, but those are often confined to a corner and those issues always play a minor role. Due to the limited space within the permanent galleries, these issues are more likely to be tackled in temporary exhibitions. For example, the English National Football Museum had in 2003 an exhibition on Arthur Wharton, the world’s first black professional footballer - telling the story of how he came from Ghana to England in 1882 to learn to be a methodist missionary but instead decided to be a footballer and athlete. In 2005, they had the world’s first exhibition on women’s football during the UEFA European Championships in England. As these exhibitions are temporary, they were able to tackle issues like gender or racism more in-depth, and on their website or through learning programmes.

How do we go from creating a hall of fame of heroes to creating a hall of history that engages meaningfully with the history and the local context?

Kevin speaks up about the dangers of club museums being too celebratory, as they see the museum just as a display through which showcasing their victories and their heroes, leaving out other (hi)stories. “Football is about stardom, which is why an inclusive hall of fame, to some extent, is a good idea. We all have our heroes.” However, visiting a museum is and should be an informal learning experience, a way through which people inadvertently learn. The English National Football Museum launched a special session for people with dementia back in 2017, around the 50th anniversary of England winning the World Cup in 1966: their memories were prompted by football and it was a great way for people to connect. In 2018, a similar project was carried out in The Netherlands by the professional football club Willhelm II Tilburg: “Football Memories” brought together people with similar backgrounds to show them old parts of football matches. In both cases, football memories seemed to create an environment where the elderly were able to not only recall memories, but also make new connections that they normally would not be able to make.

Local public museums have an important role, but as not every football club has or can afford to have a museum, it is important to inspire football clubs to engage more socially, for example by running some social reminiscence programs with their fans. Whilst most clubs interested in social responsibility do all kinds of programmes related to physical exercises, healthy diets, etc., they are rarely focussing on making educational programmes on history. To engage socially, clubs should relate more strongly to their fans - as Kevin observes, “the fans carry the history of the club, they are the ones who hold the tradition, the sense of belonging and the identity, and the club doesn’t. The club is whoever owns it now, and is a private entity.” It’s a money issue, but also a matter of ownership.

“Football Makes History has a great role in showing the value of history, learning, engagement with schools, connecting schools and older people and football clubs together and using the social power that football clubs have.” Kevin Moore

A European Football Museum?

Would the idea of setting up a European Football Museum be feasible? Although a world football museum already exists, various and controversial opinions were given on this topic. One of the issues is that the passion that each set of fans has is for either their own club or football in the nation - which is why national football museums are growing in numbers, so these kinds of museums would not work by continent. “Certainly you won’t have a museum that tells the story of European football, because that’s with the individual museums. What you could have is a very interesting museum about the European football competitions and also how football spread around Europe and what that common culture of football across Europe means.” In other words, having a museum that tells the stories of the champions league, the European cup, the development of football in Europe. As European football does not exist and has never existed in isolation, it’s rather a story of migration and connection, it would be interesting to trace the history of football in Europe on maps - and investigate further to what extent football and migration are connected.

“Football is too important just to be in football museums: football and sport should be in every single history museum, local and national. Yes, we should have football museums, too. But football is part of history and therefore football makes history, history makes football.” Kevin Moore

Do you think that Football Makes History? Sign our Petition!

Our football team has developed Policy and Action Recommendations aimed at ministries of education, sports, heritage - and the footballing world. You can now find the Manifesto on the Football Makes History website.

Do you think that football can open doors to conversations we need to have, but also inspire us to take action? Then support us in giving football history and football heritage the attention it deserves!

Written by Giulia Verdini


[1] Petra was in fact also part of the team from Bergisch Gladbach representing Germany in the 1981 unofficial World Cup in Taiwan

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Football Makes History in Numbers!

  • 6 partners from 4 countries
  • 30 developers, from 15 countries
  • 100+ life stories published on the website
  • 18 lesson plans published in English on Historiana
  • 12 lesson plans and source collections to be published soon!
  • a toolkit with 30 non-formal activities will be also published soon! >> Do not miss them!


European School Radio – On Air, for any school

Adriana Fuertes Articles , ,

Since its invention in the 1890s, radio has been a widespread and fundamental communication and entertainment medium across the world. In the 21st century, the spoken word continues to be popular in outlets such as podcasts and meditation apps. However, few of us can say that we have made use of the radio during our school years. In this article, we highlight European School Radio (ESR), a student-led radio station which brings many benefits to students such as creativity, improving research and oral skills, and becoming familiar with ICT and audio production.

This radio station is useful for all school levels, but is geared especially for primary and secondary schools, and can also be accessed by any school whether public or private. The non-profit radio station was established in 2010 as an initiative of four high school teachers in Greece. Today it has amassed a large network of  more than 160 associated schools and a total of 1987 members among teachers and participants, forming a community inspiring different forms of learning while promoting collaboration between students and educators, as well as the union of schools from different countries and cultures.

The European School Radio is available online at any time. The programs are scheduled in a collaborative calendar, and include both live and pre-recorded shows. In addition, there are programs broadcasted in thematic hours where topics such as the environment, health, science, culture, sports, history and education are addressed, as well as music programs. The goals of this web radio station are geared toward both entertainment and education. Students may enjoy programs with a wide variety of topics, and learn more as well, in particular with programs which promote sensitivity on current affairs, social actions, and artistic initiatives.

In the past years, ESR has organized and delivered many annual Radio School Festivals, where thousands of students and teachers participated. For this year, the Radio and Music Contest has the title of “From I to We”, honoring the 200th anniversary of the Greek Revolution. In addition, last year the ESR won the European Competition “2020 .eu Web Awards”, the only nominee in the field of education from all over Europe, for its attractive web design and its contribution to youth participation.



Among the benefits that this radio has for teachers are:

  • The possibility to communicate with other educators and students
  • Exchanging ideas
  • Taking part in annual events such as festivals or concerts
  • Learning how to plan and produce a radio program. 

It also brings numerous benefits for students including:

  • Developing creativity, critical thinking of speech and democratic ideals
  • Providing personal and professional development opportunities in the fields of journalism, presenting, and the use of media and technology
  • Learning how to work better in groups
  • Creating a sense of ownership for being involved in the entire development process 
  • Letting students share knowledge or concerns of young people today.



Freedom of expression and communication are fundamental principles of this radio station. However, producers and broadcasters have the obligation to express their views without offending or taking advantage of their status for other purposes.

Those responsible for the broadcast (the teachers) are considered the producers. Their obligation is to supervise that the content is correct before uploading it. The opinions and points of view of the producers do not have to coincide with the radio station itself. Therefore, no school or school network is responsible for the content that is published by others.



The clearest limitations of this platform are the following:

- The language. It is important to note that the official language of the radio station is Greek, but it is working to promote multilingual participation. For now, the webpage can be read in English, but some pages are still under construction, and programs in English or other languages are mainly limited to music programs. Nevertheless, the initiative is spreading.

- Resources for teachers and schools. Teachers who lack the knowledge of how to record, edit, and upload audio files may find it difficult to lead the program. To bridge this gap though, registered participants can  enrol in self-paced eLearning which include tutorials on elements such as software for radio productions. Another limitation could be equipment. The schools are responsible for providing their own equipment to create the shows (such as microphones, sound editing software), which may present a barrier to participation. Second hand or cheap recording materials may be found though, and free audio software such as Audacity is available.  



If you are a teacher from a school and would like to take part in European School Radio, you first need to register with your personal email address and your school. On the website, you can check your “Teacher’s profile”, where you will receive all notifications (courses, forum topics, messages, friend requests…).

Normally at the beginning of the year, the teachers form radio teams or groups together with their students that want to participate. “Parental Approval Sheets” are also collected by the teacher for legal reasons. 

Afterwards, the teacher can record the radio show, which must have music and human speech. Recorded shows can be non-scheduled (short radio messages or short thematic shows) or scheduled ones (long recorded episodes). Using the online platform, teachers can schedule, upload and manage the production of their group. When the show is ready to upload, the teacher does so online in their pre-reserved time slot.

If you are interested in participating, all the information needed can be found in a useful user guide. On the website you can also find useful resources such as the courses and software tutorials to learn how to create both live and recorded radio shows, and examples of good practices from other schools that have designed and applied radio shows in their lessons. 

In short, the ESR is a space for participation, creativity and self-expression that provides a positive environment for students with possibilities in both intra- and extra-curriculum contexts. Several skills are developed thanks to this opportunity, in the oral, written, research and technical level. In addition, it is a change to network between different schools which leads to an increase in tolerance to different cultures and countries.

Today, ESR is a network of hundreds of schools whose production is created on the basis of volunteerism. The ESR shows the ideas, creations and concerns of the school community, and is a way of answering questions in a more direct and dynamic way, taking into account that new technologies are here to stay. Looking to the future, the radio station hopes to expand with an open invitation to schools, teachers and pupils to participate.

As the journalist Peggy Noonan said, “TV gives everyone an image, but radio gives birth to a million images in a million brains”. Radio is a diverse, democratic and inclusive platform in which all voices can be expressed, represented and heard.



(Cover image) European School Radio website: European School Radio is one of the winners at the " Web Awards"!