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 historiana.eu.

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 sharingeuropeanhistories.eu.

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.

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

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

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.

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

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!

 

EuroClio features in a brand new Compendium on inclusive education

Joke Van der Leeuw-Roord EUROCLIO , ,

Are you interested in inspiring opportunities for inclusive education? The brand new European Compendium of Inspiring Practices on Inclusive and Citizenship Education contains a wealth of ideas how to approach this issue. The Compendium addresses almost 190 national and international examples in five themes: fostering social, civic and intercultural competences, enhancing critical thinking and media literacy, supporting disadvantaged learners and promoting intercultural dialogue and last but not least European history education. Several practices are crosscutting and therefore you can for example find the work of the Cypriot Home for Cooperation, ran the Association for Historical Dialogue and Research, a EuroClio Member organisation, under the theme fostering social, civic and intercultural competences.

This easy to navigate tool is brought together by the members of the European Training 2020 Working Group on Common Values and Inclusive Education over the period 2016-2020. It aims to support practitioners and policymakers to improve the inclusiveness of education and training systems across the EU. The inspiring practices come from Member States and Candidate countries, as well as from relevant EU agencies, stakeholder associations, social partners and international organisations. The ideas were presented during Working Group meetings in Brussels and Peer Learning Activities hosted by different Working Group members in the participating countries.

European history education is the fifth theme in the Compendium and it contains 11 examples of good work carried out by international and national civil society organisations. You can find work by the EuroClio Community such as In Europe Schools, Historiana and the Training Programme for History Teachers in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The House of European History presents its programme Learn about the EU in 12 steps and the Centre for Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeast Europe is present with the Joint History project.

All material is presented in small abstracts as well as a full description of the practice, the latter rich with links and references. An international editors group was responsible for collecting and portraying these practical examples, among them Joke van der Leeuw-Roord, EuroClio Founder and special Advisor. She was also asked to compose the thematic fiche responsible Building Bridges through Inclusive and Cross-border History Education by the same ET 2020 working group.

 

In Europe Schools: Small Narratives for European Integration

Giulia Verdini Articles ,

On February 26th, EuroClio’s Eugenie Khatschatrian and VPRO’S Odette Toeset sat down with Robin de Bruin of the Amsterdam School for Regional, Transnational and European Studies (ARTES). The discussion, hosted by the European Cultural Foundation, shed light on the precious outcomes of In Europe Schools, its relevance in building European cooperation and citizenship and, perhaps, in contributing to a new, inclusive and diversified narrative(s) for Europe.

 In Europe Schools is a unique online project that encourages a transnational approach of teaching Modern European History and focuses on the development of research skills and media literacy through documentary-making. More than 110 schools from 30 different countries have joined us so far!  

Why "In Europe Schools"?

The Community Conversation event started off with a brief explanation about how the project came to life. In 2007, Dutch broadcasting company VPRO released the ‘’In Europe’’ television series in the Netherlands on the modern history of Europe, from WWII until the fall of the Berlin Wall. Perhaps unexpectedly, the series turned out to be a source of inspiration for some Dutch history teachers. In fact, they asked whether it was possible to develop educational resources based on the series. In a way, the project represents the natural “evolution” of the series, but most importantly, it started because of a concrete demand - real needs of teachers who were struggling with teaching sensitive and controversial issues in the classroom. In 2018, a second series of the documentary was released, this time dealing with very recent history - from 1989 onwards: the series was subtitled “History Caught in the Act”. 

Catching history in the act is indeed what In Europe Schools is all about. VPRO joined forces with EuroClio with the main goal to connect youngsters working together, focusing on history whilst they are in the midst of it, and ultimately have united European youngsters. In a few words, the project requires that two European schools partner up: secondary school students do research and film their recent history; they exchange the documentary and discuss the outcome. In Europe Schools therefore enables multiperspectivity by matching schools from different parts of Europe and approaches European history from a transnational perspective. It facilitates a European network of teachers and students, and by doing so, it also more broadly encourages European cooperation.

An overview of EU’s Grand Narrative(s) and its Crises

During the discussion, Robin de Bruin asserted multiple times that the genius of this project is that it is a grassroots project, especially in a time of unprecedented crisis due to the pandemic and in which the European Union might not appear as strong as it used to.

The EU created its Grand Narrative after 1945: after WWII, the grand narrative of European integration as a peace project for the member states was building peace by creating welfare - a narrative which De Bruin, hereby following his colleague Wolfram Kaiser, refers to as “peace through a common market’’ narrative (Kaiser 368).

That the horrors of Auschwitz have become the key experience for European history-writing is a common opinion, and for some historians it represents the creation of a foundational past since 1945. This led to two outcomes: on the one hand, the memory of WWII was perceived as the memory par excellence; on the other hand, it led to neglecting the histories of other parts of Europe, the experiences of colonialism and imperialism. Colonialism and postcolonial resentment were indeed excluded from European history, and only recently they have received renewed attention.

European integration history has now the aim of trying to heal the division of Eastern and Western histories by constructing a common past that also contemplates the experience of communism - and consequently the aim of dismantling Eurocentrism, seen as conscious or unconscious tendency to judge histories from all over the world by taking Western history as the norm and role model to follow. In the twenty-first century, Eurocentrism remains powerful both at seen and unseen levels and affects contemporary politics and international affairs.

Michael Wintle argues that the Holocaust started a process in which Europe has gradually become willing to confront its problematic past: European countries have started to face their past crimes and more openly address slavery, imperialism, colonialism, and also the post-Yugoslav conflicts of the 1990s. In Europe Schools includes an Education Kit on Difficult History that deals with such topics and one of the main challenges both teachers and students face is how to critically address these sensitive issues and confront strong opinions.

Nowadays, the narrative of building peace through a common market narrative does not seem to appeal anymore, especially to younger generations. To counter Euroscepticism, the EU has started several initiatives to develop a new narrative for the European integration project. Dr De Bruin mentioned the “House of European History” in Brussels, which was created to include the communist experience of the Eastern European states into the grand narrative of European integration. Nevertheless, according to Dr De Bruin, it left out all other kinds of experiences, such as the colonial experience of former colonial subjects now living in Europe:

 When you include specific parts of the population, you also exclude other parts of the population. This is always the problem with the grand narratives of European integration. It’s really very important that a new narrative for Europe is a collection of those small little narratives, such as the personal narratives of the In Europe Schools project. Robin de Bruin

The force of In Europe Schools lies in the fact that it deals with a variety of small histories, and it’s precisely by starting from personal histories that perspectives and experiences can add up and become something powerful. 

When a grand narrative is replaced by another grand narrative, it is always fed by smaller narratives that at a certain moment become an avalanche.

Dealing with counter narratives: the implications of media literacy

The In Europe Schools toolkits are about controversial topics - difficult history, migration, climate change and gender equality - and sometimes it is difficult to introduce such topics to the classrooms, either because they are too abstract and students might not feel concerned, or because they are afraid to take a stand and they do not feel comfortable about expressing their own opinion. Pupils are encouraged to take their difficult histories into the classroom, which can be seen as a microcosmos of Europe. As students come from different parts of Europe (or even different parts of the world) within the same classroom, they might have different views of the European Union and perceive topics differently such as migration or climate change. The main challenge for teachers is to promote a discussion in a context not of hatred and intolerance, but open-mindedness and inclusion. Despite monitoring strong statements and potential fake news, the project does not give a clear political direction and it does not exclude any story. The project therefore covers a wide spectrum of personal narratives and collects authentic stories, yet stories that people have the power to tell in the way they want to - thanks to storytelling and media literacy.

We don’t give political directions because it’s interesting to have different opinions. People who are against migration are allowed to make their own story on migration. But of course, there is a limit. We chose not to have the comments open because with comments open it could explode and it’s really difficult to oversee it. Odette Toeset

So far, there haven’t been clashes in the classrooms while working on the project. The main source of discomfort has rather been the question of how to protect people (for example family members) who would like to share their story but fear dangerous consequences. People are hesitant to show themselves on camera and do not want the video to be published on the Internet. Odette mentioned that as a documentary-maker, you don’t want to lose the story and at the same time you want to protect these people and ensure their safety. So how do you tell a story in a documentary without putting people, potentially, in danger? Timelapse and drawing can help anonymise a story, the video-maker can make sure that people are not recognizable in the video or just decide to leave out the actual people to tell a more generic story.

When students are done with the documentaries, they upload the video on YouTube. The use of media literacy, which may be the main strength of the project, can also represent a risk: the YouTube channel has to be monitored, as it is a potential open space on which all kinds of content can be uploaded. In order to avoid conflicts, VPRO chose not to have the comment section open.

Building European citizens?

It is clear that the project might have interesting implications in creating a European identity - a sense of belonging and personal identification with Europe. When asked whether they have the feeling of helping building European citizens, Odette replied:

These youngsters are the next European citizens that have to vote, be part of Europe and work together, and working together will be much more important in the future. We see now with Covid that there is a clash between national interests and European interests, but you can’t do without each other. We want to give people the open space to face cooperation themselves and not forcing it onto them. Odette Toeset

In Europe Schools requires students and teachers to fill out a survey - both in the beginning and in the end - in which there are questions about being European and how their awareness on certain topics has changed, but also about the use of media literacy and their perception of collaboration. 

In 2015, Wilfried Loth was writing that “European identity will therefore not simply replace national identity in the foreseeable future. Instead, what seems to be emerging is that people in Europe are living with a multilayered identity, an identity in which regional, national, and European aspects are united.” (Loth 437). Whilst the cultural form of the EU aimed to create a European identity that rests on the premise that Europe has a single, shared culture, In Europe Schools acknowledges that this is not always the case.

European culture is plural, in flux and contested; it does not rest on a shared history (...) National cultures or even a European culture may exist in perception, but that does not make us all the same. Europe and European culture are discourses, with many voices, including some from outside the conventional borders, and those of newcomers from ex-colonies and elsewhere.” (Wintle 248-249).

Students are working on their own personal narratives, but are also very excited about cooperating with other European students and, in this sense, might feel part of a European narrative. Pupils are in general super excited about filming: they are using this project instead of going out on a school trip, and thus to discover different European cultures and viewpoints. The sense of collaboration is really important: for example, two schools decided to join their forces, partner up students with the partner school and make the documentary together. 

  On the long term, the project aims at maintaining the European connection: ideally schools would continue working together to keep a European network of both students and teachers.Eugenie Khatschatrian

Bibliography - and suggested readings!

Appelqvist, Örjan. “Rediscovering uncertainty: early attempts at a panEuropean post-war recovery”. Cold War History. Vol. 8, No. 3. Routledge (pp. 327–352), 2008.

Brolsma, M., de Bruin, R., Lok, M. Eurocentrism in European History and Memory. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2019.

FitzGibbon, J., Leruth, B., Startin, N. Euroscepticism as a Transnational and Pan-European Phenomenon : The Emergence of a New Sphere of Opposition. Routledge, 2016.

Kaiser, W. “Clash of Cultures: Two Milieus in the European Union's. ‘A New Narrative for Europe’ Project”. Journal of Contemporary European Studies, Vol. 23, No. 3 (pp. 364-377), 2015.

Loth, W. Building Europe. Berlin, München, Boston: De Gruyter Oldenbourg, 2015.

Sorrels, K. Cosmopolitan Outsiders: Imperial Inclusion, National Exclusion, and the Pan-European Idea, 1900-1930. Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.

Van Meurs, W. et al. The Unfinished History of European Integration. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2018.

Wintle, M. Eurocentrism: History, Identity, White Man’s Burden. Routledge, 2020.

Join the project

Check out In Europe Schools’ website and YouTube Channel

Contact us via eugenie@euroclio.eu or register via this form

Toolkits: 

Learn More

If you are interested in how to decolonise history, please read our blog post and join our webinar series from 16 April to 21 May 2021

You can subscribe to future Community Conversations at http://eepurl.com/haj679 

In Europe Schools: Documentary-Making and Online Exchange for European Schools

The second half of 2019  marked the start of a new and unique partnership between EuroClio and Dutch Public Broadcaster VPRO for the development of educational resources on modern European history. Inspired by the VPRO-television series In Europe - History Caught in the Act, presented by Dutch best-selling author Geert Mak, EuroClio, VPRO and a team of enthusiastic authors joined their forces for the making of In Europe Schools: An online exchange project for European schools, in which students research and film their own local histories and exchange their documentaries with peers from their partner school anywhere in Europe. The project offers Education Kits on four main themes of modern European history: Difficult History, Migration, Climate Change and Gender Equality. 

But how to ‘catch history in the act’? Each Kit challenges students to critically think and reflect on complex historical events and their impact on our societies nowadays and even on our daily lives, while also encouraging the development of a variety of skills like conducting research and interviewing as well as skills and competencies related to documentary-making and overall media literacy. All topics are introduced through Starter Clips and students are guided by a central research question, for example, How should we deal with a difficult past? or How should we respond to gender inequality?

Once students have acquired an in-depth understanding of the topics, they are ready to dive into their local histories of Migration, into local Change Makers in the struggle against Climate Change or perhaps into their own experiences of gender inequality. Their findings, stories and research outcomes will then result in self-made documentaries to be exchanged and discussed with students across Europe to reflect on how similar topics and events are experienced from different perspectives, encouraging the approach of teaching and learning European history from a transnational perspective, strengthening multiperspectivity. 

Each Education Kit consists of both ready-made teacher and student materials, accompanied by Tutorials on Research, Interviewing, Editing, Filming and Uploading, helping the students with the making of their documentaries. All Kits are comprised of four steps: 

Step 1: Introducing the project and topic                           (50 minutes)

Step 2: Learning more about the context and topic         (100 minutes)

Step 3: Research and creation of the documentary         (200 minutes, mostly homework)

Step 4: Sharing the videos and reflection                          (90 minutes) 

You can download the PDF of each Education Kit below or go directly to the teachers’ and student materials:  

                                

Difficult History - PDF                                                              Migration - PDF             

Difficult History - Teachers & Students                                Migration - Teachers & Students 

Difficult History - Starter Clip                                                 Migration - Starter Clip    

                               

Climate Change - PDF                                                             Gender Equality - PDF 

Climate Change - Teachers & Students                               Gender Equality - Students & Teachers 

Climate Change - Starter Clip                                                Gender Equality - Starter Clip 

 

You can download the Introduction Clip and all the Tutorials below: 

Introduction Clip 

Tutorial Research

Tutorial Research (Extended)

Tutorial Interviewing

Tutorial Filming

Tutorial Editing

Tutorial Uploading 

Tutorial @Home (Lockdown Tutorial)

All the materials are also available on www.vprobroadcast.com/ineuropeschools and the In Europe Schools YouTube Channel. For the latest news and information on this project, have a look at the Project Page

 

Project Leader: Odette Toeset (VPRO)

Authors: Harri Beobide, Daniel Bernsen, Marian Heesen, Steven Stegers and Odette Toeset

 

Project led and initiated by: 

Funded by:

                        

In Europe Schools: Join in November!

Have you missed the start of In Europe Schools in October? No worries! You still have time to register for a start in November.

Register here, and choose one out of four Education Kits: Difficult History, Migration, Climate Change and Gender Equality. We will match you to another school in Europe and you and your students will be ready to work on their research and documentaries.

Curious how the documentaries look like? Have a look at the In Europe Schools YouTube Channel.

For a full overview of the project, please visit: www.vprobroadcast.com/ineuropeschools or contact us via secretariat@euroclio.eu. See you soon! 

The case for teaching the history of the European Integration

Veronika Budaiová Association

The EuroClio thematic seminar on ‘Teaching European Integration” held at the House of European History on 22-24 November 2019 was opened by a keynote lecture from Liesbeth van de Grift*, Associate Professor History of International Relations at Utrecht University. She focused on the theme ‘The case for teaching the history of European integration’, and in particular on the guiding question:

  • Why is it important to teach the history of European integration?
  • What are potential challenges and obstacles when teaching the history of European integration?
  • What are possible ways forward?

During the interactive lecture, some teachers that were participating to the seminar underlined that they find it hard to include European Integration into the curricula, whereas some teachers said that they already teach about it. Liesbeth pointed out that one of the best ways to bring European Integration to the classroom is to show the impact of the European Union on our daily lives. Nowadays, every aspect of everyday life is subject to regulations, many of which were created by the EU to guarantee a common standard in all Member States.

For example, you wake up and brush your teeth with water that comes from pipes, and you know the water is not harmful to you because of EU regulations. Then, you might want to eat an apple, or a mandarin, and you can be reasonably sure that it was not subject to more pesticides than the limit set by the EU, and so on.

Furthermore, she continued, in all Member States people have a varying knowledge of the EU and its history. The role of teachers is especially important in this circumstances. It is only by learning about the history of European Integration, its relevance, and the functioning of the Union, that children will be able to form an opinion on their future.

 

The main question, thus, becomes “What do teachers perceive as important information to know about, when talking of the EU integration?”. This question has many different responses. The traditional one would be “high politics” (treaties, summits, or resolutions), focusing more on material interests than ideals. Other answers can be looking at the impact of the EU on everyday life, as Liesbeth explained in her introduction, or by showing successes and failures of the EU on the International Stage, as Helen Snelson suggested in another session of the teaching seminar.

 

The last part of the lecture was dedicated to the discussion of materials which participants are using in their classrooms or what they plan to use. Some participants said that they did not use particular material at the moment, but that they realized the importance of showing the influence of EU on everyday life. Some teachers, on the other hand, teach about EU integration when discussing the nature of democracy, while some others do simulations of elections to the European Parliament in their classrooms for the same purpose.

The main conclusion of the lecture was that teaching about European Integration is a multi-faceted, and not easy, task. There are a variety of approaches and instruments that can be used in doing so. Throughout the thematic seminar, participants got to know some of them.

 

Read more about the seminar in this article.

 

*Liesbeth van de Grift, Associate Professor History of International Relations at Utrecht University, specializes in the history of political representation in Europe. She leads a research project on the role of societal actors, such as consumer groups and environmental organisations, in the history of European integration. She is one of the authors of the textbook on European integration history The Unfinished History of European Integration (Amsterdam University Press, 2018) written for bachelor’s and master’s students.

 

Teaching European Integration. How and Why? – memories from an inspiring training

Veronika Budaiová Association

The thematic seminar on “Teaching European Integration. How and Why?” took place from 22 to 24 November 2019 at the House of European History in Brussels, Belgium. It was organised by EuroClio in collaboration with the House of European History with the aim of introducing new methods to teach about European Integration.

The programme was built around active workshops where new materials were introduced and participants had a chance to exchange their experiences.

The seminar started with words of welcome from EuroClio Executive Director Steven Stegers, from the Head of the House of European History Constanze Itzel, and the Head of the Learning and Outreach Department at the House of European History Ewa Goodman. Then, the programme continued with a keynote lecture by Liesbeth van de Grift making the case for teaching European Integration. The lecture focused on the strategies that participants to the seminar already use when it comes to Teaching European integration. Then, participants dived right into the first possible teaching method: a visit to the permanent exhibition of the House of European History, using the activity sheet for schools. This was followed by a walking tour of the European neighborhood.

The second day of the seminar consisted of a series of active workshops. Helen Snelson, member of the Historiana Teaching and Learning Team, hosted two workshops with materials taken from Historiana.eu. First, she introduced several strategies and activities of teaching EU history. In particular, she put the EU in its broader historical context, showing participants how to connect it to the bigger picture of the history of the European Continent from 1648 (Westphalian Peace) to today. In doing so, Helen introduced also a series of concepts that related to conflict management, and that students might find hard to approach. The activity she used is available at this link. Going further in detail, she tackled the question ‘What makes it possible for Europe to work together and operate as a global power and what are the criteria?’, where she presented examples of successful and unsuccessful cooperation between EU countries, in an effort of establishing what are the features of successful cooperation and global power.

Laurence Bragard introduced the different activities developed by the House of European History. She focused on an activity about the Elections of the European Parliament, in which students analyze the 1979 campaign for the first elections of the EP, comparing it with posters and social media campaign from 2019. This inspiring activity, in which students are gradually introduced to the concept of representative democracy within the EU, is available for free on the website of the House of European History.

Finally, participants had a sneak preview of the toolkit on “how can we best deal with migration?”, developed as part of the VPRO-led project “In Europe at School”. This toolkit makes use of clips from the TV series “In Europe Now” to teach about migration movements in Europe, and to promote critical thinking in students. At the end of the activities of the toolkit, students make their own mini-documentary on the topic of migration. The material was received well by all participants, who suggested new ways of using and improving the toolkit and expressed their interest in the results of the project.

The last day of training kicked off at European Parlamentarium, where participants tried Role-Play Game designed for high school students. There, they had a chance to become Members of the European Parliament and negotiate two (mock) directives. It was an interesting activity, which ask everyone to exit from their comfort zone and take part in debates, journalists’ interviews, lobby missions, and working group meetings.

Finally, Laurence moderated a workshop on identity, and on how people construct their identity. This is a rather sensitive concept, difficult for students of primary or secondary schools to grasp. The activity developed by the House of European History presents a series of step-by-step exercises that guide teachers and students in exploring their own identity(ies), how are identities constructed, and how are identities used to build narratives of inclusion/exclusion.

All in all, the seminar was a successful and inspiring training, where participants from all across Europe got to know about new instruments to teach about the European Integration, and shared their own experiences, challenges, and solutions to a problem, how to interest pupils in EU integration and high politics, that was shared by them all.

We would like to thank all the people that participated to the seminar, as well as the speakers: Laurence Bragard, Helen Snelson, Daniel Bernsen. A great thanks goes to the House of European History and all its staff for co-organizing the seminar and giving us the opportunity of visiting their inspiring permanent and temporary exhibitions.

“Sharing European Histories” Kicks-Off in Gdansk

From April 5-7, the Kick-off meeting for the Sharing European Histories Project was held in parallel to the Annual Conference in Gdansk. EuroClio partnered with the Evens Foundation on this project because both organizations believe that opening up a space to engage with the dissonant and often conflicting nature of European history is the first step in discovering common positions or overcoming divisions while acknowledging existing differences. On behalf of the Evens Foundation, Chairwoman Monique Canto-Sperber welcomed participants to the conference during the opening cermony, introducing the Sharing European Histories project.

The Sharing European Histories Project aims to inspire and support history educators across Europe since we find that history educators are uniquely positioned to engage young people in confronting the dominant national narratives of history to overcome the divisions between nations and cultures.Back in September 2018 EuroClio and Evens Foundation put out a call for applicants; from over 70 applications received, two project partner organizations and five individual contributors were selected to join the Sharing European Histories project team. Rounding out the project team are two teacher trainers, Richard Kennett and Iryna Kostyuk, who will work with the individual contributors to help them develop their projects.

During the kick-off meeting all the team members had an opportunity to introduce their project ideas. Individual contributor, Helen Snelson, from the UK, shared her proposal for an oral history collection on how people around Europe experienced the end of cold war. Gentian Dedja, from Albania, proposed a practice that explores local historical heroes in cross border contexts to demonstrate how historical figures can surpass national prejudices. Elisabete Pereira, from Portugal, proposed a study of the hidden history of objects that explores the life cycle of their development and circulation around Europe and the globe. Presented in workshop at the Annual Conference, Juan Carlos Ocana, from Spain shared his proposal for actives that help history and citizenship educators confront the complex issues of Jihadist terrorism and the rise of the radical right in Europe in their classroom. In another workshop Joanna Wojdon, from Poland, demonstrated her proposed resource which explores how the historical thinking concept of continuity and change in historical events and processes changes perception depending on different perspectives.

Our project partners also shared their proposed projects with conference members during the Marketplace of Ideas. Sonja de Leeuw from EUscreen in partnership with Maja Drabczyk from National Film Archive-Audio Visual Institute, Poland (FINA) and Karolina Dziełak from the European Network Remembrance and Solidarity (ENRS), shared their project proposal to develop interactive learning activates which explore migration in Europe using EUscreen’s large collection of digitized audio-visual sources. From the Croatian History Teacher’s Association (HUNP), Vedran Ristic shared the proposal for a project to investigate local material heritage and the personal stories connected to these materials from a contemporary global perspective.

The team decided that the individual contributors will spend the next year working with the teacher trainers to create a set of unified teaching strategies that form the basis of their proposed projects. These strategies will be peer-reviews and published on Historiana so teachers from across the globe can use them to teach history in a way that respects diversity, counters nationalist narratives, and promotes a critical enquiry about the past. Additionally, the individual contributors and project partners will be sharing the outcome of their proposed projects next year at the EuroClio Annual Conference 2020 in Serbia. Keep an eye out for further updates on this exciting project!