Polibienestar, European Commission's European Award for Innovative Education

  • Tarongers Institutes Support Unit
  • September 28th, 2022
Jorge Garcés, Polibienestar director
Jorge Garcés, Polibienestar director

The European project SUSTAIN, funded by Erasmus+ and involving the Polibienestar Research Institute of the Universitat de València, which involves secondary school students in research of sustainable landscapes, has been awarded the European Prize for Innovative Teaching 2022 by the European Commission.

The consortium involved eleven partners from three countries, including the Polibienestar research institute of the Universitat de València. With an interdisciplinary and socio-technical consortium of researchers from the Netherlands, Spain and Cyprus, as well as the European Science Engagement Association (EUSEA), the project has developed teaching modules on biodiversity, water management and bird migration. These modules are available free of charge to all schools. Project leader Maaike de Heij from the Faculty of Science and Engineering at the University of Groningen will receive the award on behalf of the consortium in Brussels on 25th October. "Our modules provide students with knowledge that they can use in the future, when their generation has to decide on landscape conservation," said Professor De Heij.

The European Innovative Teaching Award was established by the European Commission in 2021 to highlight and recognise the work of teachers and schools, showcase innovative teaching practices and highlight the value of the Erasmus+ programme for the collaboration of European teachers and the creation of the European Education Area. The theme of the 2022 awards was “Learning Together, Promoting Creativity and Sustainability”.

The topic, as explained by the project leaders, fits in with the SUSTAIN project (2017-1-NL01-KA201-035284), which aims to help young people become active and independent European citizens who think critically and know how to actively solve socially relevant problems - such as climate adaptation - and have an impact on their local community. The three SUSTAIN training modules are based on regional problems in the Netherlands (biodiversity and food web structure in agricultural landscapes), Cyprus (illegal trapping and consumption of migratory songbirds) and Spain (management of water level decline in the Albufera de València).

All didactic modules have been designed to be relevant in wider contexts and to connect classroom learning with fieldwork. The students’ fieldwork consisted of interviews with scientists, conservationists, local politicians and users of the landscape, i.e. farmers and fishermen. Students also claim to have acquired research skills by comparing undisturbed and cultivated land. They also have to present their findings to peers, parents and stakeholders. The central concern of all the modules is how citizens in our modern communities can use the landscape in which they live without destroying its biodiversity. Any decision we make about the use of landscapes will have an effect on the next generation. That is why SUSTAIN was created for pupils aged 14 to 16. It is important to include young people in discussions on sustainable landscapes," says De Heij.

For Polibienestar, "the project has had a positive impact on critical thinking, self-efficacy and awareness of local environmental issues in young Europeans". Polibienestar is a research institute belonging to the Universitat de València, whose mission is to improve the welfare and quality of life of society; its director, Jorge Garcés, is Professor of Social Policy at the Universitat de València and has been Prince of Asturias Professor at Georgetown University (USA).

All learning modules created by SUSTAIN are available in English, Spanish, Dutch and Cypriot via "SUSTAIN at school - E-learning modules" on the SUSTAIN website https://www.sustainablelandscapes.eu/. The Sustain project portfolio is also available at https://www.polibienestar.org/portfolio/sustain/



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