Curious? To find out more about this original and intriguing project, we talked to the Project Coordinator, Paola Pizzo, and Project Manager, Giorgio Barbato:
What does urban exploration mean in an educational context?
It is an innovative way to involve young people in really thinking about their surroundings, and their relationships to communities and neighbourhoods. Walking down the street with a smartphone in our hand, it is easy to ignore the outside world. But so much is happening around us! Becoming more aware of living in a city raises all kinds of questions. How much do we really know about the place where we live? Who else lives there, and why? Where does our neighbourhood begin and end? Why do areas of our city look so different from each other? To answer these questions, this project brought together young people and youth workers from five European cities for a year to design, test and develop new and fun ways to explore urban spaces.
How did you choose your partners?
We specifically looked for organisations from similar urban backgrounds, but with a variety of interests. Some had more general experience in working with schools, while others were focused on reducing
social inclusion or providing platforms for digital mapping. Our youth workers were just as diverse, ranging from educators, architects and illustrators to archaeologists and anthropologists. Combining their expertise enabled us to offer a truly unique programme!
How was the project structured?
We began by holding planning meetings with our partners and organised a week-long training where each partner would take responsibility for one learning day. The youth workers organised local groups of young people across five cities (Albacete in Spain; Ljubljana in Slovenia; London in England; Berlin in Germany and Palermo in Italy), who started to explore their neighbourhoods and upload their observations to a digital map. These young people would then spend a week together in Palermo on a youth exchange. This programme was followed up with reflection and feedback sessions to make youngsters understand which competences they have developed.
What kinds of young people took part in the week-long youth exchange in Palermo, Italy?
Most were high school students. We especially wanted to attract young people who were at risk of feeling socially excluded – for example, we invited teenagers living in social housing projects in London, while others came from migrant backgrounds. The groups were accompanied to Palermo and guided throughout the programme by the youth workers who tailored the tools to the groups’ needs.
What kinds of activities did you do during the youth exchange?
We started by trying out different types of activities to find the best ways of engaging young people, and created a toolkit from our favourites. The Map my World exercise asks youngsters to think about their own special places in the world, and explore their relationships with them in detail. City Visionary is a board game involving roleplay that encourages young people to think about urban development and decision-making by co-creating an imaginary environment. Secret Mission is about hunting for clues and collecting information across different areas, before coming back to report on our findings. This game was perfect to open up in-depth discussions about hidden features of cities and their secret meanings! And it is also a great way of team building.