News from the Polish Living Lab

This past week, the Polish Living Lab gathered for the 4th time to share pedagogical tools, methods, and projects they are using in their classrooms and communities to promote education for democracy. This exchange provides inspiration for our daily work and ideas for local pilot projects. All insights will come from the group itself. The members of our Living Lab share their experiences on applying tools such as participatory budgeting in schools, community fridges in schools, interactive tools to promote student engagement, and a holistic approach to teaching social studies.

The Polish Living Lab brings together over 20 teachers, educators, and NGO representatives working on civic education, participatory democracy, non-violent communication, discrimination, multiculturalism, and dialogue. The members of the Living Lab come from 13 cities and towns, from larger cities such as Warsaw, Łódź, Wrocław, to medium-sized towns and villages, mostly from Małopolska, Silesia, and Lower Silesia, but also from Subcarpathia, Łódź Voivodeship, and Masovia. Teachers include Education for Democracy in the teaching of their subjects (e.g., social studies, English, history) or in tutorials. Some have introduced additional projects in their schools on democracy, equality, ecology, and participatory budgeting. Quite a few support student councils in their schools. Among the topics they are interested in and teach, members of the Living Lab mentioned civic participation, human rights, inclusivity, the Holocaust, violence, women’s rights, children’s rights, communication, self-organization, peer advocacy, and inclusion of people with disabilities.

After a series of informational meetings for teachers and civil society representatives, the group was formed during a meeting in Krakow, hosted by the Jagiellonian University. During this meeting, we connected, networked, and unpacked the concept of democratic competence. We continued to communicate online until the next meeting in December when we received an update from the Transnational Living Lab meeting in Helsinki. The next inspiration session will take place before another offline meeting in Krakow in March. The group was set up at a time of political exhaustion and anticipation, when many teachers were struggling with an overloaded curriculum and the reluctance of some principals and school communities to include elements of education for democracy in the classroom, due to pressure from state institutions leaning towards authoritarian tendencies. With a new government, the prospect of education reform with a focus on democracy and inclusion has returned. We expect the members of our Living Lab to contribute to this change with their expertise and daily commitment.

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