Heritage Interpretation for Migrant Inclusion in Schools (HIMIS) is a two-year EU Erasmus+ project helping young migrants to become more integrated into their communities. IE joined the project as an associated partner.

During last year’s General Assembly, members asked what could be done in terms of the integration of migrants. A few months later, partners from Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland and the UK launched HIMIS and invited Interpret Europe to join their partnership.

HIMIS works with teachers to develop engaging initiatives encouraging students to discover their local heritage. In this way, the project aims to help them to understand their new environment. Using interpretive techniques, teachers, students and local communities create activities and materials to give everyone involved exciting and memorable experiences.

Students whose families have migrated to the area work together with students from long-established families on local interpretation projects. Each school is developing interpretive materials and activities, such as heritage trails, guided walks or history plays. As co-creators, the students are experiencing that any interpretation needs to select content – which topics to focus upon and which phenomena and first-hand experiences to include in an interpretive activity. The mixed student groups have to choose different historical individuals or groups, from whose perspectives a thing or an event has been meaningful in different ways: for instance, those who held power or marginalised groups, average people, minorities or immigrants in former times. By developing multiple-perspectives, interpretation students experience how to look at a problem from different points of view.

While assisting the students, teachers guide the development of the themes in relation to European core values, such as tolerance, non-discrimination, freedom of beliefs, equality or solidarity. This creates opportunities to provoke reflection about these values, which are especially important for integration as well as openness towards migrants.

A teacher training event has also taken place on the Greek island of Corfu where one of the schools is located. The course applies new approaches to heritage interpretation theory to inter-cultural work at schools. IE’s recently published study, ‘Engaging citizens with Europe’s cultural heritage’, provided valuable new findings regarding value systems and framing, which turned out to be highly relevant for teachers. The training transferred theory into practical skills in the planning and implementation of heritage interpretation projects.

During the second year of HIMIS, each school will implement their pilot projects with their students. Teachers will be assisted by experienced heritage interpretation experts who will act as mentors for the schools. The project team will produce a guidebook based on the experience collected with teachers and students from different school types, age groups and different countries. It seeks to help teachers all over Europe to use interpretive skills for the inclusion of migrants in their school communities. Through involving secondary school students as co-creators of interpretation activities, HIMIS can reach young people from very different socio-cultural environments. Some of them would otherwise hardly ever have dared to care about heritage or to reflect about the values on which the EU is founded.

As one of the last steps of the project, the results will be presented to and discussed with a wider audience at Freiburg University in Germany. Members will be invited in time to join this event.

Patrick Lehnes is a researcher at Freiburg University and works as an interpretive planner and author through his company, Lehnes contexte. He is IE’s Cultural Heritage Coordinator and is actively involved in the HIMIS project. He can be contacted at: patrick.lehnes@interpret-europe.net

To cite this article:
Lehnes, Patrick (2017) ‘Interpret Europe joined HIMIS’. In Interpret Europe Newsletter 4-2017, 8-9.