HIMIS developed a new approach aiming to foster the integration of migrants and to challenge exclusionary attitudes at host communities through heritage interpretation.
During adolescence, young people are searching for their own identity; it is the age when questions of meaning become urgent for personal development and when beliefs, customs, traditions are frequently challenged. The young people seek to find their place and role in the world. A lot of heritage is connected with stories of achievements of extraordinary people. There are also stories about extraordinary situations that challenged ordinary people or of movements that fought for their ideals. Most of these stories touch emotions because they relate to deep values, and conflicts about such values.
At four pilot schools, students from local families worked together in teams with others whose parents or grandparents had migrated to the area. The HIMIS approach encouraged students to interpret the heritage of their local town from multiple perspectives of various historic stakeholders. Teachers guided the thematic focus to historic incidents that resonated with those values that are crucial for an open inclusive society such as respect for human dignity, freedom, equality, pluralism, non-discrimination, justice and solidarity.
Exploring real stories from the past and putting oneself in the shoes of different people provoked debates and caused students to reflect upon their own value preferences. That way HIMIS aimed to reduce vulnerability to the simple but divisive answers of populism or fundamentalism. For students with migration background, this experience makes integration in modern European societies easier – and that is also true for many from more traditional local backgrounds.
HIMIS involved four pilot schools:
- IPS Marco Gavio Apicio school in Anzio, Italy
a vocational training school in the field of hospitality and tourism
- 3rd Genico Lukeio school in Kerkyra, Corfu, Greece
a public grammar school
- Zespol Szkol Nr 6 in Wrocław, Poland
a public grammar school
- Kastelbergschule, Waldkirch, Germany
a public comprehensive school
Each school used heritage interpretation to develop activities and events involving students from varied backgrounds as co-creators. They researched history and culture and developed interpretive events and materials that would give participants exciting and memorable experiences.
The schools were guided by three experts in interpretation and teacher training:
- Red Kite Environment, UK, a consultancy specialising in heritage interpretation,
- University of Freiburg’s Heritage Interpretation research group, Germany, and
- Ce.S.F.Or., Italy, an adult education training provider.
These three organisations developed and tested the teacher training course and provided information and mentoring that would help the teachers develop their heritage interpretation activities at their schools.
Interpret Europe joined HIMIS as an associated partner, supporting the project with its expertise and networking opportunities.