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How you stimulate 240 children to think about diversity

In practice
16 March 2023

How do you bring your policy priorities to life in your city or municipality? And even harder: how do you make sure you also reach children and young people? The city of Genk is doing it with the 'Blik op de wereld' project.

A network of partners

Because the city of Genk wants to focus on world citizenship, it organises a day full of workshops for sixth-grade classes every year. And with success, because every year more than 200 12-year-olds address social issues such as diversity and climate change.

"'Blik op de wereld' is a project of the city of Genk and the Genk North-South Council," explains Lieve Wouters, staff member for Local Global Policy at the city of Genk. "But because it is a large and intensive project, we work closely with some permanent partners. They help us shape and guide the workshop."

Students in front of the class

One such partner is PXL University of Applied Sciences. "The teacher training college offers the optional module 'Diversity Coach'. Every year I visit the students and introduce our project as a potential internship. The students are then tasked with working out a workshop around the annual theme, providing coaching and working out a manual for the North-South Council volunteers. Because they also take on some of the mentoring."

"We felt the need for professionalisation. That's why we started a partnership with Djapo."

Lieve Wouters
City of Genk

Didactic enrichment

Djapo supports the students. Supervisor Heleen starts with a comprehensive introduction to the theme and some interesting methodologies. The students are thus introduced to philosophising, creative thinking and systems thinking methods. "Precisely this didactic approach is why we cooperate with Djapo," Lieve explains. "'Blik op de wereld' has been running for about 20 years. And during those years we felt the need for professionalisation. We have been working with Djapo ever since."

Heleen also continues to coach the students during the design phase of the workshop. This allows her to give the students tips and make adjustments where necessary. "It's really nice that I can completely outsource that support," says Lieve. "That saves me a lot of time. And yet I keep my finger on the pulse. Because Heleen always calls me in on time if there are questions or ambiguities."

Roadmap for volunteers

Just before the first workshop, the students organise a dress rehearsal. Not with Genk classes, but with North-South Council volunteers. "That rehearsal has a double purpose. On the one hand, the students get an extra chance to fully master the workshop and receive valuable feedback from the volunteers. But on the other hand, it is also the first time that the volunteers of the North-South Council get familiar with the workshop, which they will also lead themselves in the following weeks."

The volunteers will receive a script of the workshop after the workshop, prepared by the students with Heleen's help. This not only describes the structure of the workshop. The script also contains concrete tips on how to lead a philosophical conversation in the right direction, with sample questions.

"We instruct the students to make the workshops as language-rich as possible."

And the impact?

"This year, we will reach around 240 students with the theme of diversity. Moreover, we make sure that the workshops are as language-rich as possible so that we provide language stimuli to the children. Finally, we also try to involve parents. Because for the creative post-processing of the theme, which is organised following the workshop, we cooperate with the Genk art collective The Building. A selection of the children's artworks will later also be exhibited in their workshop. This way, the children can show their parents what they have realised with 'Looking at the World'."

What makes Look at the World so successful?

Lieve Wouters sees several benefits in the project:

  • The city reaches more than 200 children with a theme the board considers very important.
  • The city gives language incentives to Genk students, as the student teachers are tasked with making the workshop as language-rich as possible.
  • The city introduces future teachers to the Genk education landscape.
  • The city introduces future teachers to new themes and methodologies.

Does your city or municipality want to start a similar project?

Published on 16 March 2023

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