The Educational Laboratories program promotes partnerships between schools and communities with a view to testing educational innovations and inspiring new teaching models and practices.
The objective of the program is to expand the classroom and transform neighborhoods and cities into spaces of continuous learning. Public squares, businesses, theaters, cinemas and museums are turned into places of experimentation and learning, with the integral development of children, teenagers and young people becoming the responsibility of the entire community. For example, a joint initiative between fishermen and teachers could transform a biology class into an exchange of ideas and promote alternative sources of learning. An acarajé vendor could teach children the history behind their traditional Brazilian snacks, while a technology firm could open up their hi-tech laboratories to students.
The idea of the Educational Laboratories program is that when everyone is involved, teaching and learning become collective responsibilities. In order for the public to develop a new point of view in regards to education, intersectoral actions are developed alongside projects designed to improve the quality of life of the children, teenagers and young people that live, study and circulate in and around the area in question.
Each neighborhood or town has its own distinct characteristics, so the program does not follow one all-encompassing methodology. However, the Educational Laboratories are guided by a series of strategies. First the area is mapped, generating a diagnosis about the standard of local education and identifying opportunities and challenges for the school and its surroundings. This diagnostic process is participatory, with the extensive involvement of the local population. Next, priorities are decided upon for the creation of an Education Plan. The incentive for coordination between schools as well as the building of ongoing training programs for teachers guarantee the exchange of information and promote continuous study. In order to keep the program running in the area, the school community and the local population must be mobilized, establishing and maintaining a permanent channel of communication. The sustainability of the initiative is encouraged once the community determines how the program will be governed. Spaces are set aside for members of the community to discuss, plan, implement and evaluate the transformation of the area into an educational space, guided by an Education Plan that has been designed and approved collectively.
Below are examples of Inspirare initiatives in two areas: the Rio Vermelho Learning Neighborhood in Salvador, and São Miguel dos Campos.
Rio Vermelho Learning Neighborhood
The proposal of the project is to transform Rio Vermelho into the first educational neighborhood of the city of Salvador, inspiring other areas and public authorities to encourage similar educational experiments based on partnership between schools and communities.
Currently, the Rio Vermelho Learning Neighborhood (BERV, in Portuguese) includes eight schools that, alongside their surrounding communities, get together and reflect upon the challenges they face and create solutions to improve the quality of education offered in the neighborhood. These actions are guided by a Charter of Principles and a Local Education Plan, both of which were designed collectively. As well as presenting objectives and strategic actions to promote Holistic Education through the expansion of learning time, spaces and staff, the Local Education Plan contributes to the creation and reinforcement of an intersectoral network. This means that members of the school community (such as students, parents and teachers) can meet with local businesspeople, residents and public officials to draw up new educational arrangements and opportunities.
The idea is for the leadership of BERV to be gradually handed over to the local population, which has already organized itself into several units of governance: Group Assembly (meetings open to the community for the exchange of ideas and development of new initiatives), a Committee (a commission comprising members of different sectors, responsible for the development and monitoring of strategies for the implementation of the Local Education Plan) and several Work Groups (teams that specialize in specific matters, such as schools and families).
BERV also fosters a series of actions committed to inspiring and training education professionals to adopt innovative teaching practices such as seminars and mentoring. It also promotes the occupation of public spaces for educational events such as the Learning Neighborhood Festival and children’s activities at the Spring Festival and Leitura na Praça, an open-air book fair. It also offers educational opportunities to the neighborhood’s schools.
Finally, the Learning Neighborhood also has its own communication agency which disseminates the initiative’s proposals and activities, mobilizes the local community and trains teenagers and young people to work in communication. Currently, BERV includes eight schools that get together to reflect upon the challenges they face and create solutions to improve the quality of education offered in the neighborhood. To this end, ongoing training programs for education professionals have been adopted, while some schools are revising their Political-Pedagogic Project (PPP) to fit the Innovative Holistic Education model.
SÃO MIGUEL DOS CAMPOS
Inspirare is also active in São Miguel dos Campos, a city in the north-eastern Brazilian state of Alagoas, 60 km from the state capital of Maceió. The idea is to support the region and guarantee the conditions necessary for children, teenagers and young people to develop into citizens able to live dignified lives, realize their dreams and build a promising future for themselves and their surrounding community. This is the main objective of the Intersectoral Education Plan of São Miguel dos Campos, a target plan based on a comprehensive diagnosis of the town’s educational reality and drawn up with the participation of over 300 representatives of the public authorities and civil society.
The actions promoted by Inspirare in the region are led by a group of technical partners who seek to mobilize, engage and develop the potential of the local population. The project proposes to increase the local community’s level of co-responsibility, as well as its capacity to bring about structural and sustainable improvements to education in São Miguel dos Campos. This process is backed up by two instances of local participation: the Community Forum and the Intersectoral Forum. The Community Forum comprises around 150 teachers, students, parents, technicians, school principals, counsellors and community leaders who design proposals and implement actions by way of work groups. Meanwhile, the Intersectoral Forum is made up of representatives of municipal and state councils, social organizations and businesses, and is responsible for the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the targets found in the Intersectoral Education Plan.
Inspirare also looks to encourage the civic participation of teenagers and young people in São Miguel dos Campos, developing their leadership ability, promoting engagement and supporting their involvement in activities of communication and social mobilization for the improvement of education in the region with the Inspirare campaign “A educação me move” (Education Moves Me).
The initiative also promotes a series of actions that seek to assist and train technical teams, administrators and teaching staff in the planning and implementation of Holistic Education activities. These pursuits are always focused on the development of students in all facets of life and the extensive involvement of their families.
The incorporation of innovative educational solutions (including through the creative use of new technology) is also encouraged, with a view to improving the quality of teaching and learning processes inside and outside of the classroom.