After making contact with the Salih Alptekin Secondary School in Ankara’s Ayrancı neighbourhood in February 2016, Özge Yersen and İsmail Demirdağ of the Turkish team implemented the Diverse Cities Educational Programme between March and June 2016. Here’s a brief report from the researchers complete with images below detailing how the students engaged with the session.
On their first visit Özge and İsmail introduced the DIVERCITIES project and then outlined the Educational Programme’s aim, methodology, programme and assignments. After being introduced to an enthusiastic teacher, the team set to work to review the assignments and to make a schedule, which was tight as the programme had to be finished by the middle of June — the school year in Turkey ends in June for primary, secondary and high schools. We arranged a schedule for six lectures with a class of 26 sixth grade students in the 12-13 year old age group undertaking secondary school education. All of the assignments were carried out with some small adaptations taking into account the school’s rules concerning permission.
In all five assignments were undertaken over several months. The researchers’ first task was introduce the DIVERCITIES project, the Educational Programme and the theme of diversity. At first the students were not familiar with the subject at first and had some difficulty understanding it. Though this took some time, the students took to their assignments with gusto delivering very different and successful assignments including small posters featuring text and drawings where the importance of realising similarities and the differences in the class was evident.
For the second assignment students were divided into five small groups of 5-6. They worked together on listing the similarities and differences in their group with one student presenting the results to the whole class. The concept of diversity became clearer through the second assignment with the students finding many surprising points relating to the diverse characteristics of their friends: their hobbies, beliefs, the different places they go to, the games and the sports that they like, etc…
Students tried to identify and explain the diversity in the school’s neighbourhood in the third assignment, again in small groups. They were concerned with: who lives in this neighborhood; where people gathered; and what are the positive and negative aspects of this neighborhood. The assignment raised awareness about the different characteristics and diversity of the school’s neighborhood.
Six neighbourhood projects from across the world were introduced to the students for the fourth assignment. The students considered the projects in small groups explaining which projects appealed to them and which ones did not. They learned about the importance of the projects or social acitivities for social cohesion and urban diversity taking into account how the various neighborhood initiatives aimed to bring diverse people together and to solve problems.
For the final assignment students were expected to come up with a project for their school’s neighbourhood. The students were set free to develop their own projects, but in this case they chose to work with the six neighborhood projects that we introduced. The team were surprised that they were very aware of the characteristics of the neighborhood, for example the lack of environmental consciousness, socio-economic status of people and demographic composition of the neighborhood.
It was clear the teh students began to recognise diversity through the assignments and programme. The students were engaged and worked well in groups. Their creativity and enthusiasm led to open and reflective discussions impressing the DIVERCITIES researchers. All in all, it was a great success.