Over a three month period, the Milan team worked with teachers on the Diverse Cities Education Programme in a school in the north eastern area of Zona di Decentramento 2 in Via Padova. The area was the focus of fieldwork for work packages five, six and seven. A short report follows on what proved to be a successful project.
The Educational Programme in Milan was undertaken with three third year classes (76 students in total) in a lower secondary school with students being on average of age 13. Approximately three quarters of the students were from an international migration background, of which six were newcomers to Italy with a limited proficiency in Italian, and three other pupils had special education needs.
The Italian team made contact with the school through networks developed during fieldwork. Three teachers of History and Geography accepted their invitation to be involved in the program, two were particularly enthusiastic.
Classes lasted between 50 and 100 minutes each with teachers complementing the lessons with further activities including neighbourhood walks and lab activities. The focus of the education programme was the following three assignments: What makes you special?; Unique or not?; and Neighbourhood research.
The first session introduced the DIVERCITIES research program, the Diverse Cities Educational Programme and the first assignment What makes you special? The second session was dedicated to Unique or not? with pupils showing their assignments, which were discussed in small groups and reported to the class as a whole.
The third session aimed to introduce the Neighbourhood research, with a discussion on both the positive and negative features characterizing the neighbourhood and its landmarks, and a discussion on divrsity. However, at the beginning of the Educational Program, public discourse concerning the area was reignited with negative stereotyping (especially in the media and in political debate) due to the homicide of a Dominican man in a square some 400 metres from the school. This issue filtered partially into our program, as the teaching staff had already discussed it in other lessons.
Many interesting ideas came out of the education programme, including some of the following research topics:
– Neighbourhood voices, a collection and analysis of small talk in the neighbourhood
– Interesting garbage, a collection and analysis of littering habits in the neighbourhood, based on pictures and interviews with inhabitants
– Shop signs, a collection and analysis of pictures portraying the diversity of local shops
– Neighbourhood appreciation comprising two sets of interviews – with businesspeople and with inhabitants – on what they like and dislike in the neighbourhood
– The beauty of the neighbourhood, a collection of pictures of nice places in the neighbourhood usually demeaned in the public opinion
– Urban decay, an analysis of negative social and structural dimensions in the neighbourhood
– The taste of the neighbourhood, an analysis and rating of street-food available in the neighbourhood
– Pricing in neighbourhood shops, an analysis of the commercial offer in some categories of local shops based on observation and interviews
– Unexpected faces, searching for pictures of faces in objects (pareidolia) in the neighbourhood
– Neighbourhood entry phones, a collection and analysis of pictures of doorbells
Session four was a follow up to report on the ongoing research process and to fine-tune analysis of the fieldwork and presentation of results with session five being the final where research results were also policy oriented: pupils were guided to suggest policy changes according to their results.
The team found that the pupils appreciated the opportunity for self-expression, particularly in the first and second sessions, and how it connected to the fieldwork. Students were curious about the working of social research and showed a capacity for insightfulness in observing their neighbourhood from different perspectives: people, buildings, parks, symbols et al.
The implementation of the Diverse Cities program in Milan can be considered as successful. The teachers appreciated the possibility to build connections with the university and research, and to provide pupils with further educational opportunities. On a positive note, our program has been integrated into the daily routine in morning classes and in after-school groups. Teachers expressed their interest in implementing the program in the following school year as a complementary activity for newly arrived pupils (as a way to get them acquainted with the neighbourhood) and for inter-class groups in after-school activities.
All in all, it was a successful outcome for the DIVERCITIES project.