NEB|LAB ECO²-SCHOOLS is represented at the EU Working Group Schools: Learning for Sustainability in Madrid between 14 - 16 June 2023.
European Education Area Strategic Framework, Working Group on Schools, Sub-group on Education for Environmental Sustainability
Sustainable infrastructure and learning environments in schools
Societal developments, climate change and 21st – century learning needs require us to rethink how school spaces and places are developed and used. The school community must adapt and respond to these changing needs by re – thinking and re – purposing existing buildings, spaces, and infrastructure so that they are more suitable and relevant to the educational expectations of today.
In this context, Members of the EU Working Group Schools: Learning for Sustainability attended a meeting in Madrid between 14 – 16 June 2023. The meeting was hosted by the National Institute of Educational Technologies and Teacher Training (INTEF) at the Spanish Ministry of Education and Vocational Training. Numerous presentations, reflecting a diverse set of experiences in creating sustainable learning environments from across Spain and Europe served to inform the dialogues at this Peer Learning Activity (PLA).
Part of these dialogues focused on the ECO²-SCHOOLS as New European Bauhaus (NEB) initiative. The NEB|LAB ECO²-SCHOOLS initiative offers great opportunities to upscale efforts across EU Member States in this area. In Greece, among other demonstrators in France, Portugal, Ireland and Sweden, the ECO2-Schools Project has shown how schools can be adapted to meet climate goals as well as promote pedagogical change in support of climate education. It has shone a light on the development and delivery of pathways for schools to become climate positive and shown how schools can become hubs of innovation for the green transition in the community. Hence, the paradigm of Ellinogermaniki Agogi school in Greece scopes on showcasing how educational buildings can act as drivers of the NEB under the prism of a Whole School Approach (WSA).
Exemplary cases for integrating different NEB concepts into the curriculum by taking advantage of the building and the school facilities and infrastructure.
To this end, presenting and sharing ideas on NEB|LAB ECO²-SCHOOLS significantly contributed to the key messages highlighted in the PLA activity. The NEB – LABS supported by the ECO2-Schools Project will shed light on various aspects that align with the core principles of creating sustainable and inclusive educational spaces. Let’s break down how each of these key messages was addressed:
- Integration of Curriculum: The NEB|LAB ECO²-SCHOOLS focus on linking different renovation concepts with the taught curriculum, aligning with the idea of promoting sustainability competences. Presenting the ECO2-Schools pilot sites highlighted the challenges of connecting assessed learning with practical sustainability challenges, emphasizing the importance of bridging this gap through innovative teaching methods and integrated curriculum design.
- Inclusive Communities: NEB|LAB ECO²-SCHOOLS emphasizes the idea that sustainable learning environments should not only focus on physical aspects but also on building open communities. This encourages schools to be more than just educational institutions, becoming welcoming spaces and incubators that foster social integration, understanding, and cooperation among diverse groups of people.
- Integration of Nature: Breaking down walls between classrooms and merging the natural environment with learning spaces is more important than ever. This concept was highlighted in the presentations by showcasing how schools can create flexible indoor and outdoor learning spaces that facilitate interaction among learners and the local community.
- Architectural and Landscape Transformation: The discussions climaxed on how natural materials, energy resources, and light and passive ventilation systems are being used to transform traditional classrooms into inspiring and sustainable places for learning.
- Promotion of Well-being and Hope: The above – mentioned interventions emphasize health, well-being, hope, and inspiring positive futures for students, teachers, and in general, for the school and the local community. By providing spaces that inspire hope and positivity, schools can create a conducive atmosphere for effective learning and competencies development.
- Policy support: This is vital for enabling schools and teachers to commit to sustainable learning environments. Within this context, Ministries and Institutes of Educational Policy should also provide schools with the autonomy to develop their own responses to sustainability and create sustainable learning environments that meet the needs of their students and locality.
- Funding Opportunities: European funding is used to showcase how pilot educational institutions are taking practical steps to support the adaptation of school spaces. The presentation of the ECO2-Schools pilot sites highlighted how such projects may collect data and good practice examples, which can be used to leverage national funding for further adaptations and scaling up opportunities.
In summary, through the presentation of tangible instances from demonstration sites, and the support mechanisms to succeed in this transition (i.e., the Chamber of Quality), NEB|LAB ECO²-SCHOOLS has sparked conversations and ideas aimed at supporting and promoting sustainable infrastructure and learning environments in schools. In this way, the NEB|LAB ECO²-SCHOOLS initiative, in 5 European countries and the roadmap will support volunteer professionals from the public and private spheres and work together on prototype renovation projects. In such wise, through the PLA event and similar events, we are already augmenting and contributing to the European Commission’s policy actions by fostering innovative and sustainable approaches and transferring knowledge within educational institutions, international outreach groups, scientific organizations, and experts.