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HISTOLAB Award for Innovative School Projects in History Education

 WHAT IS IT?

In the 21st century, the world has changed and the interests and learning habits of children have changed along with it. If history is sometimes deemed to be inaccessible, this stereotype could be due to a disconnect between historical content and how history relates to the present-day lives of students. Understanding what students want to see in their history classes can is therefore key to transforming history education into a dynamic and engaging learning experience.

In a survey on the core practices for teaching History in Delphi, Fogo (2014) found several practices that could enhance effective teaching. It is evident that innovation is needed in history teaching, reaching beyond academia to connect directly with teachers and students.

WHAT IS ITS PURPOSE?

According to many scholars, since content and pedagogy constantly change and grow, it is necessary for history teachers to take a central role in this evolution. HISTOLAB's aim is to gather innovative initiatives and ideas in history education not only from teachers and academics, but from school students as well.

The HISTOLAB Award for Innovative School Projects in History Education encourages students to share their interests and ideas, and to tell us how they want to learn about history. They are asked to reflect on how much they engage with and are interested in the subjects covered in their history classes, and then to submit their ideas for how history could be taught.

 

2024 AWARDEES

 

The second edition of the HISTOLAB Award was open to schools from all member states of the Observatory on History Teaching in Europe as well as European Schools. 441 submissions were received from all over Europe.

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Project 1

 

Title: Zaman Kapsulu Hikayeleri

School: Private Sanko Secondary School, Gaziantep, Türkiye

To make learning about history fun for themselves and their peers, students created a podcast about the impact of the French Revolution on the Ottoman Empire. In preparation, they scanned the sources on this subject, first from their textbooks and then from scientific articles. After drafting a script, they recorded it on a computer, then added effects, transitions, and background sounds while editing the audio recording.

During this process, students learned about issues such as human rights, freedom, equality and nationalism. Their research helped them better understand how these issues have deeply affected nations at the local level, including phenomena like separatist movements in multinational states, among them the Ottoman Empire.

You can listen to the podcast here:

Private Sanko Secondary School

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Project 2

 

Title: Flight of the Wild Geese

School: Corpus Christi Primary School, Limerick, Ireland

The Flight of the Wild Geese movie is a film that explores the local history of the city of Limerick in the 1690s, which was part of a European religious war between the protestant King William of Orange, together with Dutch and English forces, against the Catholic King James with French and Irish forces. This film was recorded on location, following visits to the Wild Geese Museum and various significant historical sites around the city. Students used a variety of digital and IT skills, for example, cameras, iPads, microphones, drones, green screens and film editing software. They also used a recording studio for the soundtrack and the children learnt how to synchronise the music with the dramatic action.

Through the creative process of making a film starring the children in lead roles, students were immersed in their history, allowing them to learn through the lived experience. By exploring local Limerick history, Irish history as well as European history, they developed an understanding of wars, migration, allegiances, treaties and the formation of states. 

Corpus Christi Primary School

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Project 3

 

Title: A World in Movement

School: IES Las Norias, Monforte del Cid, Spain

In this interdisciplinary project connecting history and art, students aimed to answer the question: "What would an exile take with them in their suitcase?" The classes conducted research on Spanish individuals who went into exile after the Spanish Civil War and during the dictatorship of General Franco. They then created suitcases using recycled materials and including elements representing each figure's profession or life story, such as university degrees, books and photographs. Through researching primary and secondary sources, they wrote brief biographies to attach to the exhibition, and made a collage with representative images of the different figures.

By exploring the stories of people who had to leave their country in the past, students learned to connect historical events with current global events, developing an important aspect of democratic memory and culture. Recognising that there are people today who are also forced to leave their countries and lives behind - regardless of whether they carry a suitcase or not - helped students to develop a sense of empathy and to better equip themselves to identify and combat racism and xenophobia.

IES Las Norias

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Project 4

 

Title: Bizim Seçimimiz

School: Muratpaşa Türk Telekom Anadolu Lisesi, Antalya, Türkiye

Students made a short narrative film on women’s voting rights around the world. They looked at perspectives from several different countries: Türkiye, France, Italy and Mexico. By showing how women fought for their right to vote in these places, the film not only advocates for gender equality, but also shows how change in one part of the world can cause a chain reaction and impact the rights of people living elsewhere.

Muratpaşa Türk Telekom Anadolu Lisesi

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Project 5

 

Title: Un camp d’internement à Bordeaux : le camp de Mérignac-Beaudésert

School: Lycée Charles Péguy, Eysines, France

Students at vocational schools took on the role of historian to research and locate the present-day site of a former Vichy internment camp. It brings together students from multiple lycées studying different subjects, for example, topography, industrial design and stonemasonry. They created a virtual 3D model and a physical brass model of the camp, which will be inaugurated in 2024 on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the liberation of the camp.

Today, students are continuing to work on the creation of a website about the history of the camp, including the histories of internees such as Jews, Spanish Republicans, Roma and Travellers, resistance fighters and political opponents. This website will be accessible via a QR code. As a whole, the project encourages students to learn about the history of persecution and collaboration during World War Two, as well as make links between the past and the urban spaces around them today.

Lycée Charles Péguy

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Project 6

 

Title: AReon Application for Historical Sites

School: Belediye Fen Lisesi, Fethiye, Muğla, Türkiye

"AReon" aims to revolutionise the educational experience within museums and places of remembrance by integrating cutting-edge technology and innovative teaching methodologies. Students leveraged augmented reality (AR) and narrative-driven storytelling to create a prototype for a mobile application, transforming historical sites into immersive learning environments. Through AR technology, users can overlay historical artefacts or scenes with additional layers of information, bringing the past to life in a vivid and captivating manner. Whether through visual reconstructions of ancient civilisations, interactive timelines, or immersive storytelling elements, the app aims to cater to diverse learning styles and interests. Moreover, "AReon" incorporates gamification elements, transforming learning into an enjoyable and interactive experience.

By harnessing the power of technology and innovative pedagogical approaches, "AReon" aims not only to enrich the learning process, but also to ensure that historical sites become dynamic hubs of exploration and understanding for visitors of all ages and backgrounds.

Belediye Fen Lisesi

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Project 7

 

Title: Footprints for Freedom

School: Transnational European project (France, Germany, Greece, Poland, Ukraine)

The project is a collaboration between schools in different European countries to create educational content on local historical sites related to the Second World War for a digital platform. The main aim of dealing with the topic is to familiarise students with the period of the Second World War and the occupation of Europe, the question of the exile of artists, and the persecution of Jewish communities, partisans and communists. There is also a focus on places and stories that are generally underrepresented or less frequently discussed in society.

The platform invites students to integrate contributions relevant to regional history into European youth activities, creating opportunities to practise multi-perspective and critical thinking and to facilitate intercultural European dialogue. This process also allows students to see themselves as "prosumers" and responsible content creators, especially in the world of social media. 

Find the platform here: https://digitalespuren.jfootprints.de/app/web/index.html#/

Footprints for Freedom

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Project 8

 

Title: Belgrade Adventure

School: XIV Beogradska Gimnazija, Belgrade, Serbia

In the Belgrade Adventure project, students researched the rich cultural heritage of Belgrade, covering themes such as Jewish heritage, Ottoman heritage, and controversial sites. This exploration resulted in a website and an app uploaded to the Google Play Store and Apple Store. All aspects of the website and app, from content and software engineering to translations and photographs, were developed by the students.

In this project, museums and places of remembrance play a pivotal role in enhancing history education. They offer students a tangible connection to the past, turning history from an abstract concept into a living experience. These immersive encounters helped encourage critical thinking among students through the analysis of primary sources and engagement in discussions about historical context and significance. Places are therefore not just static locations, but instead also dynamic educational tools that enrich history learning, making it engaging, memorable, and relevant to students' lives.

Find the Belgrade Adventure website here: https://beotura.rs/en/

XIV Beogradska Gimnazija

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Project 9

 

Title: Reclaiming Marginalised Narratives

School: Toki Güneşparkevleri Kaihl, Küçükçekmece, Istanbul, Türkiye

The essay addresses the question "How can history education amplify underrepresented or marginalised stories?" by emphasising the crucial role of an inclusive and unbiased history education. It contends that history, vital for shaping students' identity and thinking skills, should avoid ideological and political biases. It focuses on the need to represent marginalised groups, particularly women, whose contributions have historically been overlooked.

Practical steps are proposed to achieve a more inclusive history education, including encouraging student research, inviting guest speakers, incorporating art, and organising field trips to cultural and historical sites. These recommendations are grounded in studies highlighting their positive impact on critical thinking, cultural competence, and empathy. Concrete examples, such as the absence of female figures in the Ottoman and Seljuk eras, as well as the experiences of individuals like Sara Waugh and Ela Mody, underscore the urgency of rectifying historical omissions. The essay concludes by emphasising the global importance of representing marginalised groups and summarising recommendations for a more equitable and engaging history education.

 

 

2023 AWARDEES

 

The first year of the HISTOLAB Award was limited to schools in the European Schools Network and the Council of Europe Democratic Schools Network.

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Photo of all students present at the HISTOLAB award ceremony during the European Innovation Days in History Education in 2023

 
Project 1

Title: Teaching History. The Necessity for the Renewal

School: Olena Pchilka Lyceum in Kovel, Ukraine

This research paper is devoted to the topic on how to make History lessons more interesting, exciting and interactive. In order to find out which methods of teaching History are ineffective and offer innovative ones, we have conducted a questionnaire. We have interviewed 50 students of the 11th grade of Olena Pchilka Kovel Lyceum. It has demonstrated that more than a half of students do not consider History as one of the most important subjects in school curriculum. In addition, we have found out that there is an insufficient number of lessons per week for students to fully process all the material they are given. In the questionnaire, we have offered some conceptions and principles how to improve teaching History. Students also had an opportunity to share their own ideas. The next step was to determine innovative methods and techniques that students could identify themselves, with the goal of applying them in History lessons to make them more interesting. The questionnaire has demonstrated the readiness of students to reform ways of teaching History and the consciousness of their importance. 

 
Project 2

Title: Yaroslav the Wise

School: Municipal Establishment Lyceum "Maksymum” of Kropyvnytskyi City Council in Kropyvnytskyi, Ukraine.

We are students of the secondary school at Lyceum “Maksymum” Kropyvnytskyi City Council". We created the comic book/graphic novel "Yaroslav the Wise". This topic was chosen because it reveals the modern aspirations of Ukraine to become a member of the European community. The history of Ukraine is an integral part of world history. The ability to select illustrative material for the presentation of historical events and personalities based on its quality, informativeness, and aesthetic value is very important when creating a graphic novel .While working on the comic book we studied a lot of sources, Ukrainian and foreign, in order to know how events in the history of Ukraine are interpreted in the world. We studied real images of personalities taken from modern historical research. We also worked with medieval sources including “The Tale of Bygone Years”, “Radziwill Chronicle” and others. We worked with medieval maps as well. It was also a very good opportunity for us to practise English. An idea appeared: modern students talk to Prince Yaroslav the Wise! In such a way it is easier to understand events in the Middle Ages and their consequences for us today. If you've never read comics and would like to give it a try, wait no longer. Enjoy reading a comic book or watching a video! It’s up to you to choose.

 
Project 3

Title: Through the History

School: "Ivan Vazov" Secondary School from Mezdra, Bulgaria

Using artwork and games, the groups of students show us history from their perspectives through artwork and an innovative game for learning history. 

Presentation: Ideas on how to make our history classes more interesting

The presentation is about one innovative school project: an online game, which was released in April 2022. In addition, some ideas are listed there on how history could be taught and some good practices from our school.

 

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Picture 1: In a war there are no winners and losers, everyone is a loser, and it seems that children suffer the most from it. Children have the purest souls and only they are capable of turning darkness into light. In children’s eyes, weapons of death are seen as a means of entertainment. War brings fear, and fear is overcome in games. The message is that to win a war, it should never start. 

 
Project 4

Title: Stories from Gradac – History is (Sometimes) the Teacher of Life

School: Osnovna Škola Gradac from Gradac, Croatia

The focus of the projects was on three forgotten stories from the past of Gradac. The story of “A kilo of tobacco – a kilo of the Adriatic” dealt with the production and trade of salt in the past. A century old celebration of St Roch was about an unknown disease. El Shatt – from Dalmatia to the desert dealt with the refugee camp in Egypt during WW2. In addition to making several short films, presentations and a mini saltwork, the students presented the results of their research through three trilingual info boards placed at appropriate locations in the town and leaflets. Stories were an incentive to connect events from the past with the present – the first story to discuss the role in the society of the omen in the past and now; the second story to discuss the way of fighting diseases in the past  and now with special emphasis on COVID pandemic and the third story to discuss the problem of refugees as one of the main outcome of wars (in former Yugoslavia in 90ies and in Ukraine now).