‘My Oreto’: Service learning project for children to participate in change

By Alessandra Marian Dia *

You are never too small to make a difference“Thunder Greta Thunberg in one of her speeches; words that sound in the warm air of a September morning and that start a reflection that can not and must stop. Thus began our adventure, our Service Learning Project, on the basis of a pedagogical proposal, which combines service (citizenship, solidarity actions and volunteering for the community) and learning (the acquisition of professional, methodological, social and above all didactic skills), so that the students’ own knowledge and Competences through a solidarity service for the municipality. The problem identified is due to the state of deterioration of our river for decades; the motivation stems from the interest in the issues related to climate change, pollution and participation in the month of September in “Friday for the Future”. The boys expressed the need to feel part of the change, to start it in their own small way and the starting point was a reflection on what “we can do it now“. The attention fell directly on the Oreto River, because Palermo is a city not only by the sea, but also by the river. And then, during the a.sc. 2021/2021, the commitment took the form of voting. to explain the degradation and abandonment of the Oreto in order to create, with adequate interventions and projects, a real river park that can be used by all citizens. in particular the following objectives were highlighted:

Goal 6: Ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation facilities for all; 6.3 By 2030, improving water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating uncontrolled discharge practices and minimizing the release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the percentage of untreated wastewater and significantly increasing recycling and safe recycling; 6.6 By 2020, protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes.

The class group met with the tireless presence of prof. It was exciting, too, for me, to see young people who are passionate about such a current topic, conduct research on environmental data, retrieve the history of Palermo in recent centuries, not without fear of confronting the concept of sustainability. The countless inspections, especially near the source of the Oreto, have shown us a completely unknown reality and future projects for the river predict a naturalistic recovery in the line that stretches from the mouth to the Corleone Bridge. But the design also includes the removal of environmental hazards, landfills, illegal artifacts, interventions for the restoration, if necessary, of the native flora. The plan also includes the creation of paths and bridges for the use of the area, the restoration of some abandoned buildings for the creation of a naturalistic museum, an education area and a reception center for visitors. An ambitious but at the same time amazing program that can restore our Oreto’s dignity.

In carrying out the work, students in real contexts have tested not only the skills and competences set out in their school curriculum, but also the international guidelines that explicitly recommend combining disciplinary learning with key competences. Through this kind of experience, which integrates learning and service, children have internalized important values ​​(justice, legality, equality, respect and care for the environment) and also developed pro-social behaviors, such as help, service, sharing, empathy, caring for one another, solidarity. The students were protagonists in all phases of the project, from the identification of needs, to the planning of interventions, to the actions that were implemented, to the evaluation of the results. They experience, in this world, trust in them, and they are able to take responsibility, improve the quality of life of the people, take care of others and the environment. Our school community is increasingly open to dialogue with the various actors present in the area: families, communities, the productive world, the third sector, volunteering. If, on the one hand, the school is a resource for the territory and an opportunity for development, because it directly intervenes with its pedagogical action in the education of future citizens, on the other hand, the institutions and associations present in the territory can , make available. give them a very useful support and attraction, consider it as a heritage to preserve and further develop. But the main advantage of the children was to feel part of a reality that is bigger than themselves, to participate in the complex change and challenges for the future. The problem is now being felt especially by the new generations who hear the crazy screams of our earth and the need to act. Therefore, the choice of this topic, the release of the young schoolmates, is up to the final choice to “adopt” a piece of our river, close to the source. And feel builders of their own future.

And this life of ours, away from the mass, finds tongues in the trees, books in the streams, sermons in the stones, and everywhere the good.“. (William Shakespeare)

* Referent Service Learning and Instrumental Fiction Didactic Innovation IS “Einaudi Pareto” – Palermo

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