2nd June 2012 The
Benci Primary School in Livorno is situated in the city centre, right opposite the central food market and overlooking the main canal, the Fosso Reale.
Occupying such a central position, the Benci school attracts many children from the many families of varied origins who now live in Livorno. About 45% of its pupils come from other countries both in and outside Europe.
Class 4A is no exception: 15 of its 25 pupils have foreign origins, although most of them were born in Livorno or have been here since they were very young. They feel a sense of belonging to Livorno, but they have a second culture and language at home. They come from Livorno, China, Romania, Cuba, Macedonia, Moldova, Philippines, Albania, Sahrawi, and the Dominican Republic.
Invited to take part in a national Ministry of Education competition - Progetto Cl@ssi 2.0, which aims to promote the use of new technologies in the classroom - , class 4A teachers Isabella Tosi and Perla Cappelli saw an opportunity not only to win high-tech teaching apparatus for the class, but also to involve the pupils in a valuable study project.
The project put forward by the class - Inter alla terza (Intercultura, Internet, Internazionale) - was one of only six in Tuscany to be selected by the Italian Ministry of Education.
It aims to involve both parents and children in gaining a better awareness of the multicultural history of the city of Livorno, and through this to gain a better understanding of the value of their own history and their own role in the Livorno (and Italy) of today and of the future. Emphasis is placed on involving the parents of these children in the project, in order to work towards greater integration and understanding and to avoid creating a divide between 1st and 2nd generations.
Through a discovery of local history, in particular the "Livorno of Nations", the three-year project, which began last year, is already involving the school pupils on a multi-cultural journey both in the classroom and outside. Just one aspect of this "journey" involves visits to the churches and cemeteries of Livorno that represent the foreign nations of the past.
The class has already spent a morning at the Old English Cemetery in Via Verdi where they were welcomed and shown around by members of the Livorno delle Nazioni cultural association. During the visit, the neighbouring Church of St George was pointed out to the children, since this was originally built for Livorno's Anglican community in the 19th century. Several of the children present announced that they attend the very same church every Sunday! In fact, the old Anglican church is currently used by Livorno's Romanian Orthodox community for their church services. A church built for one of the foreign communities of the past now serves a modern day counterpart!
In acknowledgement of the value of their project, the pupils of Class 4A (soon to become 5A) have been awarded splendid interactive classroom equipment which will enhance and facilitate their work.