Tyrol: Learning about intercultural dialogue and diversity in schools

​Herwig Van Staa
Diversity4Kids project is improving the wellbeing of locals and immigrants by fighting discrimination and xenophobia through playful techniques. This project of Tyrol-South and Tyrol-Trentino regions targets 8 to 14-year-old pupils, promotes tolerance and prepares young people for a life in a diverse society. The recent migration crisis is a reality for children throughout Europe, as more and more school classes are made up of students from different nationalities and cultural backgrounds.
 
The time to promote acceptance, tolerance and understanding is when children are open to new experiences, with diversity perceived as an opportunity to grow, as a personal and social benefit. The project "Diversity4Kids – Learning about intercultural dialogue and diversity in schools in a playful, interactive and narrative way" does exactly that. It encourages intercultural openness among children to promote positive coexistence in schools and later in life. The European Regional Development Fund invested EUR 200 000 in the project through the “Italy-Austria” Operational Programme, and reached over 1 800 pupils and 100 teachers and will continue to do so in the years to come.
 
The project consists of various activities and workshops; around 100 events were organised within the cross-border region. In the schools, tolerance and respect are taught through role-playing, improvisation theatre, biography workshops and narrative storytelling methods, taking into account the importance of games and fun as a substantial part of children’s emotional, cognitive and social development. These classes enable children to open up and get to know each other, while preventing bullying and xenophobia. The project started with a research phase to identify which course materials were still missing in the education system for 8 to 14-year-olds. The biography workshops, creative writing and bilingual storytelling (German/Turkish and German/Italian) are new training methods that have been included in the system.