We initiated the project with the sombre recognition that Special Needs Education in Greece today is not as developed as it should be in most European countries. Greek schools for SEN students provide limited opportunities compared to mainstream schools with regard to students’ experience of the Arts, the European/international environment, and quality of life. Therefore, the need for innovative projects that would be auxiliary to the further development of Greece’s educational systems within the European setting was thus apparent and necessary. The primary reason for this partnership was to realise a project with European partners that are involved in Special Needs Education, with the aim of weaving the Arts (music, dance, theatre, filming, photography, handcraft, and poetry) and Emotions (both recognition and expression) into students’ everyday lives, while capturing student interest and enriching their extracurricular environment. Our project "Artemotion Xpress in Europe," competently addressed our priorities for children with special educational needs by reducing disparities in learning outcomes that affect disadvantaged learners; developing basic and transversal skills through the use of innovative methods; offering high quality learning opportunities; improving the quality of methodologies used at our schools; and, offering innumerable opportunities for the development of educational staff and students.
The project was addressed to students with special needs who attend public special education preschool, primary, and secondary schools, with our primary target group consisting of 700 pupils (between the age of 5-20) from various countries and from differing backgrounds and health conditions. In the end, our project managed to reach thousands of individuals, including parents of our pupils, neighbouring schools, schools from other districts or regions, and the local community. This was coupled with the active involvement of municipalities that greatly facilitated our work and further disseminated the project through each partner country’s local and national press.
The teaching and learning approaches used in this school partnership was innovative given its inclusion of art into all aspects of students’ academic lives. Furthermore, lessons with the art teacher were not isolated in nature and instead embraced every aspect of school life, as well as the needs of each and every student. Art as a medium was used by teachers in a variety of settings, for example, by Special Education Teachers to enhance learning; by speech and language therapists to improve communication; by occupational therapists to develop every day skills and dexterities; by physical therapists and gymnasts to improve body awareness and kinetic skills; by psychologists to enhance the expression of our SEN students; by social workers enhancing family bonds; by ICT teachers to further develop computer, technology, and communication skills; and by art teachers to add added value to music, painting, and handcrafts. In addition, cooperation with external experts such as drama therapists, play therapists, actor and actresses, filmmakers, dance therapists, painters, musicians and bands, photographers, writers, hippotherapists, dog therapists, and swimming therapists, provided for a great number of valuable seminars that were aimed at both education staff and pupils. Students played the role of the project’s protagonists for a duration of 3 years, and we affirm that the project continues to live on both in their memory as well as in the methodology that continues to be used (thinking out of the box), with its underlying assumption that everybody is entitled to a happy and fulfilling learning experience.
Over the course of 3 years, more than 150 education staff and more than 700 pupils were actively involved in the "Artemotion Xpress in Europe" project, during which they fully embraced and implemented the project’s goals with great success. Not only did this project result in the school becoming a success story, it also became a model example for many other schools (both in partner countries as well as across Europe) that have since approached us with requests for collaboration; in fact, 2 years following the project’s completion, we continue to receive praise for the work that we had carried out. Furthermore, we have proved that SEN education can be as easy and joyful as in any other typical school, while demonstrating that SEN students are equal in their capacity to other students in their production of innovative ideas and in their implementation of excellent projects. The SEN learning environment forwarded by this project supports innovative teaching and learning approaches through a number of avenues, including the use of well-trained and specialised educational staff; specialised methodologies and learning theories; adjusted environments, equipment, and materials; and through limitless care for SEN students.
The partnership’s teachers were the implementers of the project’s vision, with the education staff as a whole having contributed their expertise and knowledge while displaying a willingness to learn about new techniques and methodologies from external associates and seminars – all of which positively impacted our project's goals and objectives. The need for education staff to approach their work in a more innovative manner (beyond the established norms and forms of typical education) was the cornerstone that led to the project’s complete success, which was characterised not only by its innovative ideas, but also by the innovative use of techniques and methods and newly acquired knowledge. All of the project’s partner schools maintained regular communication with regard to the exchange of proceedings, and the implementation of new ideas and activities.
Our partnership focused on the use of the Arts as a means to promote the developmental skills of SEN pupils across all aspects of life (Social and Emotional Development, Physical Health, Well-Being, Movement Skills, Learning, Thinking Abilities and Knowledge, and, Communication and Language Skills). The project also enhanced pupils’ knowledge, creativity, and understanding of multiculturalism, while strengthening their culture diversity, education, and understanding of their role and identity within the European Community. Furthermore, the project reinforced the European Commissions' goal to support the inclusion of people with special needs, with the project’s practitioners having learnt from each other through the exchange of good practices and experimentation with new techniques and innovative methodologies. To this end, education staff shared ideas and opinions of alternative and innovative ways of teaching towards achieving the project’s goals. In addition to developing our educational opportunities and knowledge, the project enabled us to create firm and long lasting friendships, widened our pupils’ and teachers' horizons, inspired us in the exploration of Europe, enhanced our education staff's professional competence, and enabled us to benefit from efficient, practical, goal-oriented, creative, experiential and active learning methods. The project offered a wide range of opportunities for students’ expression and communication, and enhanced the notion that everyone is capable of communicating ideas, beliefs, emotions and feelings, and opinions – even when the use of spoken language may not always be an option, or in the event that the speaker in question has motor disabilities, or mental restrictions. We did our best to involve our pupils in innovative and alternative ways of expression, communication, and fulfilment that extended beyond the school curriculum through forms such as dancing, handcrafting, photography, creative writing, role-playing, drama, and music. All of the aforementioned resulted in a shift in partner schools’ perspectives, their approach to thinking and expressing, and their interaction and communication with SEN students – leading to an environment that provided SEN students with equal learning opportunities within the overall learning process.
- Project locations
- Project category
- Primary education
- Project year
CEE Can Rigol
Centru Școlar de Educație Incluzivă Nr.1 Sibiu
Osnovna šola Dr. Ljudevita Pivka
Zespół Szkół Specjalnych Nr 6