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Planters, Education and the Arts
City/Region : Girona province , Spain

"Planters,"a project of ConArte Internacional, harneses the potential of arts education to contribute to social inclusion and educational and social transformation by introducing theatre, music, dance and visual arts education, facilitated by professional artists, in compulsory classes at primary and secondary schools of high complexity in the province of Catalonia, Spain. By doing so, it helps to develop new ways of thinking and living together, while fostering a taste for learning and exploration and enabling the increased participation of students from disadvantaged backgrounds in the cultural life of the communities, in which they live.

Agendas addressed
Social inclusion and integration
Pathways followed
  • Ensure equal access to municipal services
  • Involve citizens through participatory implementation
  • Promote social innovation supporting inclusion
  • Capitalise on local economy and production
  • Create and close local value chains
  • Apply innovative financing approaches
  • Prepare policies for socio-cultural changes due to innovation
Context
Planters project, cello workshop. Photo by Nahui Twomey (2)

Spain has seen a rapid increase in immigration over the past two decades and Catalonia has been a major recipient of immigrants. Geographic concentration of immigrant populations, often on the outskirts of large cities (Bayoa-I-Carrasco and Gil-Alonso, 2013), combined with an inadequate education policy (Bonal, 2012), have led to high levels of educational segregation and the establishment of so-called schools of high complexity in Catalonia (SÍNDIC, 2016). They are characterised by a large number of students from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds, high rates of absenteesim and turover of teachers, and low matriculation demand. Those characteristics pose challenges to managing the learning environment in such schools and constrain academic achievement (Rodríguez, 2013). It is in nine such schools of high complexity, in five cities, in the province of Girona that the “Planters” project of ConArte has provided a stimulus for learning and educational transformation through arts education.

In Action

The "Planters" is a biennial program of artistic education (music, theater, dance and visual arts) which took place during school hours and involved more than 400 students from eight schools of high complexity in Salt, Figueres and Torroella de Montgrí during its 2014-2016 cycle and is currently working with another ca. 500 students from 9 schools in Salt, Figueres, L’Escala and Sant Feliu de Guíxols during its second two-year cycle.

Immigrant populations in the cities where “Planters” operate range from 20% to 48% relative to a national average of ca. 9% and students from ethnic minority backgrounds constitute more than 80% of the student body in some public schools. Recognizing the importance of public schools as a place for socialization and the need for addressing the ghettoization of selected schools, the municipal governments of the participating cities, alongside the Daniel & Nina Carasso Foundation, have supported the implementation of the “Planters” project.

The project offers professional arts education during school hours to children and youth who would otherwise not have access to it. It does so through the collaborative efforts of artists and teachers, who engage the students in processes of collective discovery, creation and learning. It also provides the participating students with access to local cultural performances and facilitates the presentation of the results of their work at local festivals and venues. Temporada Alta, Festival Agitart and Festivalot are some of the festivals that have collaborated with the project so far, enabling the children to participate in the corresponding editions and thus building with them a project that goes far beyond the classrooms.

Alongside the educational activities for students, a working group involving all the artists, teachers and practitioners participating in the project was established and meets four times per academic year. The working group, which is recognized by the Department of Education of Catalonia as a formal training, provides a space for enhancing and consolidating learning among the participating educators through exchange of experiences and targeted trainings. It also enables the resolution of problems and the development of joint strategies for enhancing the project impacts through collaborative decision-making. Finally, together with the Temporada Altal, annual public encounters and trainings are also organized for artists, teachers and practitioners outside the project who are interested in learning from the experiences of the “Planters” and other related initiatives.

Results

Since its establishment in 2014, the “Planters” project has engaged with more than 900 students from disadvantaged backgrounds from 10 primary and 4 secondary schools in five cities in the province of Girona characterised by high levels of immigrant populations, namely Salt, Figueres, Torroella de Montgrí, L’Escala and Sant Feliu de Guíxol. It has provided each of the participating students with 35 hours of professional arts education per year, enabled them to visit seven thearte, dance and music performances and facilitated the organization of all student performances at local cultural centers and facilities. In addition, it has enhanced the capacities of ca. 25 educators and 10 artists to harness the potential of arts education to contribute to individual, institutional and social transformation by organizing 12 one-day-long trainings and enabling each of the participating teachers and artists to benefit from an extra 32 hours of collaborative work per year with their counterpart in the teacher-artist tandems promoted by the project. (Video with the results of 1st cycle)  

Impact

An impact evaluation was carried out at the beginning and upon the end of the first two-year cycle of the project and found a notable improvement in the academic records of students who participated in the project compared to students who did not. On average, the academic records of 36% of the students from schools that participated improved during the timeframe of the project relative to 24% in a control group. (ConArte Internacional, 2017). This academic improvement is buttressed by:

   • A higher motivation for learning

   • Enhanced interpersonal and intercultural competencies

   • Stronger participation in the cultural lives of the respective communities

In addition, a growing number of teachers from the participating schools have got engaged in the project, thus contributing to an improvement of the overall learning environment in the partcipating schools and ensuring the sustainability of the project in the aftermath of the two-year educational cycle. At two of the participating schools, for example, school orchestras were established, which provide a possibility for children to continue to play in the aftermath of the project. Furthermore, a number of the participating schools have succcessfully undertaken other artistic projects independent from the “Planters” alongside with, or upon completion of the project. This is a clear indication that the “Planters” project, in addition to contributing to the improved academic performance and broader learning outcomes of the involved students directly, has catalyzed a sustainable educational transformation by stimulating interest and enhancing the capacities of the participating teachers and school administrations to continue to harness the potential of arts education for individual change but also for institutional and societal transformation.

Challenges and lessons learned

Difficulties with the development of pedagogical approaches for co-teaching large groups, logistical difficulties with the identification of appropriate venues for rehearsals and performances and discrepancies in the timetables of education and cultural institutions were among the notable challenges encountered in the course of the project implementation. However, institutionalized spaces for discussion, coordination and learning, such as the weekly planning meetings between artists and teachers, the regular working group meetings among the participating artists, educators and administrators, as well as the flexible, adaptive and pro-active management of the project have helped to overcome the major challenges and make the project a success.

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