Studies on knowledge and civic attitudes show that Polish youth have rich historical and notional knowledge. However, we have concluded based on our own observations that practical knowledge and activities directly involved with defending basic human rights, participating in civic protests, or grassroots initiatives were rarely perceived by Polish teenagers as characteristics of a good citizen.
Lubelskie Voivodeship has one of the lowest levels of civic engagement among youth. Our conversations with school authorities and students from middle schools and above in Lubelskie Voivodeship showed that there exists a significant need to engage youth in civic activities, as well as to familiarize them with local traditions and help develop their local identity.
We have responded to those needs by engaging students and their teachers from 10 schools and small towns in Lubelskie Voivodeship. We have organized workshops for 20 teachers focused on motivating the youth into civic engagement, organizing local events, and methods of preserving regional traditions.
We have also conducted workshops for students focused on working with their local communities and grassroots organizing. Students participated in a competition for the best photography or short video promoting the region. With the shools’ suport, students from 10 selected small towns implemented local initiatives focused on preserving traditions, followed by “Local Homeland” day at each school where the work was shared and displayed.
To complete the project, we have organized a conference in Lublin. All the participants were invited and had an opportunity to share their work, present it to other participating schools, NGOs, and representatives of the board of education and get to know each other. We have also published a pamphlet with all the ideas and initiatives presented by the participating youth on how to preserve local traditions, along with class scripts for teachers.
During teachers’ workshops we asked our participants to fill out surveys. Results show that all the teachers involved believe they have expanded their knowledge on extracurricular civics. Similar attitudes were noted among students, who claimed they have learned a lot about preserving their local traditions.