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The Youth Vote For Democracy - Ivana Opačak & Gabriela Ciolpan

Gabriela Ciolpan (an English language teacher from Lazar Edeleanu Technological High School in Năvodari, Romania) and Ivana Opačak (a Croatian and English language teacher from the Secondary School of Economics in Slavonski Brod, Croatia) are the founders of the eTwinning project Vote4Democracy Ambassadors. They have coordinated the project in 2023/2024 in collaboration with European Parliament Ambassador Schools from Greece, Spain, Bulgaria, Romania, and Croatia. The project is aimed at strengthening European civic literacy and activism – encouraging (not only) young people to participate in the European Parliament Elections (in June 2024).

The eTwinning project Vote4Democracy Ambassadors is currently in the dissemination and evaluation phase, and its highlight was the joint celebration of Europe/eTwinning Day (and European democracy) among partner schools at the MarEUForum Festival in Navodari, Romania (9-10 May 2024). The program of the event, with a chronological list of lectures and workshops, as well as working materials, is available HERE.

During the two-day festival in Romania, the results of the international eTwinning collaboration and the social media campaign Let the Rural Be the New Democracy were presented. From March to May 2024, students from Greece, Bulgaria, Spain, Romania, and Croatia worked in mixed/international teams on seven different project tasks as part of the mentioned campaign. The aim of the campaign, whose content and name were proposed by junior ambassadors of the partner schools, was to encourage (not only) young people from (not only) rural areas to consider the benefits of EU membership (especially for rural areas), and to emphasize the importance of democratic literacy and participation in the European parliamentary elections on June 9, 2024.

The final eTwinning products were premiered at the festival. An interactive dissemination poster, which brings together all mixed teams' collaborative activities and results, is available HERE. The digital comic book Ricardo, a Young Villager Travels to Democracy, whose content and Canva design were created by three students from the organizing schools (under the guidance of teachers Ciolpan and Opačak), is available HERE; the coordinating schools also printed physical copies of the comic. Students created the comic based on ideas from all project participants, using artificial intelligence tools (Copilot); additionally, they created a trailer inviting young people (from rural areas) to participate in the June 2024 elections. 

In March 2024 the two coordinating schools, along with another Croatian school (High School Konjščina), launched the international project DemokraciJA na djelu/Me&Democracy in order to encourage young people to reflect on democracy, and get engaged in conversations with their peers and the elderly about democracy (and non-democracy), the benefits of the EU membership and their personal plans to vote in 2024. The assigned languages were mother tongues (to ensure spontaneous and comprehensive expression of viewpoints) and English (to make the project work understandable to all partners). The project activities were registered as a public event during the European Youth Week (April 12–19, 2024) on the European Youth Portal.

Another Romanian school (Colegiul Mihai Viteazul, Ineu) and four Croatian schools (from Našice, Zabok, Pakrac and Split) decided to join the collaborative project. The students’ audiovisual and textual records, as well as their comics, were displayed on THIS Padlet wall (including sections for each school) and THIS Sutori collection, curated by the coordinating teachers. It is a valuable treasury of beautiful thoughts on the importance of unity in cultural diversity, intergenerational tolerance, the significance of democracy, active citizenship, friendship through collaboration. Through peer-to-peer and intergenerational dialogues, as well as collaboration on digital platforms, the students not only strengthened their language skills, but also achieved various interdisciplinary outcomes related to Civic Education, Sustainable Development, Personal and Social Development, Entrepreneurship, Learning How to Learn, ICT Usage and Health.

Two teachers from Croatia – Ivana Opačak and Marija Brkić – organized a Zoom meeting on April 25, 2024., which was registered as a hybrid public event Youth, Media, and Democracy within the national Croatian manifestation Media Literacy Days 2024 (Online Event Mladi, mediji i demokracija). The event was organized in collaboration with partner schools from Croatia with the purpose of disseminating Me&Democracy project results (Padlet & Sutori collections and the official project trailer/video summary) at the national level, as well as highlighting the interdependence of topics related to youth, media, democracy, and (media) literacy. Digital (Sutori and Padlet) collections were also showcased at the MarEUForum Festival in Navodari, Romania.

During the MarEUForum festival, a creative workshop called I Vote 4… was organized, along with a mobile live exhibition in the center of Năvodari. European Parliament ambassadors created personalized stars to promote personal and European values, encouraging fellow citizens to vote in the European parliamentary elections on June 9, 2024. They also recorded a video explaining why they choose specific values. It was wonderful to see young people engaging in their local community and contributing to strengthening democracy, European identity, and celebrating Europe Day and eTwinning Day. It was wonderful to see how EPAS and eTwinning truly connect people.

Authors: Ivana Opačak & Gabriela Ciolpan

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