Fare Scuola takes hold in Milan
Change starts from schools up and simply changing the interior and exterior structures of a school can be a powerful driver of ideas, creativity and the values of inclusion, mutual respect and tolerance.
This was the spirit behind the official opening of the new spaces at the Fabio Filzi primary school in Milan on 25 October. The complex in the city’s Corvetto district is actually an old barracks that was turned into a school in the 1920s. However, after the renovation of the new spaces, its interior at least is unrecognisable with many visitors convinced it is newly built. A fresh, colourful, playful space with a bright new atrium bristling with light-centred installations as well as an ultramodern workshop designed to encourage a sense of teamwork among pupils and, as a result, cultural exchange and an attitude of openness and integration: factors of particular importance in a multi-ethnic district on the city’s outskirts.
Through the Fare Scuola project, Enel Cuore is putting the heart into education
The project is the result of a partnership between Enel Cuore Onlus and the Reggio Children – Centro Loris Malaguzzi Foundation. Fare Scuola, which was launched three years ago, to date has completely transformed 58 primary and preschool establishments across Italy, thanks to the imaginative work of the 32 architects involved. The ultimate aim is to up that number to 75 schools. The project has involved almost 180 teachers and school officials as well as over 10,000 children in a programme designed to boost their creative potential with solidarity, sustainability and resilience as guiding principles. Beauty and aesthetic harmony are factors too.
“Schools have a duty to be beautiful, to be places where pupils and teachers want to go every morning. ”
– Carla Rinaldi, President of Reggio Children
Regenerating spaces to open minds
On a practical level, these regeneration projects, which have been financed to the tune of around five million euros, have created new spaces, teaching labs, winter gardens and redesigned courtyards and atriums. In other words, they have brought beauty, which Dostoevsky maintained “will save the world,” into the schools themselves. Most importantly of all, however, they have brought together pupils, teachers, families and expert educators to work as a team to devise new learning pathways after listening to the needs of the children. The aim was, of course, to make school a sort of second home for local communities, and a place in which children can experiment and build for their future.
“School is a precious place that we have to start investing in again,” declared Enel and Enel Cuore Chairman Patrizia Grieco at the official opening ceremony, which was also attended by Reggio Children President Carla Rinaldi, Cariplo Foundation President Giuseppe Guzzetti and Milan City Councillor for Social Policies Pierfrancesco Majorino.
“Schools shape the human and social fabric of neighbourhoods, cities and thus nations: it is only by investing in the culture and education of its youngest citizens that a nation can build a future for itself”
– Patrizia Grieco, Enel and Enel Cuore Chairman
This vision explains the significance of a project of the likes of Fare Scuola, which is the brainchild of two institutions that are “very different,” as Grieco was keen to emphasise, “yet also very similar in terms of their mission and vision of fostering school spaces as places of life, creativity and culture.”
Both Enel Cuore and Reggio Children are adamant that a model as significant as Fare Scuola “should continue to run rather than come to an end.” Grieco maintains, in fact, that Fare Scuola can teach us how to create modestly-priced, well-designed targeted actions that can “yield major benefits by setting in motion a virtuous path of innovation and change” that in turn will create a model that will act as a touchstone for others.
School as a driver of change
Outlining the many positives of the project, the head teacher of the Filzi school, Domenico Balbi, pointed out that the benefits could be felt even before the official launch. “This is a problem school in a difficult area. Almost all of our pupils are foreigners or from the Roma ethnic group and that has resulted in the school becoming gradually ghettoised by Italians to the extent that its very survival was under threat. Three years ago, we ran the risk of not even having enough pupils to form a Year One class. But once work began, we realised that people’s perceptions had changed and now Italian parents no longer want to put their children in a different school. Our goal for next year is to have two Year One classes and we know we’ll be able to do that.”
“Our vision,” declared Patrizia Grieco, “puts schools at the centre of each area and the educational community, and encourages them to grow and evolve through openness and ongoing dialogue between all the stakeholders. This is the only way we can genuinely meet the educational needs of our children - by making them real protagonists in the change we wish to bring about.”
A declaration that mirrors Gandhi’s inspiring call to be the change we want to see in the world.