Come to my house is run with students aged 15 (last year of compulsory education) and families in the town, who welcome a student to their home. Students share a day with the family, who have a different origin from their own, to learn about other lifestyles, forms of communication, language, relationships, etc.
This project on intercultural awareness takes advantage of the wealth of origins in the school's classrooms to promote mutual understanding between students and families in the town. Its objectives are:
1) To aid relationships between families in the town and the school's students.
2) To encourage families to value their own culture and share it with other families and/or their children's school friends.
3) To strengthen young people's knowledge of other cultures.
4) To encourage the value of tolerance among young people.
5) To develop young people's ability to adapt to new situations.
6) To learn habits of teamwork, research, synthesis and expression of content.
Catalonia. Baix Empordà. Municipality of Castell-Platja d'Aro (coastal town located in a very touristy environment).
Young people, families and the adult population of the town.
Regidoria de Benestar Social (Welfare Department - government department responsible for the welfare of individuals and families) of the Ajuntament (Town Council) of Castell Platja d'Aro and Ridaura secondary school (offering compulsory education for 12 to 16 year-olds, and high school diploma for 16 to 18 year-olds).
For the last quarter of the 20th century, the economic driving force of Castell-Platja d'Aro has been the tourism sector, as well as the other traditional economic sectors of any seaside community. This growth in the tourism sector explains the arrival here in recent years of waves of immigrants, first from the rest of Spain and later from non-EU (European Union) countries. The municipality is also an area of residential settlement for other EU nationals with high spending power, for whom the employment market is not a priority.
The population of Castell-Platja d'Aro (2006 municipal census) is 9,679, of whom 28.86% are of foreign origin. Of these, three large groups stand out: a) those from North Africa, representing 25.48% of foreigners; most come from Morocco. b) The second group, 25.29%, comes from the European Union, and c) the third, representing 24.22%, from Latin America.
In this context, the school has a great diversity of languages and cultures, the most important being those of Morocco and Latin America. In the face of this social and cultural reality, action was needed to improve mutual understanding between students. This led to the Come to my house project, promoted by Ridaura secondary school, where lessons are taught in Catalan.
One of the general objectives of Compulsory Secondary Education (from the ages of 12 to 16) is To relate with other people and take part in group activities, adopt attitudes of flexibility, solidarity, interest and tolerance, overcome inhibitions and prejudices, and reject all kinds of discrimination on grounds of age, race, sex and physical, psychological, social and other differences. In Catalonia, coexistence between different cultures is relatively recent, and knowledge strategies from all fields must be developed. Both the town council's Àrea de l'Integració Social (Social Integration Area - department responsible for policies on the integration of its citizens) and the professionals (teachers, head teachers, educationalists, psychologists etc.) at Ridaura secondary school felt they should apply this objective to the student's most immediate reality. This was based on the belief that best learning is achieved in the first person, fostering values of coexistence, tolerance and respect for cultural diversity from individual experience, to break down stereotypes on the different cultures that coexist with our own.
Come to my house is a project on intercultural awareness that takes advantage of the wealth of origins in the classroom to promote mutual understanding between students at the school and families in the town. The project began in early 2003, and was held during the last term of 2003/2004. The experience was also repeated during 2004/05.
The project is run with the students of the 4th year of ESO (compulsory secondary education) at Ridaura secondary school and families in the town who are willing to invite students to spend a day in their home.
The project is based on the following considerations: a) Cultural diversity is an opportunity; b) Culture must be dynamic and must adapt to changes in society; c) In Catalonia, the phenomenon of interculturality is relatively recent; d) Knowledge and coexistence strategies must be developed; e) The best learning is that which people gain through personal experience; f) Community resources must be strengthened by exploring and making progress in social cohesion. Based on these statements, the project's main aim is to encourage interrelationship and mutual understanding between people from different origins, while fostering values of tolerance and mutual respect in young people.
The project is divided into the following phases.
1st phase: theoretical introduction (intercultural education in the classroom). In social science classes students are provided with intercultural education content.
2nd phase: planning practical experience. When students have acquired some knowledge about interculturality, they are offered the option of coming into direct contact with people from other cultures, to further explore the content worked on in the classroom. At this point they are offered the chance of spending a day with a family from a different culture, to get to know them in person.
3rd phase: organisation of the stay. Firstly, local families are found willing to welcome students from a different cultural origin and the project is explained to them. Secondly, pairs are made up among the young people volunteering to take part, and they are assigned a family by drawing lots. Thirdly, information research groups are formed with a pair of students. This allows prior research on the culture of origin and language of the host family, defining the objectives of the day, and exploring personal expectations. The young people make a video where they set out their expectations of the experience.
4th phase: stay with the family. Each student spends a day with a host family and has a camera to make a report on the stay.
5th phase: evaluation, conclusions and diffusion.
The resources required to carry out the activity are mainly human: the project team coordinator, the host families and the young people. Even so, certain material must be available for the supporting activities (photographic and video cameras, material for dossiers, etc.).
The experience has been very positive because: a) it has enabled students to get to know other cultural realities in the town; b) host families have positively valued the young people's stays in their homes, and c) this real-life experience has allowed classroom work on values that would otherwise only be theoretical, and therefore much more tangible results were achieved.
The project's evaluation indicators are: 1. evaluation by host families and students; 2. possible existence of adaptation and behavioural problems, and 3. effectiveness in preparing products and evaluation of their quality. At the end of the experience, it was evident that the young people who had participated had more knowledge of other social and cultural realities, and were more respectful and tolerant towards these realities. The impact of the activity with young people in the classroom who had not participated in person (forming part of the information research group or class students who have not spent time with a host family) is more difficult to evaluate, and this should also be analysed in the long term.
The experience has also been recognised at conferences and in the media; specifically being presented at the Baix Empordà Best Practices Conference, and featured in the Televisió de Catalunya programme Tot un món (A Whole World - programme on immigration broadcast by the Catalan television channel). The project has also proved its transferability, because it has already been run in other parts of Catalonia, specifically in the Ripollès area.
Come to my house has also involved a considerable number of people, with more than 100 individuals taking part.
To run the programme, the following aspects must be borne in mind: a) to take advantage of the resources to hand; b) to enable first-person experience of coexistence for young people; c) to set small, realistic and assessable objectives; d) to facilitate contexts that are appropriate for further learning.