New Road Association
Red Paper Plane Foundation
Red Paper Plane Foundation is a registered nonprofit, aimed at finding novel solutions in areas such as education, quality of life, social innovation and sustainability.
In a region infamous for apathy, social incoherence and lack of opportunity, we see the enormous untapped potential of young children in their formative years. With real-life monthly design challenges co-created with us, teachers, parents and knowledge experts, these young community members will find out that each problem has a solution and each one of us is crucial to discovering it. Our aim is to create true educational experiences where they matter most, by using design thinking and PBL.
The Northwestern region of Bulgaria.
In the small and colourful villages of Northeastern Bulgaria diversity, living together and being together is often a problem. That’s why many choose to leave at the first possible opportunity. The only way to tackle this is to find ways not simply to somehow co-exist in our current environment, but to be able to co-create and co-change it. Contrary to popular opinion, this does not happen when people get old enough to vote. It happens in the first formative years of their lives, when for many people in our communities children are simply “left somewhere to play” (increasingly on digital devices, a danger even more present in poorer communities). Play is key, but when it enables kids to solve interesting problems together and leads to developing the ever-famous 21st century skills.
Each child is a promise and hope for the community - and the world! Our responsibility is to develop these youngsters from an early age into confident citizens that are prosocial in their relationships, positive in their actions and with a gaze firmly pointed towards possibilities, rather than restricted by the limitations of the environment.
Play provides children with the best possible opportunity to learn how things work and test their abilities. This is the moment to transform their notions of “together” and “different” and give them the tools and techniques to co-create solutions together - while also having fun in the process. Using design thinking, we will also enable teachers to foster a different set of values in the educational process and engage parents and the community.
We aim to engage 25 preschool and primary school teachers from Northwestern Bulgaria, who will teach around 500 children aged 5-10 in the new school year. In addition, we will work with around 1000 parents, a dozen community experts on the themes we will co-create with the kids, as well as experts and professionals all over the country providing diverse guidance and feedback.
Many papers and research works focused on Bulgaria, the region or the various ethnic groups comprising our communities point to the need for inclusion and participation as early as possible. Oftentimes this remains only wishful thinking on paper and does not lead to any concrete action. This is why we will engage directly with the key stakeholders, enabling us to create a true learning experience with many viewpoints
1. Co-creating the themes of the design challenges together with the teachers. These will be done in interations to gather feedback and improve the work done so far.
2. Running an onboarding course for all teachers and teacher assistants. Educational institutions will receive materials for prototyping and testing, as well as materials to create thematic libraries.
3. Each month in the school year teachers run one design challenge with the children, together with online personal coaching sessions to assess progress and develop good practices.
4. We continue developing the rest of the design challenges while connecting the teachers in a network.
5. Co-creating and gathering feedback from all stakeholders and a final masterclass to develop a toolkit for teachers to use in the future.
From the outset we will determine qualitative and quantitative indicators to measure the success of the project - and child development in particular. The key factor will be to determine the level of positive change in the skills and attitudes of children. We will focus on empathy, teamwork, co-creation, problem solving, confidence, patience and concentration, presentation and communication. When it comes to teachers, we will measure their abilities to create design challenges and their mindset of going beyond classical education and into skills development and project-based learning. We will also measure parent involvement in the challenges. These three key groups - children, teachers and parents will provide clear indication about the direction of the project and its success.
Democracy in Europe should start long before a person is eligible to vote or has a grasp of the political systems in their own country or throughout the continent. Living a democratic life starts early on - it’s about respect for others, learning to communicate and cooperate with them, juggling with contradictory information and opinions or being able to participate actively in smaller or bigger decisions that concern you. This mindset is reinforced by engaging young kids in challenges that matter to them and help them achieve something on their own terms. Crafting these challenges, co-creating them in practice and learning from them brings democracy much, much closer to our everyday lives.
Our region is facing many issues and challenges. In order to have long-term impact, though, there is one that stands above all the others - early childhood education and development. Investing in these formative years yields long-term benefits - but only if we do it the right way. It’s not enough to simply spend time and resources. We need the best possible methodologies (such as design thinking) in combination with the best ways to educate (like project-based learning) aimed at a worthy goal - enabling key 21-st century skills. This is a recipe for success - and it should not be accessible only in the best schools in the country, Europe or around the world. We believe we have found a way to make it work right here, right now - in our region, in 2020.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
Personnel costs for running the project: 19,000 EUR
Masterclass design and organisation (travel & accommodation for all teachers): 7,500 EUR
Makerspaces and materials for all classes: 10,000 EUR
Marketing (posts, videos, short films, photo galleries, social media promotion): 7,500 EUR
Coordination, operation and community relationships: 6,000 EUR
We would like to know what other organizations or networks like about the idea and what could we do better.