Raising awareness about and learning with intangible cultural heritage in European Schools

Incorporación del patrimonio cultural inmaterial en la educación escolar: Taller para los proyectos pilotos de equipos escolares | 26-29 de octubre de 2019 | Viena (Austria)
© UNESCO

This component of the joint UNESCO-EU project 2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage: Engaging youth for an inclusive and sustainable Europe proposes an innovative approach to school-based education by integrating intangible cultural heritage in lesson plans and extracurricular activities in schools. For this pilot edition, primary and secondary UNESCO Associated Schools (ASPnet) in the European Union are close partners in testing and promoting this new approach, contributing to the safeguarding of living heritage through education.


Global experiences have shown that teaching core subjects such as maths, science or literature by using the intangible cultural heritage background of learners can make the learning process more relevant, as it creates better connections between what is taught in classrooms and the children’s everyday life. It can also strengthen the links between schools, families and communities, reinforce relations between children, their parents and grandparents, stimulate students’ curiosity and promote the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage – all this while making learning more exciting and accessible.


In close collaboration with the ASPnet schools in the European Union, UNESCO will work with experts in intangible cultural heritage and educators, teachers and students, to develop guidance materials aimed at helping teachers to identify and map the living heritage present in their school communities and explore ways in which it could be integrated in lesson plans and extracurricular activities.

Within this pilot project, UNESCO will implement the following activities:

  1. A survey to collect existing experiences in integrating intangible cultural heritage in curricular or in extracurricular activities;
  2. 10 small innovative pilot projects that consist in learning more about intangible cultural heritage through different subjects such as history, mathematics, physics, or chemistry;
  3. Based on the survey results and the pilot projects, UNESCO will develop a set of guidance materials for schools on how to integrate intangible cultural heritage in school-based teaching and learning processes.

The project targets pupils of primary and secondary ASPnet schools aged 11-18 years old.

How can ASPnet National Coordinators get involved?

The ASPnet National Coordinators from the 28 Member States of the European Union are key for the successful implementation of this pilot project. Therefore, the project offers several ways for ASPnet National Coordinators to get involved:


1. Survey – Phase I
From August to November 2019, UNESCO will carry out a survey to identify existing work experiences related to intangible cultural heritage (ICH) in the ASPnet schools from the 28 Member States of the European Union. The survey was designed and implemented by a team of researchers led by the UNESCO Chair on Education, Citizenship and Cultural Diversity at the Lusófona University in Lisbon, Portugal. The results will be published by the end of March 2020.
The National ASPnet Coordinators can support these efforts by working with the project team to:

  • disseminate the survey to all the ASPnet schools in their country (with a translated version, if necessary);
  • assist the ASPnet schools in understanding and filling out the questionnaire; and
  • identify good experiences from the ASPnet schools to be shared.



2. Pilot Project – Phase II
Ten ASPnet school teams of one teacher and one learner have been selected to develop innovative pilot projects on integrating ICH in school-based education. The schools were identified with the help of the National ASPnet Coordinators, based on their interest and previous experiences in integrating intangible cultural heritage in education.
The 10 selected school teams will participate in a training workshop on intangible cultural heritage and education, which will be held in Vienna, Austria, from 26 to 29 October 2019. During the workshop, the teams will develop ideas for small pilot projects that they will implement back home, with the support of two UNESCO trained facilitators. Once the pilot projects are implemented, all school teams will get together once again, in February 2020, to share their experiences and lessons learnt and make recommendations for the guidance materials.


3. Awareness Raising – Phase III
To assist schools in integrating intangible cultural heritage in existing curricular subjects or in extracurricular activities, we are developing a set of guidance materials, which will offer:

  • an introduction to intangible cultural heritage and education;
  • a step-by-step guide on how to integrate intangible cultural heritage to school-based learning activities;
  • examples of existing good practice projects, which were already implemented by ASPnet schools.

The ASPnet National Coordinators can be involved by:

  • translating these materials in their local languages and disseminating them widely;
  • using these materials to raise awareness among their ASPnet schools network and beyond;
  • organizing webinars or events to let teachers, school directors, and learners know about these resources; and
  • initiating innovative pilot projects themselves.


Frequently asked questions

What is the goal of this project?

The goal of this project is to promote teaching and learning with intangible cultural heritage (ICH) in schools in order to raise awareness about the importance of living heritage for communities and ensure its continued inter-generational transmission.


The project intends to integrate intangible cultural heritage in primary and secondary ASPnet schools so that both teaching and learning experiences in schools become more interesting and relevant for teachers and learners alike.
Additionally, the project also hopes to contribute to the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage in the European Union. As children are spending a significant part of their time in schools, many practices that are usually transmitted in family contexts are slowly disappearing. Education becomes one of the most efficient ways to transmit intangible cultural heritage knowledge and practices to younger generations.


On a larger scale, the project facilitates learning with ICH for peace and sustainable development, as also mentioned in the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular:

  • Goal 4.7: Ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development; and
  • Goal 11.4: Strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage.



By the end of its implementation period, the project is expected to:

  • help young people to better understand their past and the importance of heritage for their present and future;
  • increase the appreciation for the diversity of cultural heritage among young people;
  • foster quality education, facilitating access to heritage and contributing to heritage safeguarding and management and sustainable development;
  • empower and engage children and young people in safeguarding their cultural heritage.

What is Intangible Cultural Heritage or Living Heritage?

A very good description of intangible cultural heritage (ICH) can be found on UNESCO’s website. You can also explore the elements inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Is intangible cultural heritage relevant for this project only if it is inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity?

All intangible cultural heritage is relevant for this project, regardless of whether it is inscribed or not on any official list or register, or inventoried at a local, national or international level.

What kind of experiences of using ICH in education are we looking for?

There are many examples ranging from the use of traditional bells to explain the expansion of soundwaves in physics to the use of traditional sauerkraut preparation (fermented white cabbage traditionally produced in Central Europe) to demonstrate the scientific process of fermentation. Some that have already been brought to the attention of UNESCO are, for example, painting eggs for Easter using traditional decorating methods, using blueprint to dye T-shirts, or embroidery making. These practices could be used in arts and crafts lessons, but they could equally be integrated in chemistry, geometry, and maths.

What is the working language for this project?

The project is being implemented in the working languages of UNESCO, which are English and French, but for budget reasons some activities are implemented only in English. An effort is also being made to be attentive to multilingualism in Europe. Support and creative solutions are welcome to facilitate communication in different languages.

What is the timeline for this project?

The project is being implemented from January 2019 to March 2020.

What are the criteria for selecting the schools for the pilot projects? (See above)

The participating schools will be selected on the basis of their interest and previous experience in using intangible cultural heritage in school-based learning. With the guidance of the ASPnet National Coordinators, we will try to identify schools that have already demonstrated an interest in working with intangible cultural heritage to teach core curriculum subjects or that have integrated ICH practices in extracurricular activities. Given that the two working languages of the project are English and French, we will also look for teams of one teacher and one learner who have some command of English or French.

What should schools propose as pilot projects?

Schools can propose any activity where intangible cultural heritage is used for educational purposes. The projects could be linked to core subjects included in the school curriculum, or could be associated with extracurricular activities. For instance, schools could propose a project where they identify the living heritage practiced by students and teachers and their families and communities, and then analyse how it could be incorporated in learning activities in the school.

What should we expect from the survey?

The survey will be short and will aim to collect existing experiences of integrating intangible cultural heritage in ASPnet schools in the 28 Member States of the European Union. It will include closed and open questions that will permit respondents to describe how they integrate intangible cultural heritage in schools.

Where will we find the survey?

Once the survey is ready, the team of researchers will share the survey with the ASPnet National Coordinators, both online and as a word document to disseminate it among the ASPnet schools in the European Union.

Are only ASPnet schools supposed to respond to the survey or take part in the workshop?

We encourage all ASPnet National Coordinators in the 28 Member States of the European Union to reach out and involve their ASPnet schools network. However, while the project primarily targets the ASPnet community, schools beyond the ASPnet may also apply to participate in the October training workshop.

If I have questions about the project, whom should I contact?

For any question you may have regarding the project, please do not to hesitate to contact:

  • Ms Helena Drobná, Programme Specialist, Living Heritage Entity at H.Drobnaatunesco.org
  • Ms Ioana Tamas, Assistant Project Coordinator, Living Heritage Entity at IM.Tamasatunesco.org
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