‘Education isn’t the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire’ (W.B. Yeats)

If you are wondering how you can teach about active European citizenship, BFGTOEU is the programme for you. It provides all the background videos (under 5 minute each), detailed lesson plans, lesson slides and knowledge quizzes that you might need to get the children to think analytically about the European Union and Ireland’s role in it. This is not a pro-EU programme. It’s a programme to develop analytical skills and critical thinking towards active European citizenship.

The programme is the result of a collaboration between a primary teacher and a college lecturer – it combines the best pedagogical tools with the most recent academic debates made engaging and hands-on for the classroom.

It focuses on getting children of all ages to develop three types of skills essential in every walk of life and as an active citizen:

  • Critical thinking skills: This is not a pro-European programme. Through innovative tasks, we get the children to go beyond their immediate conclusion and look at questions from different points of view.
  • Media literacy skills: We get children to look at conflicting sources of information and make the difference between sources delivering opinions and facts.
  • Deliberative skills: These skills include perspective taking and empathy, self-reflection on bias, tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity, listening and question-asking skills. Children learn how to listen to somebody they disagree with and respect their opinion. E.g.: Brexit, migration crisis

Very soon, students of all ages and backgrounds become aware of the various levels of government. They start discussing the European club of which they are citizens!

Teachers' feedback on BFGTOEU

Just a note to say that we, here in Senior Infants in Claregalway Educate Together N.S., thoroughly enjoyed the BFGTOEU programme. From a teaching point of view, it was very accessible and well laid out. I watched your information videos before each of the four lessons and these two minute videos gave me an overview of what the lesson would entail. The powerpoints for the class were simple and straightforward. The tasks were very enjoyable. The children particularly enjoyed making  EU smoothies to show how interwoven the countries of the EU are! We also built towers in groups to show the importance of teamwork.

The feedback from parents has been very positive. Many parents were very impressed with the children’s ability to discuss the EU as a club, the importance of teamwork, the meaning behind the stars on the EU flag (despite there being 27 countries!) and details such as the least and greatest populated EU countries. We have spent one month teaching this topic through Aistear where we painted the EU flag (mixing primary colours to create navy), studied maps of the world to find EU countries, played shop with our Euro (which integrated well with Maths), talked about the EU countries where some of our pupils were born/parents were born and drew flags of EU countries using an atlas.

Many thanks again for all your support throughout. You replied promptly to any queries via email, which I am sure isn’t an easy task! We are really looking forward to receiving our plaque on 18th June and have planned our EU party for the week!

Helen Fahy, Senior Infants, Claregalway ETNS

“Remember the EU is worth celebrating”

by Lise Hand, 11 May 2019
Extracts from an article in the Sunday Times Ireland

“Schuman Day didn’t go entirely unmarked in Ireland. On RTÉ Radio 1’s Drivetime there was a charming item on an EU-themed quiz in Kilmurry national school in Co Cork. Emmanuelle Schon-Quinlivan, a politics lecturer at University College Cork and author of the educational programme “My Big Friendly Guide to the European Union”, was putting the 3rd and 4th year children through their paces.

The EU, reckoned the pupils, is “fun” and “made for peace”. They learnt about stuff such as the single market and how growth hormones were banned from the food chain.

“They need to figure out for themselves and think critically about what it means to be part of the club,” Schon-Quinlivan said. “This is not at all about selling the European Union to the children; it’s getting them to reflect on what are the advantages and disadvantages of being part of a club, about being a smaller member.”

Chances are that the boys and girls of Kilmurry national school are considerably more clued-in than many of their fellow citizens who are eligible to vote in the European elections at the end of this month.   […]

Every time anyone demands to know, Life of Brian-style, “what has the EU ever done for us?”, they should be presented with its equivalent of the Romans’ contribution to sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, fresh water systems and public health. And, of course, peace.

Then they should be enrolled into a course of “My Big Friendly Guide to the European Union”, whereupon they can give some actual thought to what they like and don’t like about the EU, and what elements of it they want to change or embrace.

Until such a miracle is wrought, the least everyone can do is go and vote on May 24.”