As a result of a continuing urbanising trend all over Europe, rural areas are having difficulties maintaining livelihood in their towns (figures of EuroStat show that in 2050 around 75% of all people on this planet will live in urban areas). One of the reasons for this trend is that in general, urbanised areas offer better economic opportunities and entertainment to young families. Another important reason for this urbanising trend is the decline or absence of emotional attachment to the places people inhabit in rural areas. Where in the past people knew the histories of the place, danced folklore dances with folklore music, ate the typical gastronomic specialities, played typical local sports, spoke a local dialect, lived with the seasons and all that local nature offered during those seasons, now this so called place attachment seems to get lost among young people. As a result of this absence of emotional attachment to the places people live in, rural populations don’t feel connected to their area and lose their sense of ‘place identity’ and pride of their unique local culture. Scientific research has shown that this loss of place attachment and place identity results in lower degrees of active citizenship on a local level, that well established place identity fosters better mental health and that strong place identity results in more ecologically sound behaviour. (for an overview see: Oxford Handbook of Environmental and Conservation Psychology, 2012, Ch. 9 by Korpela).
From the experiences of all involved partners we know that local authorities and schools have difficulties in finding a solution to these observed trends of urbanisation, lack of place attachment and active citizenship on a local level. Taking into consideration that this trend seems to continue (Eurostat figures) there is a need among the involved partners and more broadly amongst schools, societies and authorities in Europe’s rural areas.
2018 is the year of cultural heritage in the European Union and with this project we have taken this as an opportunity to co-create an innovative curriculum for secondary schools and local communities in rural areas to promote place attachment and foster pride of place. Cultural education at schools is nowadays mainly taught on a national and European level and with our project we will rekindle the importance of education of local cultural heritage which fosters place attachment, social & place identity and eventually a pride of place. Cultural heritage starts at a local level and that’s where we find pride of who we are and who we belong to from a local to international level.