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Topic 5

EU values and active citizenship



Human beings tend to perceive themselves as part of a group: a strong feeling of common belonging is necessary to feel accepted and not seen as the “other”. Explaining fundamental values and rights, showing the real opportunities available, expanding one’s curiosity and open-mindedness, promoting diversity, are important steps for empowerment. Showing students that they all share the same right to participate can help reduce the impact of concepts of sameness and difference towards full inclusion¹. The EU makes continuous efforts to strengthen awareness of citizens’ own rights and duties and ensure inclusion and participation to its democratic life. 

Discussing Citizenship requires a high sensibility, as not everyone may be legally endowed to be defined as citizen. For this reason, we propose to talk about citizenship from the perspective of multiple senses of belonging. Increasing our senses of belonging thanks to new interactions, we will become aware of the complexity of our identity, not only as something distinguishing us from others but also as an element implying a certain openness to others².

Being a dynamic concept, educating about citizenship and active participation is not as easy as it may seem. Recently, the term “digital citizenship” has become more and more common, posing the additional responsibility to make youngsters able to act in the digital world in a safe and responsible manner³.


1  SALTO-YOUTH. (2008). ID Booklet - IDeas for Inclusion and Diversity. SALTO-YOUTH:

2 Bortini, P., & García López, M. (2017, 12). T-Kit 7. European Citizenship in youth work. Council of Europe:

Council of Europe. (n.d.). Digital Citizenship and Digital Citizenship Education. Council of Europe:,the%20responsible%20use%20of%20technology


Watch the video to learn more about Topic 5 contents.

Participation and active citizenship is about having the right, the means, the space and the opportunity and where necessary the support to participate in and influence decisions and engage in actions and activities so as to contribute to building a better society⁴.

Active citizenship implies the development of a shared conceptual framework, which does not only depend on the knowledge of history, laws, language, culture. It also includes ethical competences, i.e., affective and emotional values which are essential for social interaction and that can be summarised in three main elements: freedom, equality and solidarity. Another level of competences relates to social skills, i.e., such as communication, teamwork, negotiation and conflict management.

It could be argued that active citizenship is all about balancing rights and responsibilities⁵, an important societal glue and an effective means to promote migrants’ inclusion.

Teachers have a great potential to foster democratic spirit and active citizenship of their students since an early age. For instance, in kindergarten, pupils start to experience the power of free choice, even though it only regards which toy to play with. They will discover what it means interacting with others along a gradual growth from the respect of new rules to their involvement in organisations or clubs.

Considering the complexity to educate on EU values and active citizenship, “learning by playing” is suggested as a powerful approach. For this reason, we describe the example of Game for EuroMed - GEM board game. GEM and its upscaled version GEM-IN use non-formal educational methodologies to foster intercultural citizenship and enhance the acquisition of social and civic competences by young people as a vehicle to foster social inclusion, cross-cultural dialogue, active citizenship and promote European Values.


The two projects’ central methodology is further upscaled here by identifying different activities, especially focused on role-play, tailored to multicultural environments and to the inclusion of recently arrived migrants. Moreover, attention is paid to the digital dimension, being aware of its centrality in current societies. 

Thus, at the end of this topic, you will be able to self-assess the level of knowledge and competences acquired in active citizenship and EU common values by answering the questions in “Check your knowledge!”.


4 Council of Europe (2015). Revised European Charter on the Participation of Young People in Local and Regional Life. CoE:,The%20Revised%20European%20Charter%20on%20the%20Participation%20of%20Young%20People,exercise%20their%20right%20to%20democratic

5 EESC. (2012). Active citizenship. For a Better European society. EESC:


Specific objectives


  • To minimize the cultural gap and facilitate social interactions, by raising awareness and understanding of common European values and cultural conventions

  • To strengthen active citizenship in Europe

  • To acquire enhanced competences and knowledge on how to support students on questions related to European values and active citizenship


  • To learn more about EU common values and cultural conventions

  • To develop a sense of common belonging to the classroom and build real bonds with the community 

  • To discover new opportunities for active participation in the host country society

Objectives / Outcome

Learning outcomes


  • Use learning by playing and other non-formal educational methods to foster active citizenship

  • Show the importance of specific values and skills to feel effectively included in a society 

  • Contribute to intercultural learning environments through engaging solutions, able to foster collaboration and interpersonal connections


  • Recognise and respect EU common values 

  • Practice cross-cultural dialogue and active citizenship while learning by playing

  • Develop a common sense of belonging, based on greater awareness of own rights and duties, on the development of a shared conceptual framework, and on stronger affective, emotional and social skills

Good practice


GEM – Game for EuroMed (2016-2017) was initiated by the Anna Lindh Foundation with the aim to deconstruct stereotypes and enhance education for intercultural citizenship and mutual understanding through playing. GEM was implemented by four organisations from both shores of the Mediterranean Sea: Italy - CESIE; France - ADICE; Palestine JUHOUD; Egypt WASEELA.  

The project used the pedagogical approach of “learning by playing”, which has been recognised by many pedagogists and educators for its numerous benefits on education, as: “it allows people to make mistakes and to invent” (D. Poggi), “the learning is effortless” (G. Bienati), “a balance between rules and creation” (J. Redeghieri)⁶. 


This approach enriches education with a sense of challenge and enjoyment, thus making it lighter, and increases students’ willingness to learn, fostering their curiosity. Play is both universal and culture-specific, due to its close link to different beliefs, values and practices, thus can influence and reflect the way people from different cultures learn. 


GEM board game gives players the opportunity to "travel" in order to learn about the culture, history, cuisine and recent happenings of the Egyptian, French, Italian and Palestinian people. Participants have to answer several questions and overcome some trials such as drawing/mimic, with the help of their peers.

The development of GEM board game took inspiration from a catalogue of 11 good practices, collected by the partnership to show the use of games and game-based activities to foster intercultural learning. 

GEM board game was tested by more than 160 youngsters (14-20 years old) in partners’ countries and obtained a very positive evaluation⁷. The project was also selected among the tools and resources presented at the 5th edition (8-12 Oct 2018), of the Italian Toolfair promoted by the Agenzia Nazionale Giovani – ANG⁸. 

Thus, GEM board game offers an innovative tool to stimulate creativity and collaboration in the learning environment⁹, and has been further developed by Erasmus+ KA3 project GEM IN “Game to EMbrace INtercultural education” (2020-2022). Through the use of such non-formal methodologies as learning by playing, peer to peer, learning by doing, creative thinking, GEM IN aims to support intercultural education at school and in non-formal youth environments by enhancing the acquisition of social and civic competences for better social inclusion, cross-cultural dialogue, active citizenship and to promote European values.


6 CESIE (2017). Trivial Pursuit, Dixit…only games? Check the GEM Catalogue! CESIE:

7 CESIE (2017). GEM: you can find out more about a person in an hour of playing than in one year of conversation. CESIE:

8 During the Toolfair, representatives from different European countries present good practices implemented in the educational field.

9 CESIE (2018). The GEM board game selected as innovative educational tool for the Toolfair in Turin. CESIE:

Good Practice



Hence, taking inspiration from the examples of GEM and GEM IN projects, we further upscale the pedagogical approach of “learning by playing”, focusing on the need to support newly arrived migrants to learn EU common values and discover new opportunities for active citizenship. 

Therefore, we propose different activities that can be easily adapted to various contexts and learning needs, paying attention to the digital dimension and the improvement of linguistic competences. We especially focus on role-play, as it is a powerful method to boost empathy among students and facilitate the learning process through first-hand experience.


Before getting started with the activities, let’s reflect on the main features for proper implementation of the “learning by playing” approach.

The concept of learning by playing is strictly interrelated with J. Dewey’s pedagogical approach of “learning by doing”, which recognises a central, active role of the learner.

Play contribute to¹⁰:

Developing social skills, emotional competences

Strengthening motivation and ongoing engagement

Respecting individual autonomy, values and strengths

Recognising agency, independence

Enhancing creative thinking, problem solving skills

Fostering empathy by experiencing the situations lived by others

Improving focus, perseverance

Reducing stress and anxiety

Increasing the predisposition to memorise and internalise what is learnt

Yet, play can also become “serious”: serious games are a teaching methodology used to deal with such sensitive issues as bullying, migration, wars, stimulating reflection on concepts of integration and inclusion, while strengthening creativity, collaboration and critical thinking¹¹.

As a teacher/ educator, you can contribute to increasing the efficacy of learning during play, by:

  • Being part of the game, proposing a balance of different activities and acting as a moderator

  • Observing carefully your students, discovering more about their interests, abilities and strengths

  • Listening, repeating and asking questions at the right time 

  • Creating a friendly, non-judgemental environment, where each student can try new ideas and make mistakes

  • Stimulating the exchange and cooperation between students


10 GEM IN. Guide on methodological approach:

11 Save the Children (2020). Game based learning, gamification e didattica: cosa sono.: Save the Children:


Check your knowledge!

Assessment tool ★5

References and Useful Links:  

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