Case: Our long journey. Yesterday, where did I come from?… Now where am I… Tomorrow where do I want to go? (Thessaloniki, Greece)

The Children’s Museum of Thessaloniki, established in 1997, overcame a devastating fire in 2009 to become an independent institution focused on providing an enriching environment for children. Collaborating with UNHCR, the museum developed a program titled “Our Great Journey,” aiming to foster connections and understanding among refugee and non-refugee children. Through engaging activities and games, the program facilitated a sense of comfort, acceptance, and friendship. The museum’s success demonstrated the significance of thoughtful design and inclusive approaches, accommodating diverse backgrounds and celebrating linguistic diversity. These efforts showcased the power of play and education in forging connections and promoting empathy.

Background

Established in 1997, the Children’s Museum of Thessaloniki found its home in the Toumba Cultural Centre, Thessaloniki. Unfortunately, in 2009, a devastating fire destroyed the building along with all the museum’s belongings. Undeterred, the museum’s dedicated team embarked on a new beginning, transforming it into an independent and autonomous institution. Founded by a group of educators, scholars, museum professionals, and cultural enthusiasts, its primary goal is to provide children with an environment that fosters creativity, skill development, knowledge acquisition, empathy, and appreciation for diversity. Through active participation in activities and educational programs, the museum aims to introduce children to various cultural forms, encourage an appreciation for heritage and contemporary art, and facilitate personal and social growth through the arts. While its exhibits primarily cater to children aged 4-12, the museum’s appeal extends to visitors of all ages. Built upon contemporary theories and pedagogical methods, the museum’s activities are unified by the universal language of play, which serves as a means of communication for people worldwide. The museum unveiled its first permanent exhibition in 2012, followed by the opening of a second permanent exhibition a year later.

Description

The Children’s Museum of Thessaloniki collaborated with UNHCR to develop an educational program aimed at providing a joyful experience for both refugee and non-refugee children. Titled Our Great Journey: Yesterday, Where Did I Come From… Now, Where Am I… Tomorrow, Where Do I Want to Go?, the program had several objectives. It sought to create a welcoming and inclusive environment within the museum, introduce children to the historical landmarks of Thessaloniki (including Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and modern sites), and foster their understanding of European countries and Greece through engaging games.
Impact
Through their involvement in the collaborative project, both the children and caregivers discovered that there are numerous shared experiences that bring us together rather than set us apart. The museum facilitated this understanding through informal education, recreational activities, and informative sessions for the children, as well as introductory activities for the adults. As a result, a significant first connection was forged between refugee children and adults and their counterparts from the local host communities. Notably, it was observed that the project’s group games, conducted in Greek or Arabic, and the various activities fostered a sense of comfort, acceptance, and friendship among both refugee and local children.

Relevance/usability

The carefully curated educational exercises played a vital role in fostering interaction and establishing meaningful connections between refugee children and their local peers. The program’s success highlighted the importance of thoughtful selection and design, demonstrating that similar positive outcomes can be achieved. Moreover, the program was tailored to accommodate the diverse backgrounds of the participants, taking into consideration their varying levels of familiarity with the topics covered. It also embraced and celebrated the linguistic diversity of the children and their parents, recognizing and appreciating the richness that different languages bring to the overall experience.

References

Contact information

Children’s Museum of Thessaloniki, paidikomouseio@gmail.com

Author

Rafaella Ntana, EKEDISY

 

Header Photo by David Ramírez on Unsplash