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Annual Conference 2020 – Classrooms in action – addressing climate change with eTwinning

The eTwinning Annual Conference 2020 brought together (online) some of the most brilliant and enthusiastic teachers, policymakers and experts from all over Europe. They explored and reflected on the theme of climate change and its environmental challenges in education.

Many thanks to eTwinning and its community for its incredible resilience in this crisis. (Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth)

What do eTwinners do during a year full of adversities and difficulties? They persevere by continuing teaching their students, the adults of tomorrow, how to live sustainably and counteract climate change and other environmental challenges.

This year, the eTwinning Annual Conference was very different from what we expected. Due to the exceptional circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, there was no other choice than to transform the eTwinning Annual Conference into a fully online event.
The prelude of the Conference was dedicated to no other than the pioneer teachers who were awarded the eTwinning European prizes. During the European Prizes Ceremony on Thursday 22 October, almost 600 teachers from all over Europe connected live to celebrate 53 award winning teachers for their successful projects. The videos of the winning projects were premiered and the winning teachers were given the opportunity to interact with members of the European Commission on air.

  • The winning project: Busy Bugs in my Bag was awarded by Florence Mondin( Education, Audiovisual and Culture, Executive Agency) 
  • The winning project Wonderland  was awarded by Markus Rester (Directorate-General Education and Culture, European Commission) 
  • The winning project EU've got mail  was awarded by Sophie Beernaerts (Directorate-General Education and Culture, European Commission) 
  • And finally, the winning project Robo-code  was awarded by Michael Teutsch (Directorate-General Education and Culture, European Commission) 

All the videos are available below

The day after the ceremony, 23rd October 2020, the conference was officially opened by Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth.
Commissioner Gabriel talked about the importance of “joint efforts” in tackling global challenges such as climate change and Covid-19. The pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the education system, but the eTwinning community reacted promptly.

“We have learned a lot from it, including how important the sense of community really is. Since the beginning of the pandemic eTwinners have been better prepared to go online and more used to helping, inspiring and lifting each other’s spirits.”

Commissioner Gabriel ended her speech noting that: “The European Commission will continue to listen carefully to the needs of students and teachers and work with representatives of national ministries to further embed eTwinning in the national systems.” 

The opening speech and introduction to the EU Climate Pact was delivered by Clara De La Torre, Deputy Director-General, Directorate-General for Climate Action, European Commission. During her speech, Ms Clara de la Torre congratulated the entire eTwinning community for the excellent work carried out during the pandemic and stressed the key role of eTwinning in raising awareness on Climate Change and on empowering teachers and young people to be prepared for a challenging future.

She continued her speech presenting the European Green Deal, and the European Climate Pact to be launched in December as part of EU’s strategy, stating that:

“In fighting Climate Change again we have to do a transition to a climate-neutral and sustainable society which leaves nobody behind and that addresses the concerns of all. This is what we want to achieve with the Green Deal and everybody has a role to play in this transition!”

Finally, she invited the eTwinning community to take an active role in the EU Climate Pact as of December 2020.

The keynote address: “Teaching through a pandemic - is there still room for project-based learning?” was delivered by Koen Timmers, Global Teacher Prize 2017 & 2018 finalist and 'Teach Sustainable Development Goals' founding ambassador.

 What is the purpose of education?  He asked teachers to always remember that “Education is not about teaching, it is about learning, it is not about the teachers, it is about the students at all times!” He continued his speech presenting different practical approaches and showing some of the activities carried out by students around the world as part of the Climate Action Project.

After the keynote address, it was time to start with the workshops, the interactive learning activity and the creative breaks that kept the conference participants engaged for two days.

Four sessions of a total of 40+ workshops were run by members of the eTwinning community as well as other experts, took place for two days. Among them a notable was the workshop “Our planet, our future fighting climate change together” led by Alessandra Pertot and Louisa Kelly (European Commission’s Directorate-General for Climate Action).

As in previous years, the Friends of eTwinning network provided the participants of the conference with workshops of great quality. Among them, Malgorzata Luszczek of Eco-Schools, Karen Polak of the Anne Frank House, Isabel Crespo of Europeana Foundation, Noëlle Billon from Scientix, Steven Stegers of Euroclio, Marie Cucurella of Peace Jam and many more.

Throughout the whole conference an interactive learning activity offered participants the opportunity to be part of the creative eTwinning editorial team and create a publication on climate change. The participants played the roles of editors, writers, illustrators and worked collaboratively and enthusiastically on the online magazine.

Read here the final version of the magazine.

During the last day of the conference  leaders of five successful eTwinning projects (Despoina Tsifetaki from Greece, Loredana Popa from Romania, Murièle Dejaune from France and Aneta Wilk from Poland) talked about their experiences and the lessons learnt, with a view to inspire and motivate all eTwinners interested in embarking on the same adventure.

 The closing speech was delivered by Dr. Markus Rester, Head of Sector - Online Education Platforms, DG EAC, European Commission. Dr. Rester thanked all the participants, reminding them of the importance of being part of a community such as eTwinning, especially during these times when supporting each other becomes a necessity and a mutual responsibility. 

“We live in difficult times, it is not easy but thanks to eTwinning we can continue to support each other, give hopes and ensure the continuity to our activities”.

  We invite you to watch: 
- The recording of the eTwinning European Prizes Ceremony 
- The recording of the first day of the Annual Conference