The Union of Municipalities called Bassa Reggiana encompasses eight Municipalities, and the population is 72.000 inhabitants. This Municipalities are located in the middle between the Po River and the Via Emilia highway. This Union has been created in 2009, and has developed several former Municipal competencies, now operated and managed by the Union of Municipalities. There has been a strong investment in Early Childhood Education in the last ten years, in coherence with the tradition of the territory. The public enterprise “Azienda Speciale Bassa Reggiana” is the public body operating the preschools, and it owns to the Union of Municipalities. The investment in Early Childhood education is the core business of this enterprise. Therefor, the Municipalities consider the Early Childhood Education as the pillar of the development of each and every person, and the fundamental starting point of life. Preschools, in specific, has to be considered as the starting point of the participation to community life and to civic society. The rest of this conceptual framework is the attitude to EU fundings and the search for relationships. In specific, the different UE funded activities have paved the way to a more European approach to early education. “BRIC, young children, public spaces, democracy” has not been the first EU project, as this attitude started in 2006 with a project on democracy in preschools, shared with Sweden and the Nederland. This process brought us to a continuous work of reflection on the path of early education. This is, as well, our first research process, and it has been performed on a topic (public spaces and democracy) that is a paramount of Italian political debate.

The concept of public space in Reggio Emilia and in the culture of our region (Emilia Romagna) is very pivotal. Public space is part of the anthropological culture of the territory. Public spaces are the venue of daily activities as well as official and specific meetings (ceremonies, shows, political debates). This concept of public space encompasses squares (in Italian, Piazza, is one of the most global most recognized words) but libraries, museum, religious places, theaters, parks and areas nearby the river. A special mention is needed to describe the relation with the river in our villages, as the research are clearly outlined. So in our meaning, public spaces are central and rural, open and closed, natural and artificial, modern and historical. We want to put the focus on the way children inhabits and live in this spaces, which curiosities they raise, which approaches they have. Citizenship concept applies to each age group, and young children are one of these. Full citizenship, participation and inclusion must be recognized to young children. Our focus as always been including children as well as parents, in the concrete conception that a holistic process of development is scaffolded when we work alongside the parents.

This project has been developed during a complex season of EU history. There has been a deceleration in the process of construction of the United States of Europe. We want to advocate for the participation of citizens int he construction of the concept of Europe, as a Europe of persons. We claim for a Europe of exchanges and free circulation of people, based on the curiosity and the knowledge, the education, the culture.

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