PULCHRA, Science in the City - Building Participatory Urban Learning Community Hubs through Research and Activation


PULCHRA aims to explore the open schooling concept in the theme “Cities as urban ecosystems” and with a view to creating new partnerships in local communities to foster science education for all citizens. The project encourages and supports students to investigate environmental and sustainability issues through open schooling, by doing real life experiments.

In a world that is becoming increasingly complex, there is a need to prepare young people, especially, for a future that will require good scientific knowledge, a solid understanding of the opportunities and challenges arising from modern technology and the willingness to actively participate in shaping the future. Current environmental issues such as air quality (e.g. particulate matter, ozone, nitrogen oxides), restoration of our greenery and water bodies and climate change adaptation and mitigation culminate where most people live: in cities.

While schools provide a particularly effective starting point to teach students about cause and effect relationships, putting knowledge into action requires the engagement of communities at large including parents, families, neighbourhoods, universities, local authorities, businesses, etc. Thus the process of learning must integrate the different societal data, must be holistic in terms of a continuous endeavour, which is not limited to set learning situations in schools or universities, and which should be augmented by opportunities to explore, test and even implement some of these concepts in real-life situations.

The PULCHRA project targets the exploitation of the concept of open schooling with a view to:

  • Bringing new scientific knowledge for the city as an urban ecosystem and facilitating participation of citizens of all ages in scientific discovery;
  • Building trust in the method of science through personal experience of participation, thus strengthening the awareness that building one’s own point of view and making one’s decisions on comprehensible evidence is personally and societally more effective than following propaganda.
  • Establishing concepts to recognise the strong links of the natural environment, the built environment and the socio- economic environment. Understanding these links is essential to identify one’s own capacity to participate in shaping one’s living environment. To this end PULCHRA aims at building a learning, exploring and activation network, which allows to experience and understand the urban ecosystem as a living organism.
  • Developing knowledgeable, innovative and participatory communities able to cope with and actively contribute to addressing current and anticipated challenges at the city scale. Taking note of the similarity of challenges arising from societal, economic and environmental change in most cities in Europe and worldwide, is essential to recognise the benefit from international collaboration in order to cope with these challenges.
  • Exploring common issues related to the city as an urban ecosystem through specially designed City Challenges.


The open schooling concept will lead to building a participatory urban learning community, which particularly invites urban youth, helps form stewardship through establishing a sense of ownership and ability to contribute to liveable neighbourhoods, reduces urban societal disparities by building points of access for science discovery and participation close to residential areas targeting particularly disadvantaged groups.

The overall implementation approach of the project relates to its concept, namely to reveal through open schooling the science towards the understanding of cities as urban ecosystems so as to attract students to science education and careers and stimulate the interest of the public in science. The approach builds on successive actions for:

  • understanding urban areas as social-ecological systems, and generating knowledge and guidance for better urban ecosystem management;
  • building a network and a platform (City Challenges Platform) to bring students, educators, scientists, practitioners, citizens, and policy and decision makers together,
  • developing the Science Teams, i.e. mixed teams of stakeholders with a view to co-identifying key issues and co-defining solutions for urban ecosystem management and
  • raising attention to and public awareness of the importance of urban ecosystem management among the schooling community, scientists, policy makers, and the general public (Science Reporters).


Basic information

Country: Cyprus, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Sweden

Coordinator: National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, https://en.uoa.gr/

Programme: Horizon 2020

Project Acronym:

Target groups: education authorities, general public, parents, policy makers, researchers, secondary school students, teachers, trainee teachers, university lecturers, youth clubs

Topic: Environmental sciences

Start year: 2019

End year: 2022

Url: https://pulchra-schools.eu/

Contact person: Constantinos Cartalis, ckartali@phys.uoa.gr

The methodology used is based on the open schooling concept and inquiry-based learning. The open schooling concept provides an open and inclusive learning environment; it supports the development of innovative school projects and establishes points of access for all members of society. Student projects will meet the real needs of the community by drawing upon local expertise and experience.

Inquiry-based learning has proved its efficacy at all school levels in increasing students’ interest and attainment levels while at the same time stimulating teacher motivation. PULCHRA educational resources support inquiry-based learning.

A report on the science education methods and approaches to be used in the PULCHRA project describes in detail educational methods and approaches implemented in other educational projects, as well as it includes an inventory of educational materials which can be used for the PULCHRA project as open access resources.

Fifty-one participant schools from ten EU countries together with other interested stakeholders form the Open Schooling Network and participate in the City Challenges.

The PULCHRA educational resources are:

  • The PULCHRA Handbook of Educational Materials, which contains material for the Open Schooling Network, focusing particularly on cities as urban ecosystems and the urban climate.
  • The PULCHRA Handbook of a Young Reporter, which provides guidance and supports Science Reporters, including activities for training and deepening reporting skills.
  • Open learning courses for the City Challenges, which support the members of the Open Schooling Network, the Science Teams, and the Science Reporters. The courses particularly focus on the use and exploitation of the City Challenges Platform through which teachers and students will have the possibility to be informed, learn and act according to their needs on the objectives and policies of the EU.
  • Open learning courses for Urban Ecosystems, which allow widening the knowledge of stakeholders and other end-users who participate in or follow the project. The aim of the courses is to provide the educational resources needed to approach cities as urban ecosystems.

The PULCHRA supported tools are:

  • The visualisation tool, which allows users to input measurements of environmental parameters (i.e. air temperature data, air quality data, etc.) and easily produce and export graphs.
  • The remote sensing tool, which provides access to Copernicus programme data and exploits Earth observation data (Sentinel-2, Landsat, MODIS) for cities in Europe. The tool is modified for school educational needs; the satellite data have been preprocessed and specific band combinations are available for visual interpretation.



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