Topic outline

  • Aims

    This program encourages and supports schools in designing, implementing and assessing action plans, starting with its immediate environment: the school and its neighbourhood.

  • Main activities

    Schools integrate in their environmental management and in their educational program, the principles of sustainability.

  • Involved actors

    Barcelona City Council, Environmental Department, Municipal Institute of Education, other City Council Departments and actors of the Local Agenda 21.

  • Connection with the curriculum

    Connection to the curriculum depends on each specific project developed by individual schools.


  • Where to find the application or case

  • Content

    The Barcelona School Agenda 21 Programme (PA21E acronym in Spanish) is an initiative addressed to schools, which acts in consonance with the city’s Agenda 21. The PA21E was designed in the year 2000 in the then recently created Environmental Education and Participation Division in Barcelona City Council’s Environment Department, whose main responsibility was to develop the Local Agenda 21.

    The PA21E has been running for 9 school years. Through this programme, the educational communities are involved in diagnosing, providing solutions and undertaking commitments to make a more sustainable city, beginning with their immediate environment, the school itself. A slogan that could summarise the philosophy of PA21E is:

    “Many small people, in small places, doing small things, can change the world.” Eduardo Galeano.

    Schools are an extremely important element in the advance towards more sustainable cities because of their function of educating pupils and because of their multiplying effect in the community and especially in families. All non-university level schools participate in the PA21e: nursery (0-3 year olds), infants (4-6 year olds), primary and junior (7-12 year olds), secondary (13-18 year olds) and all levels of special education schools. This school year (2009-10) there are 326 schools involved.

    Thanks to this programme, in Barcelona the number of schools participating in its practice, in environmental management and in curricular development is increasing year after year, reflecting a philosophy that is in accordance with the principles of sustainability. In the participating schools, which watch out for the coherence between theory and practice, pupils play a leading role and other collectives of the community are usually involved as well.

    The Barcelona School Agenda 21 Programme is a pioneering initiative in Spain, where there had previously been no precedents of environmental education projects addressed to the overall set of schools. In the wake of the Barcelona experience, this programme has spread to other Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Latin American cities.

  • Relation to a green topic and curriculum

    In the school year 2008/09, a total of 264 projects of very diverse subjects and of very different types have been carried out: energy and water savings, impairment of noise, paper saving, waste prevention, composting, “caminos escolares” and sustainable mobility, naturalization of courtyards and gardens, creating habitats, organic gardens, promoting biodiversity, responsible consumption, improving communication, building participation and coexistence, and so on.

  • Being interdisciplinary: Drawing upon many academic disciplines and teaching methods

    The main objectives are:

    ·         to strengthen environmental education.

    ·         to promote improvements in the school environment.

    ·         to strengthen the creation of networks among schools and with community organisations committed to sustainability.

  • Relevance to the daily life of students

    In PA21E,it is understood that environmental education for sustainability is not an education for understanding and acquiescing but for understanding and acting. It is an education that strengthens participation, personal and collectiver esponsibility, moral and intellectual autonomy, and communication and cooperative working. The schools are advancing, although slowly, along this path.

  • Based on accurate and factual professional expertise

    Strategies of the programme:

    ·         Permanent support of teaching staff through personalized advice, online communication, specific training,documentation service and other resources.

    ·         Acknowledgement of effort and stimulation of progress.

    ·         Exchange of experiences as a basis of learning.

    ·         Medium- and long-term work based on instructive appraisal.

    ·         Coordination with the municipal management areas: Environment, Districts, neighbourhood experts, etc.

    ·         Interdisciplinary coordinating team attentive to the needs of each educational centre.