With for materials and other bio-based products such

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With the world
population set to approach an estimated 9 billion by 2050, against a background
of finite natural resources, Europe needs renewable biological resources -not
just for securing healthy food and animal feedstuffs but also for materials and
other bio-based products such as bio-fuels (E.C., 2017, Innovating for Sustainable
Growth: A Bioeconomy for Europe). FOOD 2030 sector of the EU Commission’s
Bioeconomy Research Directorate alerts about a new hunger crisis and the rise
in the number of hungry people around the world, due to climate change and conflict.
The constant change of basic food prices and increasing anxiety about food
security and food production sustainability have made global food crisis
evident and call for thinking deeply on how to respond accounting for the interconnectedness
of economic, social and environmental systems. (E.C. 2017, Food in Cities). According
to FOOD 2030 initiative, food crisis is expected to heavily affect Europe and sustain
persisting nutritional imbalances between North and South (E.C., 2017, . BIOECONOMY
INNOVATION CommBeBiz Magazine 2017 – 2018, FOOD 2030 – Transforming our food
systems through science). At the same time, research indicates a decline of
diet quality across Europe, which is expected to negatively affect citizens’
health (European Commission, 2017, Innovating for Sustainable Growth: A
Bioeconomy for Europe). FOOD 2030 initiative considers urban gardening as an
initiative pillar for the development of sustainable food systems, were food
production and consumption are not seen as two separate processes anymore, but
as an integrated and connected one. According to the European Commission “Both in the
Global North and in the Global South, local authorities have started to promote
local and organic food, fair trade products, food waste reduction, and urban
food growing initiatives (Sonnino, 20163) as part of an increasing recognition
of the multifunctional potential of food in relation to health, transport,
education, land use, employment generation, social inclusion and community
(E.C. 2017, Food in Cities: study on innovation for a sustainable and healthy
production, delivery, and consumption of food in cities)

Although Europe initiates
in the domain of bio-economy recent data indicate that it has already lost
advantage in the field of plant biotechnology. In this context, the European
Commission calls for investment in research, innovation and education in order
to maintain leadership in the area of bio-economy (E.C., 2017, Innovating for Sustainable
Growth: A Bioeconomy for Europe). European Commission considers education in
the domain of bio-economy as a cornerstone of Europe’s future, aiming at teaching
and raising awareness about sustainability, circularity, and the limitations of
our planet in producing food, energy and materials. In this way, it is expected
that children get interested in science and become environmental-aware /
bioeconomy-aware citizens and, possibly, pursue bio-economy related jobs in the
future (e.g. be a farmer, work in food industry, work in a plastics company,
work in bioenergy plant, advising on isolation of houses, be a scientist
working on plants, being a social scientist) (https://ec.europa.eu/research/bioeconomy/pdf/newsletter_bioeconomy_stakeholders_panel_nov2016.pdf).

PRO.FI.L.I.A.TE project
aims at designing, developing, implementing and evaluating a primary school educational
program regarding bio-economy in the context of urban agriculture.  Particularly, the project opts to help elementary
school children:

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Gain an understanding
of bio-economy and how its principles apply in the field of agriculture.

Gain knowledge about
possibilities of food production in towns.

Evaluate urban agriculture
practices as a means of establishing food security and producing healthy
biological food.

Experiment with
innovative agricultural techniques and get used in food production employing
bio-economy principles.

Compare urban gardens around
Europe and investigate how town context and climate affect urban agricultural practices.

Develop scientific way
of thinking

Create positive
environmental and social change in their own lives, schools and communities.

The project takes
advantage of innovative agricultural techniques, such as hydroponics and
aquaponics to support both student’s economic literacy development and to
develop skills in understanding, adopting and designing technologies, products
and processes that increase efficiency of resources and sustain an equitable
society. It follows commission’s declaration towards creating learning spaces
which support social innovation in the bioeconomy domain for solving social
issues at large or at local scale through the promotion of innovative
approaches and practices. According to Commission’s Communication  “Rethinking Education: Investing in skills
for better socio-economic outcomes” , (2012, p.1) “investment in education and
training for skills development is essential to boost growth and competitiveness.
Skills determine Europe’s capacity to increase productivity”.

Given that “fighting high levels of unemployment –
particularly among young people – is one of the most urgent tasks for European governments”
(E.C., 2017, ERASMUS+ Programme Guide) and that by 2025 130.000 jobs will be
created by bio-economy market, this project comes as a timely necessity in preparing
children to meet immediate future challenges. It is also important that this
project is carried out transnationally since many schools from around Europe are
expected to participate in project activities (Greece, Cyprus, Romania, Ireland,
Italy) creating a much needed strong and effective Bioeconomy web of schools
promoting the competitiveness of Europe in the education sector (see http://www.plantetp.org).


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