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  • Polina Kireva

Utopia 500 team visits Alexandre Herculano secondary school in Porto

On 25th of January Utopia 500 team visited one of the oldest secondary schools in Porto – Escola Secundária Alexandre Herculano. Workshops entitled “What is Science Fiction for?” were held with two classes of pupils of 11th grade. The themes addressed were science fiction and modern technologies as well as climate change and food security. Several of our

international trainees, Aleksandra from Poland, Sara from Spain and Hermine from Latvia prepared interesting and interactive materials on these topics, fostering the young people, aged between 16 and 18 years, to develop and exercise critical thinking. A few short movies were shown, followed by discussions in which the pupils openly shared in English language their observations, ideas and views, related to such actual and crucial contemporary society issues.

The pupils were very enthusiastic about discussing various modern and classical sci-fi movies, they had seen or heard about, for example Star Trek, The Hunger Games, Wall-e, E.T., Lucy, Interstellar, Terminator, etc. They were introduced to the terms "utopia" and "dystopia", although a few already knew their meaning. The dystopian movies appeared to be well known. After watching the short movie "Sight" the students shared their concerns about the possible misuse of technologies for manipulation of the social communication, control over other people, living a fake, unreal life and invading privacy.

The topics of global food production and security, including health related issues, arising from malnutrition or fast food consumption, were also regarded as very interesting and relevant. The pupils of the two classes were pushed to thinking of solutions to global challenges like monocultural corporate food production and the risks of losing harvests, resulting in hunger and starvation. Organic farming and supporting local production were among the possible solutions, mentioned by the children. The fact that in the center of Porto there is a place, where everybody could buy for a normal price organic but not so attractively looking fruits and veggies, produced by farmers of the area around Porto, was surprising. "Fruta feia" project ( will surely get new customers now! Some youngsters even said they started thinking of growing a garden on their own.

Iara Dias (16 years old, 11-B class) said: “This experience changed me and my friends. Tomorrow I will do something differently. I think this project is very good because it changes the world.”

The Utopia 500 trainees played some games with the pupils that helped them realize how we are all interconnected.

One of the girls, Ines Pereira (16 years old, 11-A class) shared: “It was funny and educational and helped us realize what is happening in the world.” Her classmate, Patricia Guerreiro (16 years old, 11-A class), agreed with her and added: “I really liked it; it was a really nice workshop! We talked about the environment and pandemic diseases, the causes and some solutions to those problems. It does make me think.”

Climate change and what every one of us could do to prevent a future climate disaster intrigued largely all participants. Simple everyday life actions and deeds were the key focus of the discussion that followed the presentation of Aleksandra from Poland.

Pedro Silva from 11-A class stated that “I like this project and it was a lot of fun to be with these people; it was very interesting talking about the future and our actions – how we can prevent the calamity that will happen to the world if we don’t act.”

Among the possible solutions to climate change that the children thought of immediately were: use more public transport and bikes, instead of cars; use more paper and cloth bags and stop using plastic bags; use more renewable energy; refill bottles; don’t use aerosols, etc.

Pedro Silva said: “What made the most impression on me was working in groups to think of solutions for the various problems; it was a very interesting activity and I liked to meet people from other countries in person instead of talking to them through the computer.”

The youngsters from both classes, altogether 40 people, were very inspired and said they will be happy to have Utopia 500 team to visit them again. Their teacher, Mrs. Maria José Pereira, who teaches for more than 37 years now, confirmed the interest of her pupils. “This workshop was very important because it teaches the students to think of the future and of how what they do today impacts their future”, she said. “The students were very proactive! I think it is good to continue and next time it will be very interesting for them to talk about Ecotopia”.

Alexandre Herculano is among the oldest secondary schools in Porto, built more than 110 years ago. Some prominent academicians of the University of Porto are related to this school, such as Torquato Brochado de Sousa Soares (1903-1988) and Armindo de Sousa (1941-1998), both historians and professors at the Faculty of Arts.

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