To achieve its aims and objectives, NEXT STEP project places schools at the heart of real-life inquiry, inspired by real-life questions by employing pupils’ own cultural initiatives as natural gateways to knowledge creation within formal, informal and non-formal educational environments, and will design and implement an EU level action to promote STEAM approach to facilitate the development of a creativity, innovation and inclusion culture. This culture imports external ideas that challenge internal views and beliefs and, in turn, exports its students – and their assets – to the community it serves. Such an engaging environment makes a vital contribution to its community’s well-being: student projects meet real needs in the community outside of school, they are presented publicly, and draw upon local expertise and experience. The school environment fosters learner independence – and interdependence – through collaboration, mentoring, and through providing opportunities for learners to understand and interrogate their place in the world. This Culture recognises the important part that students can play as peer enquirers/researchers, and welcomes their active involvement.

NEXT STEP will implement creative, interdisciplinary and digitally-enabled art/science (STEAM) interventions (which the consortium members have developed, implemented and improved in numerous countries) in precisely the way which will take the current status quo at schools from being “reactionary” to “necessary innovation”. Relying on a portfolio of educational interventions (e.g. Learning Science Through Theatre, Global Science Opera, iMUSICA), NEXT STEP will develop a theoretical framework, training materials, training workshops (both digital and in-person) and an evaluation approach which will constitute the state of the art regarding digital implementation of creative, interdisciplinary teaching in primary and secondary schools in the era of Covid-19. This will furthermore be extended to informal learning arenas.

Utilising cutting-edge technologies (e.g. VR), NEXT STEP will establish deep, immersive meeting points between schools in the consortium countries and beyond thus enabling participating pupils and their educators to creatively interact with their peers within the scope of a creative and innovative classroom, the STEAM IDEAS’ Square. Such long-term innovations are required in order to a) provide pupils with the global context in which the pandemic is transforming societies and b) provide pupils with the larger social environment which they will lack in years to come as a result of the pandemic’s nature. Furthermore, by relying on consortium members which are leading organizations in the creative/cultural industries, high-level artistic and cultural input will be secured in direct contact with participation educators and pupils and thus enlarging the outreach of the cultural sector.