by Mr J Cutajar
Activities carried out at School
A group of refugees at our school
Our school embarked on a project to promote diversity and help children to expose themselves to various cultures and traditions. The idea to invite some refugees from JRS (Jesuit Refugee Service)was in order to promote understanding and solidarity towards refugees. We linked JRS activities with HMD as the theme for 2014 was Journeys.
Students had a talk by a refugee from Eritrea who shared his experience of the difficult journey. Afterwards, the students engaged themselves into another activity where they played the drums.
It was an enriching experience for the students who learned why people leave their home, what it means to be a refugee, what it means to live in a safe and democratic country, and what cultural diversity and inclusion are all about.
We did a follow-up lesson with students and they wrote what they learned.
Story-telling at school
During our weekly reading sessions, the Year 3 and 4 pupils actively involved themselves in activities concerning book reading and story sacks. A story sack is considered as a storytelling prop in which the teacher carries and hides useful props including soft-toys until it is the right time in the story to introduce them.
The books chosen for the Comenius project were, a book in Maltese entitled ‘Ħbieb ta’ Veru’ (True friends), a popular fiction book entitled ‘The Ugly Duckling’, and three non-ficition books entitled ‘Eskimos’, ‘Chinese’ and ‘Zulu’ (An African tribe) These colourful children’s books depict the adventures of a children around the world and how they get on their everyday life. The books convey an important message to young readers encouraging good behaviour, kindness and respect towards others. In the first book entitled ‘Ħbieb ta Veru’, a refugee girl called Ażiża who is a fictitious character but a common situation occuring on our islands, is very upset because she attends a new school and she wants to make new friends. Her new friends have a difficult task to persuade other classmates to help her adapt to her new life.
A very popular fiction book is `The Ugly Duckling`. The story is about a swan born into a family of ducks, which is cast out of the pond because the other ducks believe it doesn’t belong with them because it was different. Wherever it goes, the duckling encounters animals that reject it for the same reason. Upon encountering a group of swans, the ugly duckling aspires to one day be as beautiful as them. One day, the ugly duckling sees its reflection in the water and realizes that it wasn’t a duck after all – it has grown to be the most beautiful swan in the pond. The children perceive a positive message from the story. Part of the duckling’s struggle comes from the treatment it receives from others, but also from the fact that it simply accepts their perception of it and doesn’t realise until it gets a good look at itself. Only when it finds a group of swans which accept the ugly duckling and help it overcome its fears. The moral of the story teaches us to accept one another no matter how different we might appear.
In the other books (Chinese, Zulu and Eskimos) the children were exposed to other cultures and traditions different from ours. Students were able to perceive how these people with different backgrounds, experiences and beliefs interact with each other. They learned how other children in other continents live. Moreover, the students could remember that everyone is ultimately a person first and by judging each person on their own merit is the best way to develop understanding and empathy.
The students were encouraged to embrace and learn ways of understanding cultural difference. However, trying to understand cultural differences can open you up to a whole lot of new and exciting experiences.
A lot of misconceptions exist about different cultures because people do not always take the time to get the whole picture. The more we learn about other cultures the less misconceptions and stereotypes there will be. Educating students about different cultures will not only make them a more knowledgeable and tolerant citizens, but they will gain respect for cultures and the people who are a part of them.
The stories kept our listeners attentive, watching and waiting for the teacher to extract just the right item at the right moment from the story sack. It was a pleasant experience to watch how eight year-olds eagerly gathered around the teacher on a cozy cushion anxious to see what’s in the story sack. The teacher focused on the children’s response, and involved herself and the children in higher-order questions, emphasising the fact of thinking and reasoning among pupils.
As the teacher read aloud, he invited children to comment on similarities and differences of opinions. The children were encouraged to share their opinion and also describe the physical appearance and character of the characters. During the storytelling sessions the participants investigated sorts of writings like pictures books, photographs and drawings. Pupils had to write and illustrate their own books about other family members, bringing out a range of identities and associating themselves with particular members of the family.
The enthusiastic pupils were encouraged to write down their own stories. As an introductory activity, the teacher displayed pictures on large prints and involved students in discussions. After listening attentively to the stories read by the teacher, volunteers came up dramatising and acting as the class read the stories. Pupils came to the front and performed the roles of the characters and dramatising certain aspects of their daily life. Pupils understood that stories and pictures are a form of communication and can tell us about people, places and things. All the children’s work was exhibited on noticeboards and class walls. Needless to say, all the pupils showed a lot of enthusiasm and great eagerness.
Pupils had the opportunity to discuss related topic and join in throughout the session. Unfortunately, not all the students participated.
Needless to say that promoting reading in our school with a difference is the teachers’ main objective and priority.
Science and Technology lesson
One 16th October 2014, the Science and the Health & Safety teachers delivered a Science and Technology lesson with the Year 6 class to show the visiting teachers how the class teacher can use the lesson (any subject will do) in order to indirectly promote the objectives of the project. Xenophobia can manifest itself in students forming small gangs who bully other individuals who they perceive as being different. By adopting a group work approach during classroom activities, the students are placed in a situation where they have to work together. The students are intentionally placed into groups with mixed gender, ability, race and religion. Hence, students are trained not to be afraid from what is foreign or different, and to look beyond these superficial differences, by working together towards a common objective.
The students were hence divided into groups. Each group was given an equal amount of spaghetti and marshmallows. They were presented with the following problem and design brief:
Problem: Architects often have to face the problem of having to build high structures/buildings, while ensuring that they are still very stable.
Brief: Design and make the highest possible spaghetti tower, using only the resources available. The tower must be able to stay erect, and withstand a Ping-Pong ball at the top.
Every group was also given an A3 sheet of paper, onto which they had to sketch their various ideas as well as write any relevant annotations. This task helped the students to communicate their ideas to each other, as well as constructively challenge each other’s ideas. This is a crucial part of the whole idea of the activity, as regards to the outcome of the project, where students look beyond their differences in race, religion, gender and ability, in order to work together for a common goal.
The students then evaluated all the available ideas through discussion, and chose the final idea which they thought will solve the problem best. They were then given an amount of time (15 – 20 minutes), during which they were involved in the actual construction of the structure. Eventually, the students had to test and evaluate their final design, and as a group, suggest possible modifications.
Traditional costumes for Carnival
Last year’s carnival theme was ‘Traditional Costumes’. The students were actively involved in participating in the school and village activities. Children dress up in traditional costumes from various countries. After a rigorously research on the internet about the costumes from other countries, the students, with the help hand of the teachers and parents, were able to show off their costumes. Their colourful costumes attracted everybody’s attention.
The year 4 students dressed up in Dutch traditional costumes to greet the members of the participating countries when they visited our school.
Celebration Day at School
The Music Teacher chose two musicals to be performed with two different schools. One of them is the Peace Child’, which is about two different tribes with a river which is keeping them apart. They are enemies and each tribe believed that they are the superior. Journalists visited the desert and came up with a good plan – to build a bridge. This bridge was a symbol of hope and unity. A child was born and both tribes united together and became one big family. Year 4, Year 5 and Year 6 from Sannat primary school were the participants. To enhance diversity the teacher chose a student with special needs from Year 6 to be the ‘peace child’. All of the students on stage referred to him as the one who brought peace and joy between the different tribes. 10 energetic songs were sung live by the students.
Another musical was ‘Pirates Vs Mermaids’. This is a musical where the opposites meet. Pirates always say that mermaids are useless and Mermaids think that Pirates aren’t useful. They changed their mind when Pirates need the Mermaids to teach them how to swim while Mermaids needed the Pirates to catch a crocodile. They learnt that even though they can never be the same, they need each other in life so respect, unity and peace are essential in life. This musical was held in Qala primary school. All students of the school participated, some of which had main parts, and some classes had to sing several songs. 7 songs were sung and the last song ‘Together’ was the curtain call where all students went on stage and delivered the message that together we are one big family.
The music lessons at our school
As part of the comenius project, Ms Sylvana Cini, the Music Teacher, prepared all classes to sing a song with an anti-xenophobia message in front of Comenius guests from Ireland and Holland.
Year 1 and Year 2 students sang ‘The Rainbow Song’ in front of our visitors. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RvNprVe2-hQ . It is a peace and love song. The song was about seven bright colours which are all important to form one beautiful rainbow. This is similar to our life that all different cultures form one beautiful world.
Kid’s Peace Song was sang by Year 3 students https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYzwruuXtJE. It’s good to know that even if people come in different sizes, colours, shapes and names inside we are the same. Our brains are built the same so we have to accept and respect everyone.
Peace, Hope and Unity https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ys-wrHtrfgc is another song which promotes the different colours and about moving forward to embrace humanity. It’s about stopping hatred, violence, forget the past and celebrate diversity. This song was performed by Year 4 students.
This short performance from all Qala students ended up with a catchy song ‘Teaching Peace’https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tYtFDQLazX8 . During the instrumental part Year 5 and Year 6 students played on their percussion instruments. Its up to show we care, reaching out to everybody everywhere. One by one in our work and during free time we are teaching peace by what we do and what we say.
Through these songs our students became more aware of anti-xenophobia. They understood the importance to help each other, unite with different cultures and respect humanity.
Sending and Receiving Easter & Christmas cards
The tradition of sending or receiving cards has developed in the 19th century and was extended and modified along the years. It is courteous and a sign of respect towards other to send Christmas and Easter postcards. Sending a card to a special person has always been a big part of life. It is always nice to send someone a quick note to let them know that you have them in your heart, mind, and soul. Just dropping a line isn’t always ideal, sometimes you want to get fancy and crafty to send something a little unique to them. Year 4 and 5 students were in the perfect mood to make some of their own Christmas and Easter cards. The students created decorative Christmas and Easter cards. Undoubtedly, the activity overwhelmed our students at the busiest times of the year. The students realised that making their own cards was still a satisfying thing to create and even nicer for someone to receive. The cards were given to the children of the participating countries by hand.
Cooking Activities at I.T.S
Learning can take place in many different situations and many different forms. A hands-on cooking activity was held amongst Year 4 students at I.T.S. where the students baked apple pie and panzerotti filled with fruits. An apple pie is a fruit pie in which the principal filling ingredient is apple. Many countries adopt their own version of this popular recipe which goes back to 1381 in England where the first written apple pie recipe was documented. Countries like Sweden, America and Holland adopted the recipe using various ingredients. A traditional Dutch apple pie comes in two varieties, a crumb (appelkruimeltaart) and a lattice (appeltaart) style pie, both recipes are distinct in that they typically call for flavourings such as cinnamon and lemon juice to be added and differ in texture, not taste. Dutch apple pies may include ingredients such as raisins and icing, in addition to ingredients such as apples and sugar, which they have in common with other recipes.
First of all the introductory part of the activity was held in class. The pupils discussed about food. Then, the teacher and the pupils discussed the importance of hygiene during the preparation and cooking process. The children, with the help of the teacher, discussed the ingredients for the filling and the pastry. They were able to participate in a lengthy and lively discussion. The second part was done at the Institute of Tourism Studies. All the pupils were involved in the process and were willing to work in groups and embrace teamwork.
Art Work during Arts Lessons
The years 3,4, 5 and 6 were involved in lessons about Xenophobia. They had the opportunity to work in groups and understand what xenophobia actually means. Arts can trigger the children’s active imagination and creativity which can take different forms through expressive arts. During the lessons, the Arts teacher constantly involved children in dicussions on the intense subject. The most debatable concern during the lessons was about the present-day issue of illegal immigration. Illegal immigration is one big problem that is widespread these days and children are entirely aware of this.
Children realised how people from various African countries, without any form of identification, move to other country for the purpose of job and/or permanent settlement. The children thoroughly discussed these issues together with their Arts Teacher and was clearly expressed and manifested in their drawings and paintings. The children had to prepare sketches of their drawing at home after discussing the topic at school.
Furthermore, creative art lessons can help children in all areas of their development. Through creative arts lessons, they learn to share, to interact with others, to be responsible for clean-up, and respect others. These are positive and important changes for social learning. Children were able to represent experiences or situations that they cannot verbalise. They drew pictures out of proportion, exaggerated things that are important to them or that influenced them. When we value children’s creativity, we help them feel valued as people, raising their self-esteem and ego.
Besides, the teacher supported children’s muscle development as well as their eye-hand coordination. Using crayons, markers, and paintbrushes helped children practice the fine motor control they will need for writing later on in life.
Extra-curricular activities at our school
Although a small village, Qala’s population has a high percentage of English speaking persons who are integrated in our community and are willing to share their experiences and knowledge. A retired English teacher, Mrs Brown, comes to school twice a week to help children with the reading lessons and children are involved in discussion on current issues and various topics with the upper classes. Throughout the year, she exposed the children to various cultures and traditions from all over the world and regularly displayed information on the noticeboard.
Commonwealth Day Activity
Commonwealth Day is celebrated by schools every year in March. The day is marked across the Commonwealth by a range of activities and meetings. All the nations in the Commonwealth are united by language, history, culture, values and human rights. At our school, children painted and displayed all the flags of the countries. They also exhibited drawing, objects, souvenirs and write-ups on various countries. The children conducted a presentation about different countries during the assembly. This activity was an opportunity to promote understanding on global issues, international co-operation and the common wealth. The children were made aware of the work of Commonwealth organisations.
Caring Day 2015
In March, an activity was organised by the Qala Primary Students’ Council with the support and collaboration of the PSCD teachers, Ms Marcelle Vella and Mr Jeremy Vella. During a craft lesson, the children were asked to do a cardboard bag with the help of the class teacher and had to carry around a boiled egg for a whole day. They had to show special care and not to crack the egg. After the activity the children were invited to show special care towards a person they know or met recently. The children were encouraged to look for foreign persons who live in our village. They were also asked to trace this person’s hand on a piece of cardboard and to write down the feelings of the persons involved in this encounter. The ‘hands‘ were displayed as a mural on the noticeboard at school. The aims of the activity were to learn that ‘care’ is a positive value, instil a caring attitude in the children and show the same caring enthusiasm with persons as much as they showed with the ‘egg’ in the activity. Needless to say, the activity was a huge success because all the children showed enthusiasm and willingness to participate throughout the event.
School Visits Abroad
Comenius Visit in the Netherlands
Visiting a foreign school is always a positive experience as it exposes us to new methodologies. The Het Palet School in Opheusden was no exception. Although it is a small school, it caters for a large number of pupils coming from various cultural backgrounds. The children get on well with each other and the school really offers a healthy learning environment.
During our visits we had the opportunity to visit the classes and give some information to the children about Malta. On the other hand, on presentation day, we had the opportunity to learn more about the children’s cultural backgrounds and how they are being thought to accept each other.
In this particular school, we were informed how from a tender age the children are taught to become good problem solvers. This is indeed a skill which the children learn to develop well in this school. We were surprised at how naturally the children dealt with problems that start in the playground. A group of children is trained to become mediators and thus, help their peers to solve their problems between them without fighting further. This process involves note taking by the mediators and having the children sit around a table and negotiate a solution that is valid and satisfactory for both parties involved.
During break time, we could notice groups of children playing with many different outdoor sports equipment like balls, skipping ropes, stilts and a climbing frame. It was nice observing these kids at play and thanks to the mediator program that they have, there was little or no fighting at all.
In a particular class we had the opportunity to see the children work on tablets. This was a first experience for us and it interested us very much as in our country, the government is planning to introduce tablets in all state schools. It was interesting observing how the children worked quietly on their tablets and how the teacher through her computer could instantly monitor the children’s work.
We really enjoyed the time spent in this school also because both the staff and the head of school, Ms Diana are very friendly and welcoming. We really look forward to have them in our school.
Comenius Project Meeting in Bray, Ireland
A visit to Bray, Ireland by Ms Marthese Attard and Ms Sylvana Cini (Qala Primary) 29/09/13 – 5/10/13
The Gozo College Qala Primary School participated in a Comenius project in Bray, Ireland for the first time between 29th September and 5th October.
We had the opportunity to evaluate and observe the Irish educational system and compare it to our own educational system by observing lessons in the classroom.
The school staff of St. Cronan’s gave us a very warm welcome. We met together with all our partner schools and discussed our project and how each school is to participate in the project. Our understanding of different cultures grew as we learned how to encourage our students to respect and appreciate pupils of different abilities, nationalities and races.
We delivered a short presentation to students about the Maltese islands and shared information about our school, our culture and our identity as citizens of this small Mediterranean island. We highly recommend this Comenius project to other schools; it really broadened our perspectives and gave us fresh insights into ways of teaching and learning.
This was our day-by-day programme:
- Sunday: We and the other participants arrived in Bray, Ireland.
- Monday: All partners met at St.Cronan’sSchool. There was a short presentation re St. Cronan’s school and the Irish Educational System. The school director, Ms. Maeve, showed us around the school and we met teachers and pupils. Later in the evening we visited Glendalough and learned about this monastic site and the Wicklow hills.
- Tuesday: We visited classes and gave presentations about Malta and Gozo and about respective schools. Most pupils had never heard about Malta and Gozo and were very interested in our presentation. Later, we discussed our project and how each school will interpret the story. We also discussed suitable questions for our pupils that will give some indication of their attitudes to those of other races.
- Wednesday: We discussed the project and how we can work together and share information with colleagues. We observed various lessons and in the afternoon we visited St Patrick’s NC Girls’ Primary School. We delivered our presentation about our islands and our schools.
- Thursday: Visit to Dublin and Trinity College and National Art Gallery.
- Friday: Returned to Malta
Comenius Project Meeting in Pitztal, Austria.
Mrs Sandra Casarini and Mr Justin Debono, two staff members of Gozo College Qala Primary School, had the opportunity to pay a visit to Pitztal, a quaint village in Austria, between 3rd February and 7th February for a project meeting as part of the Comenius Project. The main aim and purpose of the visit was to experience different cultures and inspire student to respect children of different races and nationalities. It also provided a unique opportunity to students and teaching staff to work with teachers and students of other European countries.
On the first day, the participating teachers from the aforementioned school met colleagues from Holland, Ireland and the hosting country. The school staff had a meeting to discuss the reason of their visit. On the same day, all the teachers had the opportunity to visit all interesting places in Innsbruck including museums and historical places in order to experience various cultures and traditions.
On Tuesday, as part of their project meeting, the teachers visited the school in Pitztal ‘Volksschule’ and were greeted heartily by the Head of School, Peter Schonger and the school children. A welcome programme was prepared for all the members which included presentations of the different schools participating and the work carried out so far linked to the main theme of the project.
On Wednesday, all the participating teachers spent considerable time going around the school and the class observing the methods of teaching. Teachers from Holland and Ireland delivered a short presentation about their own country and their respective school. Subsequently, teachers from Qala and Sannat Primary School conducted their presentation about Malta and its fascinating places. The students were very interested in the differences between the two countries and were eager to learn about the Maltese Islands. The Maltese teachers took the opportunity to teach the students some frequently-used words in Maltese. Furthermore, all the teachers discussed what is being done at school to promote anti-racism and how teachers and students are contributing to the development of the website which is being put up with the accumulated materials from previous and recent visits. One of the most interesting moments passed at school was when the foreign teachers present took active part in a play revolving around the theme of Xenophobia. For this play the Austrian children, together with their teacher, had prepared beforehand a model of a bus with cardboard. The foreign teachers acted as a group of illegal immigrants coming to Austria and asking for help. At first the children acted as indifferent and did not want to help. As soon as the children remembered the Christmas story they narrated on stage during the Christmas concert and the message it conveys they accepted the immigrants and sheltered them.
On Thursday, teachers were involved in a discussion with the Headteacher regarding the teaching methods used in class and the school administration in order to make comparison with the system in Malta. The teachers spent time talking to staff about their roles and their involvement in the running of the school. At school each country presented the work done so far at their respective schools in relation to the project. Suggestions and ideas were exchanged for the last part of the project.
Comenius Project Meeting in Holland and Germany.
During our visit, we had the opportunity to visit Het Palet School in Opheusden, the Netherlands and Marienbaumer Modell in Xanten, Germany.
At Het Palet School we had meetings where we discussed various topics such as the running of the school, teaching and learning styles adopted by the school, the use of tablets in the classroom, the mediator system during breaks, school uniforms, school budgeting and the curriculum framework. We also had a tour of the school.
The kindergarten teacher explained how the children (a class of 25 students) are taught how to plan their weekly activities and tasks, and they have to carry out these tasks in the scheduled time. In this way, from such an early age, the students learn to be responsible, accountable, how to manage time and how to be independent learners. This task is one of the foundations on which their learning system is built on and is reinforced by teachers in the future years. The kindergarten class teacher had a weekly planner fixed to the wall with the names of the individual students. Every week, a student had to identify two tasks from those available and mark them on the chart. When one of these tasks is completed, the student must mark the task as “Ready” on the chart. In this way, the teacher will be aware of the progress of the children without the need of asking them. This strategy is aimed towards training the students in independent learning. This was evident when we entered the school for the first time. We were impressed when we saw two 10 year old children building up a power point presentation on their own, to deliver to the visiting teachers.
We also had the opportunity to observe a demo lesson using tablets. The teacher had three different age groups in the classroom. This may sound like an impossible feat, yet much of the work and organization is carried out by the program supplied with the tablets. One particular strategy for controlling such a situation is the “traffic light system”, where a red light means that students of other age groups cannot ask anything to the teacher but had to work entirely on their own. An orange light means that they can ask the one next to them, while a green light allowed the students to refer to the teacher whenever they needed. This programme focusing saved a lot of corrections for the teacher and helped student autonomy in learning.
Parents can access their child’s portfolio from home and check his/her progress. Parents can try the tablets too. One must also point out the general high level of discipline amongst the students.
At one instance, a group of students were carrying out dancing activities on their own in the schools foyer. We were impressed with the high level of discipline that these activities were carried out. The students were having fun, without making loud noise which could disturb the lessons that were being delivered in the surrounding classes.
We also carried out two science and technology activities with the oldest age group in the school. The first activity was a reaction-time testing activity while the second one involved students who worked in groups to design and make a strong paper structure to span a given distance. The students were divided in groups. At first they found it a bit difficult to collaborate together, because they were not used to this method but eventually they managed to accomplish the task. We could also note that the teaching of English as a foreign language is not given due importance. In fact, we could not communicate the technology activity to the students in English, but needed the help of the class teacher to translate in Dutch. One particular teacher said that English is only taught during the last two years of primary schooling. Yet, in the past years, the subject is now being taught from an earlier age.
Break supervision is carried out in a rather different way than ours. Instead of having groups of teachers stationed at different points around the school grounds, they adopt the “Mediator system”. Two children are chosen from the oldest age group to be mediators. These wear a coloured jacket to be distinguished from the others and have their pictures hung next to the entrance so that everyone can be aware of them. Whenever there is a quarrel, the students involved do not refer the incident to the teachers but try to find a solution themselves with the help of the mediators with the help of the following rules:
* Stay calm, cool down
* Talk and listen – What do both of you want?
* The mediator then asks them to propose a solution
* The solution needs to be a win-win solution, a sort of compromise
A curriculum framework is provided by the State Education Division and then every school is allowed to fill up the gaps according to its particular needs and goals to be reached. In this way, policies are not carried out top-down. Schools and the teachers themselves have ownership of the Curricula, are self-providing and independent.
The school we visited in Xanten on the 28th May has a population of 79 students, 1 Head, 5 teachers and 1 student-teacher. During our observations, we noticed that 9 year old students were comfortable using a microscope. Children had the opportunity of self-evaluating their work by means of multi-coloured simple resources. Worthy of special note was an after-school programme which aided students who had parents working till late.
It was remarked by the Dutch and German teaching staff that children from Sannat school knew a lot about other countries including the Netherlands.
On the same day, an evaluation meeting was held where everyone present attended. The meeting started with a welcome note by the project coordinator Mr Anton Verwey. He thanked all those present for their hard work throughout the year and asked them to share experiences to give feedback. After around thirty minutes of professional dialogue, the group divided itself into two: Mr Vervey and the Heads of Schools remained in the room whilst the remainder attended the presentation prepared by the Gozitan delegation (Qala and Sannat Primary School). The presentation focused on the activities held by the schools on Gozo (Sannat and Qala), in relation to the Project.
The meeting between Mr Vervey and Heads of School evaluated the progress of the first year of the Comenius Project (2013-2014).
On a side note, people from different countries should ideally be hosted in the same hotel.
More especially, parents must be informed how to access the Comenius Project website.
Comenius Project Meeting in Plangeross, Austria
By Mr Marcellus Xuereb (Head of School) and Ms Sylvana Cini (Music Teacher 31/01/2015 – 7/02/2015
The Gozo College Qala Primary School participated in a Comenius project in Austria between 31st January and 7th February.
We had the opportunity to evaluate and observe the Austrian’s educational system and compare it to our own educational system by observing lessons and giving presentations in the classroom.
The Head of School, Peter gave us a very warm welcome and thanks to him we had an amazing experience. We met together with all our partner schools and discussed our project and how each school is to participate in the project. Our understanding of different cultures grew as we learned how to encourage our students to respect and appreciate pupils of different abilities, nationalities and races.
We delivered a presentation to the students about the Maltese islands and shared information about our school, our culture and our identity as citizens of this small Mediterranean island. We also sang a ‘Rainbow Song’ where the students realized that all colours of the rainbow are important, hence all cultures form one beautiful world.
We highly recommend this Comenius projects to other schools. It really broadened our perspectives and gave us fresh insights into ways of teaching and learning.
This was our day-by-day programme:
Saturday 31st January 2015
Travelled to Austria
Sunday 1st February 2015
We met some teachers from the partner schools and introduced ourselves to the group. We discussed certain issues about our educational system.
Monday 2nd February
We met the whole group and discussed the week’s program. We also discussed what is being done in our respective schools regarding the current Comenius project. In our case both Qala and Sannat schools planned to involve students in musicals with an anti-xenophobia message.
Tuesday 3rd February
We discussed various topics such as the running of the school, teaching and learning styles adopted by the school, the curriculum framework and we were also shown around the school building. There is a very small number of children in the school and in one class there are children of different ages. We learnt what strategies the teacher use to reach all children. The children are encouraged to work quietly in a group while the teacher is working with another group.
Three teachers from Ireland did a presentation about their country. They also had a song with the theme of peace and harmony. Later children helped in cooking a traditional Irish recipe.
In the afternoon, the whole group explored the village together with the students. We learnt about their culture and traditions.
Wednesday 4th February
The whole group met at school again and the Dutch did their presentation. After a photo story about their country we all took part in a quiz. It was about the geographic differences between Holland and Austria. We were impressed with the high level of discipline while the groups of students were competing against other groups. The Dutch, together with the students prepared a traditional soup which we all appreciated in the freezing temperature.
Thursday 5th February
It was our turn to do the presentation at school. We showed them a photo story about our schools and talked about the methodologies and resources used in our schools.
Students listened to peace rainbow song. It is about all the differences in our life that form unity and peace. The colours of the rainbow represent the difference in cultures. They are all important to form one united beautiful world.
Then the children were given a hands-on activity. It involved a fun drawing activity that promoted peace and unity.
The children later helped us prepare a traditional Maltese drink ‘Imbuljuta’.
Friday 6th February
We visited the Kindergarten class. The teachers talked to us about the daily routine in their class. Forming a cohesive, cooperative, caring group is the biggest social goal to be reached during the kindergarten years because it is the context for everything that children do and learn at school. Teachers emphasize appreciation and respect of each child individual unique attributes as well as the similarities and differences that abound among appearances, cultural traditions, holidays, families, homes, and food of peoples all around the world.
We attended a mass at the village church where all the school children participated. We noted the great respect the children show during the mass.
On the same day, an evaluation meeting was held. We were all asked to give feedback about the week’s experience. We concluded the meeting by agreeing that we as teachers should work hard to develop an environment in which to teach primary school children to appreciate and respect all cultural, ethnic and racial differences.
We should be role models and teach that there is nothing to fear and much to be learned and valued about all people, regardless of these differences.
Saturday 7th February
Travelled back to Malta
Issues to be followed up by Malta or follow-up activities with tentative time frame
Sannat School – ‘The Peace Child’ Musical
Qala School – ‘Pirates Vs Mermaids Musical
‘The Peace Child’ is about two different tribes with a river which is keeping them apart. They are enemies and each tribe believed that they are the superior. Journalists visit the desert and came up with a good plan – to build a bridge. This bridge was a symbol of hope and unity. A child was born and both tribes united together and became one big family.
‘Pirates Vs Mermaids’ is a musical where the opposites meet. Pirates always say that mermaids are useless and Mermaids think that Pirates aren’t useful. They changed their mind when Pirates need the Mermaids to teach them how to swim while Mermaids needed the Pirates to catch a crocodile. They learnt that even though they can never be the same, they need each other in life so respect, unity and peace are essential in life.
Comenius project report on visit to St. Cronan Boys School, Bray, Republic of Ireland, 9 – 14 / 3 / 2015
The visit to St Cronan’s boys school, which is made up of around five hundred students, eighteen class teachers, eight support teachers and five special needs teachers, initiated on the 9th of March. Our group, together with other colleagues from Austria and Holland, was welcomed by Ms. Mauve Thierney who is the current head of school. After the usual introductions and formalities Ms. Thierney explained to us all that the school was at that moment holding an Irish week in preparation for St. Patrick’s Day, which is celebrated in all Ireland on the 18th of March. This was followed by a brief explanation of why this saint is so much important to the Irish people. The group was then taken for a tour around the school. It was observed that the school was very well organized and that a high degree of team spirit reigns among all members of the school’s staff. Apart from academic lessons, that usually fill a school day, it was noted that several classes were engaged in traditional dancing and singing lessons. It was observed that all students were highly motivated and took such lessons very seriously. Another particular observation was the fact that teachers were all the time encouraging students to shift from English to Gaelic, which is the Irish native language. We were told that the mentioned folkloristic lessons and the speaking of Gaelic were as part of the Irish week mentioned earlier. Our first day at St. Cronan school continued with a visit to the school’s staff room. This visit, apart from serving to the group to meet most of the school’s teaching staff, offered the possibility to each one of us to engage with our Irish colleagues in interesting conversations about our respective countries and traditions. Later on in the day, our group did two separate presentations about the Maltese Islands. During these presentations the geographical and historical aspects of our country were explained. The level of interest generated in the students was evident from the numerous number of questions they asked.
The following day a meeting with the project’s coordinator, Mr. Anton Verwey and the members from the other participating countries was held. During this lengthy meeting, the progress registered so far in the ‘Anti Xenophobia’ project and the way forward was discussed in detail. This meeting was followed by the senior students guiding the group around the school to show us with pride how their work related to the project is celebrated around the school. Later the group was invited to the school’s hall to attend a concert of traditional music and singing. This concert was held to celebrate the different, around thirty five, nationalities that attend the school. In this concert a multi-cultural orchestra made up of around sixty students and some Irish guest musicians entertained the present audience. The orchestra was under the baton of a Irish guest maestro who also composed a number of traditional Irish ballads for the occasion. Among the guests of honour who attend this concert, was the 1970 Eurovision Song Contest winner Dana, who currently is also a MEP for the Republic of Ireland.
Our third day at St. Cronan school, was once again initiated with another meeting with the project’s coordinator and our colleagues from the different participating countries. Since the project is arriving to its end the final report and its format were discussed. Following the meeting, our Dutch colleagues together with the male members forming our group, organized some traditional games to different age groups in one of the school’s playing areas. . It was noticed that the participating students could relate to some of the games presented because of obvious similarities. These games proved very fruitful to promote to a larger extent cooperation and fraternity among the different nationalities that attend the school. In the meantime the other two female members of the group were taken to visit Marino, which is a nearby special school. There they observed the teaching methods used and the initiatives taken for the benefit of those who attend the school. During the afternoon session the group attended the giving ceremony of the ‘green flag’ awarded to the school for its efforts to promote and sustain a clean environment. This event was also marked with the planting of a tree.
During our stay in Bray our Irish host organized for the whole group a number of interesting excursions which included mainly Ireland’s capital city, Dublin, and parts of the enchanting Wicklow mountain region. These visits helped us all to further our understanding of the Irish history and culture, but mainly also to admire the natural beauty of the unique landscapes which the south of this republic is endowed with.
Our final treat by our hosts was a farewell dinner held at a posh local restaurant. This occasion served us, not only to enjoy the Irish cuisine, but also to appreciate some Irish traditional songs performed by a quartet of musicians from the school’s staff.
The final project meeting at The Het Palet School in Opheusden, The Netherlands, 26 – 31 / 5 / 2015
Qala Primary School participated in the final meeting held in Opheusden, in the Netherlands for the final report and evaluation of the Comenius Project. Two members of staff, Mr Anthony Refalo and Mr Justin Debono visited The Het Palet School in Opheusden.
Tuesday, 26th May
The members and Ms Pauline Grech from Sannat Primary School flew to Schiphol Airport in Holland and arrived in Leerdam by train. There, they met their colleagues Mr Anton Verwey and Mr Peter Schonger who took them to a restaurant to have supper. They discussed the agenda for the next days of the meeting and planned the visits to the Het Palet School. They gave them information on how to go to school and which trains to get.
Wednesday, 27th May The following day, the members from Qala and Sannat, together with other colleagues from Austria, Ireland, Germany and Czech Republic, were welcomed by the Head of School, Ms Diana Brouwer and the teachers of the hosting country. After introducing themselves and were greeted by the teaching staff, they discussed about the topic over a cup of tea. After the warm exchanges the members were taken for a tour around the school and visited the upper classes. The teachers could notice the parents working on the school playground. They met a kindergarden teacher who was out helping the children in the games they were playing. While they visited the classes they gave each student a bookmark done by students of Qala and Sannat Primary School. The bookmarks consisted of some information about Qala and Sannat on one side. On the other side there were Maltese stamps and thelogos of the villages. Subsequently, all the members of the Comenius project met to discuss the final report and the outcomes of the project. They discussed the finalisation of the booklet our school was going to present to the agency. In the meantime, Ms. Pauline Grech, went to another school which has children with special needs. She later joined the other colleagues at the Het Palet School. The Head of School explained how the school ventured on a new project called ‘Mediation of the Day’ where children were given ‘authority’ to protect other children. The chosen ones were given guidance on how to look after other vulnerable children during lunchtime. A set of rules was created and put on the noticeboard on how children can respect and help others, safeguard the cleanliness of the environment and solve daily problems.
Thursday, 28th May
During their stay in Leerdam, Mr Anton Verwey organised for the whole group a number of interesting excursions. Our members went to Amsterdam with all the group. They had a very exciting day going on a boat trip on the canal and visiting the Rajkmuseum and Ann Frank Museum. In the evening, the Comenius group went to see an interesting play about the turbulent life of Ann Frank at the new TheaterAmsterdam.
Friday, 29th May
The visiting group met at Anton’s house to discuss certain issues and continue finalising the project. Anton Verwey secretly organised a horse ride around the village for the group. Then the whole group had a day off and the Gozo group paid a visit to the city of Utrecht. After spending hours roaming through the streets of Utrecht they visited a Cathedral dedicated to St. Martin of Tours which a section of the cathedral was destroyed by a storm in 1674. Next to the cathedral there was a mobile exhibition of World War 2 about the faith of the Jews in Utrecht.
Saturday, 30th May
The visiting group attended an annual march in Leerdam called ‘Glasstadmarc
2015’. Leerdam is notably known as the village of glass due to the fact that a number of glass blowing factory are found in this quaint village. Many school, dancing companies and philanthropic societies from the village took part and marched through the town. The group could notice many ethnic people and different nationalities eagerly participated in this annual event. In the afternoon the whole group was invited for the final treat by the hosting country. They were invited to a garden party organised by Anton, Diana and Paula from Holland and where the booklet of the final report was presented to the participating schools. This occasion served us, not only to appreciate the good food and pleasant music but also to enjoy the presence of all the members of the project. Sadly they had to bid farewells to their friends from, Austria, Holland, Ireland, Germany and Czech Republic.
Sunday, 31st May
The Gozo group left the hotel early to catch a train to Schiphol Airport and travel back to Malta.
Project meeting at Qala Primary School from Tuesday 8th -14th April 2014
Attendees: Project coordinator Anton Verwey, Elena, and Diana Brouwer. (from OBS Het Palet, Opheusden, Netherlands), Martina Walsh and Linda Farrell (from St Cronan’s BNS Bray, Ireland), Peter Schonger (from Volksschule Plangeross, Austria).
Wednesday 9th April:
The visiting members from Ireland and the Netherlands travelled directly to Qala Primary School to meet with Comenius group and the Qala teaching staff. Following mid-morning break the entire Comenius group visited some classrooms and met teachers and pupils. At lunchtime the group had the pleasure of fine dining at the I.T.S. restaurant in Qala which is part of the Gozo Tourism Catering College. Later in the afternoon the visiting members set off on a cultural sightseeing trip of Gozo. Their first stop was at the awe-inspiring megalithic complex of Ggantija in Xaghra. In the evening the group met for dinner at a restaurant in Xlendi.
The group returned to Qala School where they met with their colleagues in Mrs Sandra’s Casarini’s Office, who was the Head of School at that time, for a meeting to discuss the evaluation stage of the project. Later that morning, as part of Qala’s interpretation of the Comenius Anti-Xenophobia Project, the pupils of Years 5 and 6 performed a musical for us. It was directed by their Music teacher, Ms. Sylvana Cini. The musical was called ‘The Peace Child’ and was truly spectacular.
That afternoon’s sightseeing included a trip by minibus to The Azure Window and the surroundings. Their next stop was the famous Ta’Pinu Sanctuary.
The day began with visits to two of the Junior classes – Maria Assunta’ s Kinder 1 class and Year 2. All the members of the visiting group had prepared a photographic presentation about their school and the locality and delivered it in front of the pupils. The pupils were especially happy to receive the teddy bear stickers and other gifts from the Irish group and cookies from the Dutch group. The visiting members admitted that they were struck by the pupils’ spontaneity and good humour. Then, the Comenius group, including Mrs. Brown, observed an English lesson on ‘How to Make Toast’ conducted by the Year 5 teacher. Once again the pupils were very attentive and engaged, and thoroughly enjoyed the ‘hands on’ experience.
Before lunch the visiting group paid a courtesy visit to the Principal of Gozo College and discussed about the project’s outcomes. Following their final lunch with the Comenius colleagues, they spent the afternoon sightseeing in Victoria.
Monday 14th April 2014
On Monday morning the group visited Sannat Primary School where they received a very warm welcome and renewed friendships with their colleagues. At school the Comenius partners took part in the Stations of the Cross. Then they visited the Special Education Unit where they were shown the excellent facilities. The group members joined some classes in the school hall where Peter from Austria was showing a powerpoint presentation on the Comenius visit to his school last January.
The second project meeting at Qala Primary School from Tuesday 14th –Friday 17th October 2014
Attendees: Project coordinator Anton Verwey, Jeanette Palelopheusden, Anga (from OBS Het Palet, Opheusden, Netherlands), Sinéad Slater, Niamh Breathnach and Kevin Vance (from St Cronan’s BNS Bray, Ireland).
Tuesday 14th October
The visiting group meet the Gozitan colleagues from Qala Primary.
Wednesday 15th October
The group visited Gozo College Qala Primary school. They were warmly welcomed by the new Head of School Marcellus Xuereb and they were introduced to the members of the staff. Following that, they were taken on a tour of the school. They visited all classrooms and spoke with the students who were eager and excited to meet their visitors. The group appreciated the fact that arts play an important role in the Maltese education; subject experts are involved in the teaching of drama, art and music. They realised how our system differs from the Irish and Dutch systems where teachers are involved in teaching all subjects. Our class sizes are noticeably smaller than in Ireland and teachers can engage more with their pupils. Our system can provide more individual help support and attention. From the outset, they were struck by the calm relaxed atmosphere that pervades in the school. They were also impressed by the warm, caring relationship that exists between teacher and pupil.
Following a short tea break where they sampled traditional Gozitan cakes and pastries, they continued their tour of the school. They witnessed a lively open air P.E (Physical Education) lesson which involved running games and ball drills. After that, they visited the pre-school section of Qala Primary.
Later that morning they were treated to a wonderful musical performance. Under the guidance of the music teacher Slyvana Cini, every class sang lovely melodious songs on the project theme of xenophobia. The importance of peace, love, harmony and tolerance was emphasised. The pupil played their percussion instruments with great energy and enthusiasm. It was a very enjoyable experience for the visitors.
Afterwards, they visited the complementary classroom where pupils read stories they had written on the project theme of xenophobia. The children had discussed and explored the concepts of acceptance, empathy and openness in a meaningful and interesting way.
Following a staff project meeting, we participated in a science and technology lesson with the senior pupils. The pupils were asked to construct a tower structure using only spaghetti and marshmallows. This science activity served to consolidate basic mathematical concepts of shape and space, and allowed the pupils to engage in a fun filled group activity. They were encouraged to work in a scientific manner. They had to communicate with their peers, reason, predict, design and construct their towers.
Finally, after a delicious lunch, they said goodbye to the Gozitan colleagues. Their first day in Qala Primary was certainly an interesting and informative one. Later in the afternoon, the visiting group, with the Gozo colleagues, visited the stunning Citadel, the Gozo Cathedral and the museums in Victoria. That evening they enjoyed a dinner in a local restaurant with the Qala teaching staff.
Thursday 17th October
They returned to Qala Primary and the Dutch colleagues taught an art history lesson. They showed the pupils a selection of Van Gogh paintings and then they invited the pupils to draw their own pictures inspired by Van Gogh’s wonderful “Starry Night”.
This was followed by the Irish presentation which showcased the history, landscape and cultural attraction of our native isle. The visiting group chaired a question and answer session with the senior pupils.
Subsequently, they visited Sannat Primary School, a larger school which includes a Special Education Unit. Once again they toured the classrooms and met met with the pupils and the teachers. They got the sense that each child’s abilities and needs were known and that each child was encouraged to progress at his or her own rate depending on their ability. They noticed that several special needs children were included in the mainstream setting with special assistance. The care and attention they receive which is exceptional is a benefit to the other pupils in the mainstream as they develop greater empathy and understanding. This type of experience will enable the pupils to identify with and accept pupils from other cultural backgrounds.
That afternoon they visited the beautiful coastal region of Dwejra and took a boat ride to view the stunning “Azure Window”. They visited Dwejra tower and observed a presentation by Mario Gauci. The visiting group also visited an organic farm where they sampled local honey, carob and cheese. Moreover, they realised how agriculture plays an important role in the Gozitans way of life. Another action packed day ended with a meal with our colleagues where we had the opportunity to discuss the day’s events and how the project was progressing.
Friday 17th October
On Friday they visited the megalithic complex of Ggantija and Ninu’s cave in Xaghra where they were surprised to see stalactites and stalagmite formations in a cave of a local home.
Together with the Comenius group, Qala teaching staff and the SMT had a final meeting to evaluate the project. We discussed the weeks activities, the work covered on the xenophobia theme and discussed the cultural integration of the children within the school. The group relayed their impressions of the schools we visited.
This trip proved to be a thoroughly informative and beneficial experience for the colleagues. It allowed the, to develop professionally by comparing and contrasting education in Gozo with their education system.
What is Xenophobia?
The term xenophobia means the fear of that which is different, foreign, or strange. It is an irrational fear of strangers or of those who are different in some significant way, such as race, ethnicity, culture, politics, religion. Since people live together in families and communities where blood ties and cultural similarities foster cooperation, those who are considered `different‘ are accused of undermining the social solidarity. The very presence of people who are different in appearance, belief or language make the majority of people in a community wary of those who do not share a common interest in preserving the dominant group. Thus this leads to conflict and dreadful consequences.
The consequences of xenophobia can be very serious. It is important to do everything possible to overcome xenophobia on a social and widespread level in order to avoid problems that can stem from fear and prejudice.
There are two types of xenophobia. The first type is cultural in nature. Those who are xenophobic are so against the objects and elements of a culture, such as clothing or language. The second type of xenophobia is when an entire group is not considered part of the society. This can result, most often, from a mass immigration by one group into a country, though xenophobia can be present in relation to groups in the society who joined the community quite some time ago. This type of xenophobia can result in hostility and violence on a lower level up to greater persecution of the group through genocide.
Xenophobia, while it is irrational, does have causes that can be attributed to its acquisition. Poor experiences with others from certain groups, a generalised fear of that which is different, propaganda or exposure to implicit or explicit xenophobic behaviour by others can all result in acquiring xenophobia.
It is very important that society combat racism, xenophobia and discrimination and endorse tolerance, respect and mutual understanding in our societies. We must ensure that societies are not discriminatory and do not foster intolerance.
All authorities and organizations including schools must disseminate anti-xenophobia among pupils and citizens. Pupil should experience and learn about different cultures and traditions from various countries in order to respect and embrace them.
The aim of the project in the primary school is to equip children with skills to challenge xenophobia in a child-friendly and motivating way. The project utilized school subjects including art, music, drama, writing and design to help children grasp the concept of anti-xenophobia. The children developed a story with a happy ending that promotes positive images. Children across Europe worked on a common beginning of a story.
`There is a small community (it could be a village, a school, a hotel, holiday camp, small town etc.) and everyone is busy with their everyday life. Suddenly they hear the sounds of new people coming. The people of this community are surprised, what is going to happen?`
The students were able to compare and contrast how children in other countries have developed their stories. Teachers met their European colleagues to exchange ideas, plan, support and talk about their experiences and learning outcomes. Parents took notice of what their children have produced and saw performances conducted at school. Moreover they saw what children from other European countries have done with the same story.
All teachers were strongly encouraged to find ways to teach primary school children that there was no need to be afraid of people from other countries and that they can be friendly with these interesting guests and learn a lot.
Since Gozo College Qala Primary is a small school (110 students), all students and teachers participated in the activities held. The Head of School always offered the mobilities to all the staff. The participants were chosen in a fair manner without any complaints. The school tried to involve all staff members and pupils in the project. All members of staff contributed in the school activities The SMT and other teachers planned the calendar of events of the project. While the other peripatetic teachers, together with the music teacher, planned and organised the activities with the participation of all the students. They also exchanged greetings and Christmas/Easter cards. During our school visits children were encouraged to learn some foreign words in other languages. They exhibited charts, works and information about various countries. During most of the activities parents were also invited.
There was ongoing correspondence between partner countries. Every activity was uploaded on the website: http://www.paletopheusden.nl/index.php/home. Since the website is in Dutch, our school uploaded all the reports of activities and visits abroad on our school blog in English: http://gc.qala.skola.edu.mt/. Frequent meetings were being held to discuss outcomes and projections for the upcoming events. Our children were eager to communicate with other children of partner countries via skype and other forms of communication such as sending e-mails. However, along the course of the project the school encountered some issues in using modern technology among under-aged students due to the data protection. The school management and teaching staff were very attentive not to expose the children’s identity and e-mail addresses. In order to safeguard the students, the idea of using this communication tool was discarded.
Students developed greater empathy towards children and adults from other countries (refugees, African countries and English speaking returned migrants etc.) Students mastered skills to recognise and challenge instances of racism and promote equality. They developed a broader knowledge, understanding an appreciation of the various customs, traditions and cultures of other people.
Other institutions and organizations of the local community, parents and other community members were invited to the all school activities. During mobilities, when members from foreign schools visited our school, meetings were held with other schools (Sannat and Victoria Primary), I.T.S. (Institute of Tourism studies) and the Gozo Principal and the Education Officer for Gozo. Every educational outing offered during their visit offers an opportunity for interaction and communication with the local community (Qala and Gozo in general).
A positive impact at community level was experienced. Although Qala is a small village, its population has a high percentage of English speaking persons who are integrated in our community in order to share their experiences and knowledge. A retired English teacher, Mrs Brown, comes to school twice a week to help children with the reading lessons and children were involved in discussion on current issues and various topics with the upper classes. A group of refugees, who resided at Jesuits Refugee Centre, were invited to come and deliver a speech in English about what led them to their present situation. They also performed traditional music and danced in front of the children. It was very effective and the children were highly impressed. Photos of this visit were uploaded on the school blog and children’s work was exhibited on the noticeboards.
The class teachers, the Complementary, Health & Safety, Music and PSD Teachers made a joint effort and spoke (had discussions in class) about Anti-Xenophobia. It was noted that the children have learnt a great deal and understood the pain certain people go through when discriminated.
A common questionnaire on anti-Xenophobia was carried out in our school at the beginning of the project to document the children’s perception on racism. The same questionnaire was carried out in other partner countries.
Visitors will be guests; guests will become friends:
The Anti-Xenophobia project for children of European (primary) schools.