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.