Comenius Visit to Austria (3rd - 7th February 2014)

Last February our school ‘Gozo College Sannat Primary and Special Unit’, took part in the Comenius project dealing ‘Anti Xenophobia for children of Europe (primary) schools’ in an Austrian school situated in a touristic location of Plungeross.  Teachers from Austria, Ireland and Holand together with the Gozitan participants met in a hosting school namely Volksschule.  Together we shared experiences and practices and raised discussions regarding the aim of this project and to understand the different systems and strategies used in the European countries involved in this project.

The hotel was in the village of Wenns from where we travelled by bus daily to Plangeross.  Along the way it was like living in a dream from Christmas cards pictures.  The snow all around was a beauty to see.  Besides these scenes of Austria, we got the opportunity to have classroom visits and lesson observations.  Together we experienced different practices and techniques used in teaching, giving the opportunity for success for each student.  It was noted that Malta having English as a second language is an important asset, in a world where countries are getting nearer and where cultures are changing and getting closer to each other.  This enhances linguistic diversity which help foster diverse learning environment where all students can succeed. 

Something that undoubtedly was not missed was the fact that children of different ages attended the same class.   The director of the school Mr. Peter Schonger was in charge of this class.  He explained to us effective teaching techniques which are adapted by him to reach and teach each student age appropriately.  On Thursday we even got the opportunity to celebrate a mass with the school children.  They sang as a choir and helped in the mass services.   

The students of Volksschule Plangeross were introduced to the island of Malta on Wednesday with a power point full of colourful pictures.  They were also given a brief explanation about different places around Gozo and Malta.  Also the Maltese Cross puzzle was done together with the students and it was exciting to see their eyes when they were exposed to some frequently used Maltese words and after repeating the word pronunciation, they were given the opportunity to guess the meaning of it.   Something that will be treasured for a life time is the fact that each student one by one came to us (colleagues from Gozo-Malta) presenting us with a card to be passed to students from the Gozo College Sannat Primary School.  For us (the participants from Gozo) was the same experience when it came to learning through the presentations presented to us and all the students by our colleagues from both Ireland and Holand.

We even had the opportunity to mime a story with these students, based on the presentation in Opheusden where strangers arrived by bus in a village looking for a place to sleep.  No one had room but an Austrian child remembered Christmas Nativity story and invited these strangers in his house to sleep and eat.  Then everyone made the same and all of them were happy together.

 

The different cultural backgrounds also play an important factor in the teaching techniques used.  In the afternoon we went to the glacier to ski. It was an unforgettable experience.  It was an unbelievable experience to see the buses we travelled in soon were full of people of all ages from three year olds to sixty or more, wearing their skiing equipment including the skiing shoes and skis in their hand while in Malta in Summer all one can see are buses full of people wearing swimwear and going to the beach. 

We visited very interesting places in Austria such as the Hofburg Palace which was an impressive palace to have the opportunity to visit, the Tyrolean Museum where we got lots of information on Austrian’s history and the Golden Roof in Innsbruck.  Besides these impressive panoramic views we also visited Swarovski Museum which was a marvellous experience of art beauty all along.  In Wenns we went to a Christmas Crib exhibition.  This was also interesting.  The fact that some of the cribs on show were with snow surrounding it were very special to see.

 

It was a memorable experience where all concerned learnt a lot from each other experiences and which in the end made us all feel as one team aiming our concerns on the same issues.

Jennifer Grech

Gozo College Sannat Primary