Comenius Trip to Gozo, Malta

 

Tuesday 14th October – 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).

Gozo College Qala School:

Head of School -  Marcellus Xuereb

Assistant Head of School - Anthony Refalo

Teachers involved:

Joseph Gatt and Paul Camilleri (myself) did the technology lesson with the year 6 students .

Justin Debono worked with his complimentary class.

Sylvana Cini worked with all the classes (singing).

 

Gozo College Sannat Primary:

Head of School -  Ms Pauline Grech

Assistant Heads - Ms Miriam Galea / Mr Mario Zammit.

 

Gozo College Principal - Mr Victor Galea (we visited him at the education office on Thursday after Sannat School)

 

Tuesday 14th October

8pm meet and greet with our Gozitian and Dutch colleagues

Wednesday 15th October

Our group visited Gozo College Qala primary school. We were warmly welcomed by the principal Marcellus Xuereb and we were introduced to the members of the staff. Following that, we were brought on a tour of the school. Qala primary school is a small Catholic school of over a hundred pupils. We visited classrooms and spoke with the students who were eager and excited to meet their visitors. The arts play an important role in the Maltese education; subject experts are involved in the teaching of drama, art and music. This system differs from the Irish system where teachers are involved in teaching all subjects. Class sizes are noticeably smaller than in Ireland (average size 18-20 pupils). Teachers can engage more with their pupils and they can provide more individual help support and attention. From the outset, we were struck by the calm relaxed atmosphere that pervades in the school. We were also impressed by the warm, caring relationship that exists between teacher and pupil.

 

            Following a short tea break where we sampled traditional Gozitan cakes and pastries, we continued our tour of the school. We witnessed a lively open air P.E (Physical Education) lesson which involved running games and ball drills. After that, we visited the preschool section of Qala primary. Both Maltese and English are taught, some lessons in Maltese, other lessons fully in English. Colour differentiated flashcards, headings and posters were in evidence in the colourful classroom, (blue print for English and black print for Maltese).

            Later that morning we 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, we visited a junior 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 scientifically. They had to communicate with their peers, reason, predict, design and construct their towers. Great fun was had by all and Mr Vance’s group managed to build the highest tower!

 

            Finally, after a delicious lunch, we said goodbye to our Gozitan colleagues. Our first day in Gala primary was certainly an interesting and informative one.

Later in the afternoon, our host Paul and Joseph brought us and our Dutch colleagues to Victoria, the capital city of Gozo. There we visited the stunning citadel and the Gozo cathedral and museum. We enjoyed all the cultural delights the city had to offer and we fully absorbed the relaxed Gozitan pace of life.  That evening we enjoyed an alfresco dinner in a local restaurant with our new found Gozitan and Dutch friends.

Thursday 17th October

We returned to Qala primary this morning. Our 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 show cased the history, landscape and cultural attraction of our native isle. Mr Vance chaired a question and answer session with the senior pupils and impressed them with his Irish dancing prowess!

Subsequently, we visited Sannat Primary school, a larger school which included a Special Education Unit.  Once again we toured the classrooms and we met with the pupils and the teachers. We 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. We noticed that several special needs children were included in the mainstream setting with special assistance. The care and attention they receives exceptional and undoubtedly their presence benefit the other pupils as they develop greater empathy and understanding. This type of experience will enable the pupils to include identify with and accept pupils from other cultural backgrounds.

The special unit in Sannat included two sensory rooms and a therapy gym. One of the rooms involved a range of touch sensitive lights. This facility is used to maximise the participation of pupils whose ability to speak is maybe limited. Story telling sessions are held here and the facility is used by other schools in Gozo. We were also impressed by the relaxation room, a soft padded area with soothing lights which serve to calm and distress pupils in need of some time out.

That afternoon we visited the beautiful coastal region of Dwejra and we took a boat ride to view the stunning “Azure Window”. We visited Dwejra tower and observed a presentation by Mario Gauci. We also visited an organic farm where we sampled local honey, carob and cheese. 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 we visited the awe- inspiring megalithic complex of Gyanlija. This amazing structure was erected in three stages over a period of several hundred years(c 3600-3000BC) by a community of farmers and herders who inhabited Gozo. Rituals of life and fertility were practised within these precincts. Eventually, the inhabitants of the early Bronze Age adopted the site as a cremation cemetery. We wondered around the ancient ruins and fascinating museum with its amazing artefacts and visual reconstructions. Next we visited Ninu’s cave in Xaghra where we were surprised to see stalactites and stalagmite formations in the cellar of a local home.

Later we enjoyed the sights of the scenic Ramla bay reputedly the home of Calypso’s cave (Homers Odyssey). One of the highlights of our trip, however, was a tour of the island of Comino where we had the opportunity to swim in the crystal clear waters of Gozo’s famous Blue Lagoon.

Our time on Gozo was drawing to a close. We had a final meeting to evaluate the project. We discussed the weeks activities, the work covered on the xenophobia theme and we discussed the cultural integration of the children within the school. We relayed our impressions of the schools we visited.

Our Comenius trip proved to be a thoroughly informative and beneficial experience. Our visit to Gozo left us with lovely memories and a desire to return to the island in the future. It allowed us to develop professionally by comparing and contrasting education in Gozo with our Irish education system.

We wish to thank all the schools who participated in the project. Thank you to our excellent project co-ordinator Anton Verwey and a special thank you to our host teachers Paul, Joseph and Justin who gave so much of their time and who made our project trip so memorable. We look forward to continued collaboration and sharing of good practice with our European colleagues and we greatly appreciate the opportunity to participate in this Comenius project.

Report by, Niamh Breathnach, Kevin Vance, Sinéad Slater


Report on Comenius visit to Austria 1st-6th February 2015



Our trip began in Innsbruck on Sunday the 1st of February.  We met with our colleagues from Malta, Holland and Austria at 18:00.  Introductions were made and we proceeded to a local restaurant to discuss the programme for the week. 

Peter gave us an overview of his plans for us and Anton spoke to us about the Comenius project and what would be expected of us during the week.  We had a very pleasant meal during which the teachers mingled and talked about their experiences of teaching and their thoughts on the Comenius project.

On Monday morning we were met and given a walking tour of Innsbruck.  It was interesting to note that we were all experienced similar feelings, marvel at new sights, tiredness from travel  and shyness and reticence at meeting new people despite coming from four different countries.  By the end of the week this shyness and reticence had been replaced by warmth and collegiality which demonstrates that the Comenius project in itself is a means of uniting people from different cultures and countries.

Following the walking tour we travelled by bus to Wenn where Peter and his family gave us a very warm Austrian welcome and treated us to cake, wine and coffee.  We discussed the programme for the coming days and Anton stressed the need for an interactive element to our presentation.  During the rest of the week each country gave a presentation.  Peter referred to a previous trip to the Netherlands and linked to it by asking each delegation to cook a dish native to their country with the children.

We based our own presentation around storytelling, a very important means of welcoming new people and building bridges in Ireland.  We explored this through the telling of a traditional Irish legend.  This was followed by a co-operative activity for the children.  The children had to match and order a simple version of the story.  We also gave each child a handmade book telling the story of another Irish story.  These books had been made by boys in St Cronan’s.  Following this we taught the children a song ‘You are my Brother’, the words of which link very nicely with the theme of diversity in the Comenius project.  We then cooked potato cakes and brownies with the children helping.

The Dutch delegates gave a presentation which also involved a story ‘Stone Soup’ which again emphasised the importance of working together and not fearing new and different cultures.  Subsequent to this the Dutch teachers ran a quiz for both the children and the teachers.  Later on a traditional Dutch soup was prepared, cooked and enjoyed. 

The Maltese teachers taught a song about the rainbow and used the concept of a rainbow to explore how the different cultures work well together, no one colour /culture is more important than another.  The children enjoyed doing a worksheet based on the song.  A traditional Maltese drink was prepared following this.

On Thursday evening we evaluated the week and each group expressed their opinion on how the week had gone.  Overall there was a feeling of huge gratitude to Peter and pride in the way we had all interacted with one another.  It was felt that we had all learnt a lot and that it was a very positive experience.  There was a real sense of achievement and a looking forward to continuing with the project in our various schools.

Tara Connelly, Eimear Willis and Fiona O’Doherty

 St. Cronan’s B.N.S., Bray, Co. Wicklow.