St. Cronan's Boys' National School

Vevay Crescent,
Vevay Road,
Bray,
Co. Wicklow,
Ireland

353 1 2860440

Principal Mrs. Maeve Thierney

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www.stcronans.ie

 

 

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"At St. Cronan's, everyone gets opportunities to succeed"

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The school is in an urban area of Bray which has approximately 30,000 inhabitants. It is a boys' school with just over 500 students . The wider community is an important aspect of the school's ethos and there is a high level of participation of parents in several school activities. A broad curriculum is offered by the school, which is enhanced by the presence of children from 28 different countries. Some of our pupils come from other countries, mainly China, India, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, a number of African countries and the Philippines.  There are also a very wide range of after- school activities on offer in the school; these include an after-school club for children until 6.00pm and several sports and creative activities, including drama, art club, chess, wood-carving and an astronomy club.


Our Comenius experience began on the 14th of September when we were greeted by Anton and his legendary Land Rover in Geldermalsen. That evening we were brought to a traditional Dutch Pancake Restaurant. It was here that we met Christine and Joseph from Gozo.

On Monday morning we were warmly welcomed by Diana Brouwer, the Director of Het Palet school in Opheusdon. Whilst here we visited a selection of the school’s classes. We experienced ‘tablet lessons’ in action, child centered learning and we interviewed the school’s mediators. We also were given an opportunity to present information about our school - St. Cronan’s Boy National School - to a couple of classes. We thoroughly enjoyed sharing an Irish song “Lámh lámh eile” with the pupils. The children were surprised by the differences which were highlighted between our school and theirs. Examples include same sex schooling and the wearing of a school uniform. 

(Pupils working hard on their tablets during a Maths lesson.)

Our time in this “Vreedzame School” (Peaceful School) was a real eye opener and a great experience for us both.

(Ag canadh Lámh, Lámh Eile with the pupils in Het Palet School.)

(Claire talking to the youngest pupils in Opheusden.)

(Sarah talking to two pupils about their English lessons and how they learn English.)

 

After a morning we traveled to the beautiful town of Xanten in Germany. Here we visited the Roman Museum and the ruins of the old Roman city.

 

 (Claire and Sarah enjoying the sunshine in the Roman Amphitheathre.)

The following morning we were brought to a partner school, KGS Mariënbaum. Here we were given an opportunity to compare and contrast the schooling systems between the four European schools (Ireland, Gozo, the Netherlands and Germany). Again we were welcomed with open arms to the school. As with German custom we were greeted with a large breakfast spread thanks to the Director of the school, Maria Evers.

The highlight of our trip to this school was learning about the ‘Kneipbecken’, a truly unique and grounding experience for the pupils. Both staff and pupils were proud of its presence in their school garden. 

On Wednesday we returned to Opheusden for a meeting concerning the Project’s website. Here we discussed how we would maintain communication during and following the Project.  Some suggestions included Skype and written postcards. A special thanks must be extended to Willy Bogards for her marvellous work on the Project’s website and her clear instructions on how to navigate it. Well done Willy.

 

That evening we enjoyed dinner alongside our Maltese friends in the Co-Ordinator’s traditional ’T house’.

On Thursday the 19th of September we returned to Opheusden to attend the school’s performance of their play highlighting the advantages of cultural and ethnic diversity through the medium of food. All present, pupils, teachers, parents and Comenius participants benefited from the experience. Following the perdformance we were brought around the classes to witness the pupils playing various games from around the world and tasting a selection of foods which represented the nationaliies in their school. We were impressed by the manner in which the pupils conducted themselves throughout and their openess and acceptance to new ideas.

Sadly our successful trip had to come to an end. We woiuld like to extend our most sincere thank you firsly to the children in both schools we visited, to their wonderful teachers and staff we had the pleasure of visitijg, to our Comenius partners and to our fantastic, informative and always entertaining Co-ordinator Anton Verwey.

Go raibh maith agaibh.


Comenius diary

Sunday 2nd February

Comenius trip to  Innsbruck  capital city of the Tyrol region in Western Austria

7pm meet and greet with Comenius group from Malta,
Austria and the Netherlands.

Attendees:  project co-ordinator Anton Verwey

from OBS Het Palet, Opheusden Netherlands: Diana  Brouwer and Jeanette Paletopheusden

from  Gozo Sannat primary school Gozo,  Malta: Miriam Galea and Jennifer Grech

from Gozo College Qala Primary School, Gozo, Malta: Sandra Casarini and Justin Debono

from St.Cronan's B.N.S Bray Ireland: Kevin Vance, Anna Wilson, Niamh Breathnach and Fiona Egan

Our  host school Volksschule, Plangeross Austria: Peter Schonger

Monday 3rd of February 2014

Our group met under the famous’ Golden Roof’ in the charming old town of Innsbruck. We were taken on a historical tour of the Hofburg Imperial Palace, a magnificent residential complex once used by the Habsburgs. This was followed by a visit to the elegant and iconic ‘Café Sacher’ where we sampled some original ‘Sacher-Torte’. Next we visited the Tyrolean State Museum which gave us a great insight into the military history of the 18th and 19th Century. We also viewed the giant panoramic painting which depicts a series of epic battles for freedom fought by Tyrolean soldiers against Napoleon’s army in 1806. Later in the afternoon, we visited the amazing Swarovski Crystal Worlds Museum where we were enthralled by the magical displays of modern art using crystal as the primary medium.On Monday evening, we arrived in the picturesque village of Wenns in the Pitzal Valley.

 


 

Tuesday 4th February

The group visited Plangeross Volksschule to vist our host, Peter Schonger, and the pupils. The children introduced themselves in English and welcomed us to their school. St. Cronan's delivered a presentation about the Comenius project currently in action and gave a short presentation on St Cronans school. This was followed by a presentation from the Netherlands. The children then read out some of their project work for us all which was translated by Peter into English. The group worked, interacted and guided the children's learning. Peter gave a further tour of the school. It was fascinating to see how a small country school operates. Later in the day, Anton Verwey brought us on an historical walking tour of the snowy village of Plangeross (snowball fight - 1 nil to Mr Vance!! ). In the evening we visited the family home of our host Peter. We met his wonderful parents Claus and Ingrid and we sampled some traditional Tyrolean fare. In the evening we attended a spectacular snow ski show in the stunning Alpine mountains.

 

 

 

Wednesday  5th of February

We returned to our host school and participated in a drama workshop showcasing the pupils’ interpretation of the anti xenophobia project. Great fun was had by all. The Maltese delivered their presentation about their school and their involvement in the Comenius project. Anna Wilson gave a wonderful performance of traditional Irish music and the children participated throughout. Niamh Breathnach gave a photographic presentation of the Comenius project in action in St. Cronan's. Later we visited the spectacular Pitzal Glacier and Rifflsee, Tyrol’s highest glacier, which was an incredible experience. Finally we visited ‘150 Jahre Weihnachtskrippe’ museum where local art and craft is celebrated.
 

Our Comenius trip proved to be a thoroughly informative and interesting experience.
We wish to thank all of the schools who participated in the project. A special thanks to our generous host, Peter who made the project trip so memorable.

By:

 Anna Wilson, Niamh Breathnach, Fiona Egan and Kevin Vance

 


Comenius Trip to Gozo (March 31st-April 4th 2014)

Joan-Marie Healy, Clare Dornan and Alice O’Donnell, St Cronan’s School, Bray, Co. Wicklow, Ireland

 

 

Monday

We arrived on Gozo on Monday March 31st after a long journey. Our tiredness vanished when we saw the sun! This was a welcome sight for the Irish indeed. We were met at the airport and brought by taxi and ferry to our hotel at the harbour in Xlendi. Our initial impressions of Malta were that it was very built up and tourist oriented. Gozo seemed very different. The pace of life was relaxed, Xlendi was a lot smaller than we had expected, everything was within walking distance and the island has a well developed bus transport system. The scenery on Gozo at that time of year is similar in some ways to the scenery of the west of Ireland: lots of small fields and hedges although we don’t have cactus hedges in Ireland! Agriculture plays a strong part in the life of Gozo and we were told that a large proportion of the people will have a small plot to grow tomatoes for example even when their job is not connected to agriculture.

We were met by Maria Curmi on the first evening and we also go to meet our Dutch colleagues with whom we would spend the next few days. Two of them, Willi and Frances ,had visited us in Bray along with Anton, but it was our first time to meet Els. We had a lovely meal and a chance to chat about the plan for the week. Our activities were planned by Maria and thanks to her we had a wonderful trip. Special thanks to her and to our Dutch and Gozitan colleagues for making our time on Gozo so enjoyable.

          

 

Tuesday

Our first visit to the school was exciting for all of us. We were looking forward to meeting the teachers who had visited our school and we got the sense that our arrival was very exciting for the whole school community. We met the Principal, Mr Daniel Cassar and other members of the staff. We had lovely coffee and local homemade pastry specialities which were very tempting. Sannat school is a Catholic school, as are most of the schools on Gozo. There was a display to Our Lady in the entrance area. The school is quite bit and airy, there are several rooms upstairs which are not in use as classrooms so they can be sued to Arts based activities. The school is open in the evening for art classes which are open to parents and other members of the local community. The arts seem to occupy a very important role in education in Malta and subject experts are involved in teaching music, drama and art to the pupils. We were able to observe ones such art class on the Wednesday. This system differs from the Irish system where teachers are involved in teaching all subjects . What was most evident was the fact that class sizes are very small, a lot smaller than our classes in Bray. The largest class in Sannat was a lot smaller than our smallest class. This allows for more group work and more time spent teaching instead of on class management .themselves.

Each class had prepared something connected with the participating countries, we saw displays of Irish dancing, informative powerpoint presentations as well as a living history show in one class. It was obvious that the children had learnt a lot and were eager to share their knowledge with us. We had our first trip that afternoon and were most impressed with the sights of Ramla and Marsalforn Bay .

 

We also visited  Dwejra and  the Azure window and had dinner with our colleagues from the Netherlands that night at the Boathouse Xlendi . This was the first of several dinners there.

Wednesday

On arrival at Sannat Primary School, we were met by Maria Curmi (project coordinator in the school) and Daniel Cassar, School Principal.   The school was a hive of excitement, with the children preparing for a performance. Colourful costumes and props festooned the corridors and classrooms. The hallways and corridors were decorated with projects by the children about each of the countries in the Comenius project.

We were taken to the hallway, where we were treated to a performance by all of the children in the school.  It opened with a short drama about a racial incident in a restaurant and how the parties involved overcame the problem.  This was followed by each class performing a Eurovision song from each of the European countries in the projects.  Lots of effort and detail was put into costumes and props.   We got lots of ideas that we could bring back to our schools.  In keeping with the ideas behind the project, all the teachers from Sannat as well as the visiting teachers, took to the stage and performed “Love Shine a Light” for all the children and parents, giving a very important message.

 It was lovely to see all the work that the children had done on Xenophobia.  We discussed the cultural integration of children within the school.   The opportunity to discuss the work the children did with the other teachers, made great contributions to professional development opportunities. That afternoon we boarded a boat for a trip around the little inlets of the famous Blue Lagoon and Como island. We had seen pictures of both before our trip and the reality did not disappoint us. Two of us even swam in the famous blue lagoon, just in case we don’t get to go back again!

 

 Thursday

On Thursday we had a change of scene and we visited another school Qula School. This school is very open to the elements, we appreciated it on the nice sunny day that we experienced but it would certainly cause problems during the windy months of winter. Once again we toured the classes, met the famous Mrs. Brown and experienced wonderful hospitality. Mrs Brown is from Scotland and has been teaching English in every class in this school for a few years. She was enthusiastic and energetic and we could see that the class really enjoyed her sense of fun. We also saw a group of pupils making pizza in the kitchen of the nearby tourism college and we were lucky enough to be able to sample the produce.

That afternoon we packed in all of the rest of the sights of Gozo with a trip to Ggantija Temples at Xaghra , an amazing sight which is still being developed as a tourist attraction and we then travelled on to Citadella and the folklore Museum in Victoria. During our visit to Victoria we saw a group of immigrants, possibly from Somalia. There was no sign of any children of African origin in the schools that we visited but, presumably this will soon be the case. We could see the relevance of the topic for our host school.

Earlier on during our visit we had a brief visit to the special unit where staff members were engaged in a staff development day with material being presented on strategies to assist pupils with DCD. The children were at home on that day to facilitate this session.

 

 

 Friday

On Friday morning we had the chance to visit the Special Education unit at Sannat school. The pupils had been collected and brought to the school by bus. Their morning began with circle time. All of the pupils engaged in activities which involved each one of them being greeted by name. Each student responded in whatever way he/she could. Some used technology and pressed a button to say “Good Morning” while others were able to speak enough to be able to do this. Some were excited at having so many visitors while others were less interested in our presence. ICT was used to encourage communication and make the session more lively. The care shown by the teachers and the SNAs in the special unit was exemplary. We really got the sense that each child’s abilities were known and that each was encouraged to progress at his own rate depending on ability. We noticed that several children are included in the mainstream setting with special assistance. The care and attention that they receive is exceptional and there is no doubt that their presence benefits other children in the class too as they develop greater empathy and understanding. This type of experience will probably have a wider impact on the ability of pupils to include, understand and identify with pupils from other cultural backgrounds.

The unit is equipped with many facilities including two sensory rooms. The rooms are generally used for individual sessions. Pupils are timetabled to use the rooms for one session per week and these facilities are also used by other schools on Gozo. This is the only school with such a facility on Gozo but other schools have similar facilities on Malta. 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 may be limited and the work that happens in this setting is integrated with weekly planning e.g. a story used in class might be developed /explored in more depth in the sensory room.

We also visited the art room and saw a child who was having a one to one session with the teacher. We spoke to her and discovered that she has a strong interest in Art therapy and would like to pursue further training in this area. Unfortunately such training is not available yet in Malta so it would not be a feasible option for the teacher concerned due to family reasons. We agreed that it would be great to bring our colleagues from Gozo to visit a special school in Bray as part of their programme next year.

 

Throughout our visit we noticed that several children are included in the mainstream setting with special assistance. The care and attention that they receive is exceptional and there is no doubt that their presence benefits other children in the class too as they develop greater empathy and understanding. This type of experience will probably have a wider impact on the ability of pupils to include, understand and identify with pupils from other cultural backgrounds.

Our visit to Gozo left all of us with a strong desire to return at some point in the future. It allowed us to develop professionally by comparing and contrasting education in Gozo with the system that we follow in Ireland. We look forward to continued collaboration and sharing of good practice with our European colleagues and are very grateful for the opportunity to be part of this Comenius project.


Comenius Trip: 

Tuesday 8th April: Travelled to Malta.

Wednesday 9th April: On arrival at Mgarr Harbour we travelled directly to our host school Qala Primary.

Meet and greet with Comenius group from Gozo and the Netherlands – Madame Sandra Casarini, Marthese Attard,  Sylvana Cini, and the ‘lads’  - Paul ...., Josef ........, and Justin Debono.  Also present were the visiting Dutch teachers,  Anton Verwey, Elena  ....,  and Diana Brouwer. 

Following mid morning break the entire Comenius group visited some Junior and Senior classrooms and met teachers and pupils.

At lunchtime the group had the pleasure of fine dining at the neighbouring Pembroke Restaurant which is part of the Gozo Tourism Catering College.

Later that afternoon we set off on our cultural sightseeing  trip of Gozo.  Our first stop was the awe-inspiring megalithic complex of Ggantija in Xaghra. The temples were built about 5000 years ago, and are believed to be the oldest free standing structures in the world and are said to be older than the pyramids in Egypt. ‘Ggant’ is the Maltese word for giant, hence the name Ggantija.   

In the evening the group met for dinner at The Boathouse Restaurant, Xlendi, where the Dutch  teachers were staying .

Thursday 10th     

We returned to our host school and gathered with our colleagues in Madame’s Office 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 visiting Music teacher/specialist 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 –a natural arch formed in the cliffs thousands of years ago. It is near Dwerja Bay, close to the village of San Lorenz. The area is very popular with swimmers and scuba divers because of its crystal-clear waters and underwater caves.  

Our next stop was the famous Ta’Pinu Sanctuary.  This church has become a place of pilgrimage, with numerous claims of miraculous healings. During a visit to Gozo in 1990, Pope John Paul prayed in this church and celebrated Mass  on the parvis.

Friday 11th:  Our school day began with visits to two of the Junior classes – Maria Assunta’ s class and Year 2. We had prepared a photographic presentation about our school and the locality which  Ms. Martina Walsh delivered. The pupils were especially happy to receive the teddy bear stickers and other Irish gifts we brought.

 

We were struck by the pupils’ spo ntaneity and good humour, and Ms. Walsh joined them in a game of ‘Ring a Rosy’.

Year 2 were icing buns when we arrived  - in honour of the birthday boy.  We were each treated to a fairy cake.

The Comenius group including Mrs. Browne observed an English lesson on procedural writing  - ‘How to Make Toast.’ Once again the pupils were very attentive and engaged, and thoroughly enjoyed the ‘hands on’ experience.

Before lunch we paid a courtesy visit to the Principal of Gozo College. We were delighted to hear that he had spent a year in Ireland on secondment in order to study the ‘Home School Liason Teacher’ system .  He told us that he had many happy memories of his visit.

 

  Following our final lunch with our Comenius colleagues, we spent the afternoon sightseeing in Rabat - capital of Gozo. The main tourist attraction in Rabat is The Citadella. This fortified town built on top of a hill has a long history.  The Gozitans took shelter behind its walls whenever corsairs raided the island in search of slaves. Inside the Citadella one can find a beautiful 17th century cathedral  designed by the Maltese architect Lorenzo Gafa.

Another lovely sunny afternoon with great panoramic views of the island along the fortified walls.

Monday 14th April 2014

Following more sightseeing and cultural outings over the weekend including a visit to a wonderful production of Tosca, we reconvened on Monday morning at Sannat school where we received a very warm welcome and renewed friendships with our colleagues who had visited Bray last year.

The day began with the Stations of the Cross and we then visited the Special Education Unit and were shown the excellent facilities. We joined some classes in the school hall where Peter from Austria was showing a powerpoint on the Comenius visit to his school last January.

Overall, it was a most enjoyable and interesting visit to Gozo with plenty to see and do and all agreed it was a great opportunity to meet colleagues and see at first hand how the theme of this project is put into action.

Martina Walsh and Linda Farrell 


Report on Comenius Project Evaluation Meeting,

 The Netherlands, 

28th – 31st May 2014

 

Maeve Tierney

 

Wednesday, 28th May

 

I arrived at Rhenen station about 3.00pm and was met there by the co-ordinator, Anton Verwey, and all of the other visitors from the partner schools. It was good to meet everyone after so many months and to put faces with the names of the teachers in Gozo whom my colleagues had met on previous mobilities.

We went straight to the school in Opheusden and met Diana Brouwer, the director, and her colleagues.  I was very fortunate to be treated to a very good power point presentation about Ireland by two 11 year old boys from the senior class. They had obviously spent a lot of time with their teacher, Frances, learning about Ireland and they were very well informed.

 

The Director,of Opheusden school,Diana Brouwer (centre), with colleagues, Elena, left and Els, right.

All the visiting teachers then had a meeting with the staff of the Opheusden school to discuss progress and issues of concern about the project. Colleagues were asked to share their experiences to date and to give feedback on areas that might be developed or improved. The co-ordinator emphasised that it was important that visiting teachers stay at the same hotels if possible and also that reports about mobilities be sent to the Dutch school as soon as possible, so that they can be put on the website.

The meeting then divided into two separate groups with the principals of the partner schools and the co-ordinator, Anton Verwey, remaining to evaluate the progress of the first year of the project and the other group attending a presentation by the teachers from Qala Primary School..

There was a discussion about the website being in Dutch, resulting in some schools finding it difficult to access the section on the project. However, it was agreed that there would be clearer information on how parents and other members of the partner school communities could access this in the future.

The second year of the project will build on the work of the first year and it is open to schools to choose from a variety of methodologies in the creative subjects to expand on this; this may involve creative writing and presenting work to parents via reading sessions or at morning assemblies; art work, drama, musical performances and showcasing pupils’ work. It was also decided to continue with the exchange of correspondence by post and email for pupils in the partner schools.

The mobility dates for 2014/2015 were agreed.

A section of the display cabinet in Het Palet Opheusden, with a range of souvenirs from Ireland

Chatting over the meal in Opheusden.

 

Later that evening the staff of Opheusden and the visiting teachers met in  a local restaurant  and had lots of interesting conversations over a fine meal.

Anton brought the group back to Leerdam to their hotels and I checked in to mine: Gasterhuij het Oude Posthuis, which used to be the town’s post office and was recently converted to a hotel. It was a very pleasant hotel with very attentive and friendly staff and is very centrally situated at a bridge over the canal.

The Hotel in Leerdam, Gasterhuij het oude Posthuis..

Thursday, 29th May

Thursday was  a free day, particularly for those who had been in the Netherlands since Monday. I was fortunate to be in such a charming town as Leerdam and I took the opportunity to visit the local cathedral and the Glass Studios which had the most extraordinary and exquisite work made by master crafts people from all over the world. Leerdam has its own glass making factory for many years and many of the local shops had their products for sale.

 

Friday, 30th May

 

All of the visiting teachers, Peter from Austria, Daniel and Donald from Sannat primary school and Paul and Joseph from Qala primary school, both in Gozo, and myself met early in the morning to visit Anton and his family at their home in Rumpt on the dyke at the Linge river. It is a very charming place, consisting of a wonderfully well preserved lock-keeper’s cottage on the dyke and a number of other very attractive cottages. We had coffee and discussed the project and Anton had a surprise for us all.

He had ordered motorised bicycles for us all so that we could travel around the countryside and have a better view of the sights.

Peter, Joseph and Paul on their motorised bicycles….  an experience to remember!

 

I had never been on such a vehicle before, but since I had often cycled in the past, it was not as difficult as I had feared and didn’t require any peddling. We travelled for several kilometres over all types of terrain, even taking a short ferry ride, and we also stopped for lunch along the banks of a river. We were fortunate that the weather was so pleasant and it was most enjoyable to view the Dutch countryside from our bicycles.  Some of us got lost once or twice, but that’s another story…

Securing the bicycles before a short break

 

Saturday, 31st May

 

On Saturday, I did some souvenir shopping in Leerdam and packed for the return flight to Dublin, but first there was Anton’s garden party to attend.

Anton and his family hold a garden party at their home on the same weekend every year and there is always a theme of a region or a country. This year the theme was the Austrian Alps and, of course, the guest of honour was Peter from Austria, who came attired in his traditional lederhosen costume. There was a wonderful array of food and drink associated with the region and lots of interesting guests also, including teachers I’d worked with on a previous Comenius project.

All too soon it was time to leave for Schipol and my return flight to Dublin that evening.

                                                                            

Peter and Paula in traditional costume from the Tyrol in Austria.

 


Comenius trip to obs Het Palet, Opheusden, The Netherlands (October5th – 10th 2014)

 

Sunday 5th October 2014

We arrived in The Netherlands on Sunday October 5th 2014. We travelled by train to Leerdam.

Our first impression of the country was that it was very flat with numerous canals. Also noticeable were the number of cyclists. Over the course of our stay we saw how beautiful the countryside is, with its amazing canals, dykes, apple and pear orchards, windmills and attractive thatched houses on the sides of the dykes and in the villages.

We were welcomed by Anton and Diana in Leerdam and discussed the following day’s programme. Later we met Eva Holt from Prague, Czech Republic.

 

Monday 6th October 2014

We met Eva in Leerdam.  Anton drove us from there to the schools in Kesteren and then on to Opheusden.

At the Het Palet school in Kesteren, we were warmly welcomed by Diana, who gave us a tour of the school. It is a school run on the Dalton System of education. We were impressed by how bright and spacious the school was. The pupils have quite a bit of independence in what they learn, while working within themes presented to them each week. Each pupil has his/her own tablet.

Next we travelled on to obs Het Palet, Opheusden.

At the school gate, the pupils, staff and parents greeted us with a guard of honour. Five of the pupils, dressed in traditional costume, performed a wonderful traditional Molukun welcoming dance. This was the first of many signs of the Comenius project in action in the school. We met staff members Els, Willy, Frencis, Jeanette, Lenny, Elena and Marga.

This is also a Dalton school. The staff and pupils were very friendly and welcoming and this created a warm atmosphere about the school.

We saw an interesting mediation system in action. It is used to help solve school-yard disagreements, with pupils acting as mediators. All teachers receive training in mediation methods. The pupils are then trained by the teachers. Two different pupils act as mediators each day. All pupils in the school are taught the steps to follow should a disagreement occur. 1) Discuss it between themselves. 2) Call for the help of the mediators. The mediators bring the children involved to the hall where they all sit down and discuss the problem. The mediators can call in witnesses to give an input. If this doesn’t work then the teachers are called upon to help.  It is clear that the method is effective in Het Palet and the children cooperate well with the process.  A similar approach could possibly be considered for use in a large school, such as St Cronan’s but would involve careful planning.

During the day we taught some lessons in the different classes, teaching the pupils rhymes and songs in English and making St. Brigid’s crosses.

                                                                       

This turned out to be very appropriate as St. Brigid is associated with peace and sharing and OBS Het Palet is  a ‘Peace’ school.

Eva also gave some very interesting lessons about the Czech Republic in which the pupils practised their maths skills, calculating speed and distance. The pupils really got involved with this and their interest was clearly stimulated.

We were treated to a delicious lunch by the staff.

In the evening we were invited to a delicious dinner in Anton’s home where we met Gareth Parsons from Mansfield, England.   

         

Tuesday 7th October 2014

We went back to the school in Opheusden. We accompanied Gareth, who had brought his ukulele, around to the different classes as he taught some songs and rhymes. We all got involved with the singing and actions. The children clearly enjoy music and singing and this was a great way to connect with them, despite the language barrier.

Later Anton brought us on a sight-seeing tour of the area.

 

Wednesday 8 October 2014

Having given our lessons to the children earlier in the week this was now our opportunity to see demonstrations of lessons in each of the four classes in the school.  Years 7 & 8  (10-12 years) prepared presentations in English on three different events from Dutch history.  It was impressive to see the students’ confidence and their ability to compile and present clear and at times moving insights into their chosen topics.  It was also evident that, while they had received guidance from their teachers, Willy and Frencis, the work was very much their own.  Equally evident was the students’ appreciation of these significant events and their interest in their country’s history.   It was an impressive and valuable experience of a Dutch classroom.


 

Along with their teacher, Elena, Years 5 & 6 (8-10 years) demonstrated for us how tablets are used for their literacy lessons.  The use of tablets reduces the need for text books and the software provides interactive activities.  As work is completed the results are recorded for access by the teacher.  Follow up work is also provided for each pupil depending on their results.  We could see certain benefits of this for classroom management.  The children appeared to enjoy using the tablets though some commented that they would prefer books.

Years 3 & 4 welcomed us into their lesson in which year 4 (7-8 years) were using tablets while year 3 (6-7 years) worked on a maths activity workbook.  Jeannette, their teacher, discussed the challenges of mixed grade teaching and keeping the children engaged with work.  Both groups seemed capable of independent work despite the distractions of visitors around them.

The youngest group, Years 1 & 2  (4 & 5 years) were in a colourful classroom environment well suited to the needs of their age.

The room comprised work and play areas and their teacher Lenny was very experienced.  While we were with them they worked in a circle group during which they discussed the theme of parties.  Using images and posters Lenny created a display which the children would continue to use during further lessons.  The children were clearly engaged with this work.  Lenny observed carefully as they took part and also was aware of their fading concentration after some time.  It was also obvious that the children were being guided to develop personal responsibility and  independence – characteristics evident and well developed in the older children.

We were interested to learn that, in The Netherlands, children start school when they reach their 4th birthday, visiting gradually as the date approaches.  This system seems to work well as each newcomer observes the settled behaviour of their classmates and models his/her own behaviour accordingly.  The atmosphere in the classroom was calm, the children were generally confident and outgoing and thoroughly enjoyed having visitors.

On Wednesday school finishes early for all children and so the staff were able to join us for lunch in a nearby restaurant which was very enjoyable.  After lunch, we took the train with Gareth into Amsterdam where we visited the Anne Frank museum – a comprehensive insight into her life story.

 

Thursday 9th  October 2014

On Thursday we arrived at school as usual at 9.30.  Parents and guests were already beginning to assemble for the stage presentation by the children; their interpretation of the school’s involvement in the Comenius programme.  It was a little difficult to follow the Dutch introduction but we understood that the older children had, in a short time, prepared dance routines representing sports around the world.  Their dance teacher had put together simple routines to music and it was obvious the children enjoyed performing.  They were confident and relaxed and the movement was fun and simple. 

The two younger groups demonstrated how much English they have been learning.  Years 3 & 4 gave simple presentations involving counting, days of the week etc; while the youngest group sang some simple songs, including the most impressive addition of two rhymes in English that they had learned from our classroom visit just two days earlier !

Also on Wednesday and Thursday Micheal showed the children video clips of gaelic and hurling matches as well as showing them hurleys.  They were all fascinated at the speed of each sport, especially hurling.  Micheal also gave the older groups an opportunity to try out the hurley in their playground.  They took part eagerly and some showed great skill!

 

At our final meeting in the Opheusden staff room Anton asked us to give initial observations on the week’s events.  It was clear there were many compliments about the events and hospitality to all the guests; Anton asked us for constructive criticism regarding any aspects which we thought could be improved.  Although we could find little to improve on we suggested that to complete the partnership of the programme it may be valuable to include some parents (perhaps from the school’s Parents’ Association) on occasion so as to help them understand the programme, the involvement of the teachers and the value of the schools’ participation for their children.  Anton welcomed this idea for consideration for the future.

Finally, on Thursday evening we attended a stage production of ‘Anne’ in Amsterdam.  This was a large-scale stage production telling the story of her life.   The set was immense, the stage management, lighting and technical displays were striking and the option of an English soundtrack with headphones provided us with a very moving depiction of the events which made Anne’s story so famous.

Our visit concluded on Friday.  The success of our visit is thanks to the effort, commitment and hospitality of the teachers and organisers in Opheusden.  It is an opportunity which has given us valuable educational experiences and lasting memories.

 

Micheal O Murchu

Margaret Lyons

 

 

 

Comenius Trip: 

Tuesday 8th April: Travelled to Malta.

Wednesday 9th April: On arrival at Mgarr Harbour we travelled directly to our host school Qala Primary.

Meet and greet with Comenius group from Gozo and the Netherlands – Madame Sandra Casarini, Marthese Attard,  Sylvana Cini, and the ‘lads’  - Paul ...., Josef ........, and Justin Debono.  Also present were the visiting Dutch teachers,  Anton Verwey, Elena  ....,  and Diana Brouwer. 

Following mid morning break the entire Comenius group visited some Junior and Senior classrooms and met teachers and pupils.

At lunchtime the group had the pleasure of fine dining at the neighbouring Pembroke Restaurant which is part of the Gozo Tourism Catering College.

Later that afternoon we set off on our cultural sightseeing  trip of Gozo.  Our first stop was the awe-inspiring megalithic complex of Ggantija in Xaghra. The temples were built about 5000 years ago, and are believed to be the oldest free standing structures in the world and are said to be older than the pyramids in Egypt. ‘Ggant’ is the Maltese word for giant, hence the name Ggantija.    

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In the evening the group met for dinner at The Boathouse Restaurant, Xlendi, where the Dutch  teachers were staying .

Thursday 10th     

We returned to our host school and gathered with our colleagues in Madame’s Office 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 visiting Music teacher/specialist 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 –a natural arch formed in the cliffs thousands of years ago. It is near Dwerja Bay, close to the village of San Lorenz. The area is very popular with swimmers and scuba divers because of its crystal-clear waters and underwater caves.  

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Our next stop was the famous Ta’Pinu Sanctuary.  This church has become a place of pilgrimage, with numerous claims of miraculous healings. During a visit to Gozo in 1990, Pope John Paul prayed in this church and celebrated Mass  on the parvis.

Friday 11th:  Our school day began with visits to two of the Junior classes – Maria Assunta’ s class and Year 2. We had prepared a photographic presentation about our school and the locality which  Ms. Martina Walsh delivered. The pupils were especially happy to receive the teddy bear stickers and other Irish gifts we brought.

 

We were struck by the pupils’ spo ntaneity and good humour, and Ms. Walsh joined them in a game of ‘Ring a Rosy’.

Year 2 were icing buns when we arrived  - in honour of the birthday boy.  We were each treated to a fairy cake. 

The Comenius group including Mrs. Browne observed an English lesson on procedural writing  - ‘How to Make Toast.’ Once again the pupils were very attentive and engaged, and thoroughly enjoyed the ‘hands on’ experience. 

 

Before lunch we paid a courtesy visit to the Principal of Gozo College. We were delighted to hear that he had spent a year in Ireland on secondment in order to study the ‘Home School Liason Teacher’ system .  He told us that he had many happy memories of his visit.

 

  Following our final lunch with our Comenius colleagues, we spent the afternoon sightseeing in Rabat - capital of Gozo. The main tourist attraction in Rabat is The Citadella. This fortified town built on top of a hill has a long history.  The Gozitans took shelter behind its walls whenever corsairs raided the island in search of slaves. Inside the Citadella one can find a beautiful 17th century cathedral  designed by the Maltese architect Lorenzo Gafa.

Another lovely sunny afternoon with great panoramic views of the island along the fortified walls.

Monday 14th April 2014

Following more sightseeing and cultural outings over the weekend including a visit to a wonderful production of Tosca, we reconvened on Monday morning at Sannat school where we received a very warm welcome and renewed friendships with our colleagues who had visited Bray last year.

The day began with the Stations of the Cross and we then visited the Special Education Unit and were shown the excellent facilities. We joined some classes in the school hall where Peter from Austria was showing a powerpoint on the Comenius visit to his school last January.

Overall, it was a most enjoyable and interesting visit to Gozo with plenty to see and do and all agreed it was a great opportunity to meet colleagues and see at first hand how the theme of this project is put into action.

Martina Walsh and Linda Farrell 


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.