Mon, Aug 20th, 2018
Erasmus+ School Exchange Partnerships help Irish schools expand their international outlook, improve language learning through real life experience, learn new methods, visit eTwinning partners and more. Karen Naughton teaches at Scoil Shéamais Naofa, Bearna, Contae na Gaillimhe and her primary school has partnered with others across Europe to explore the theme of transport. The Irish school recently hosted the Italian partners before making a return visit to learn about the ideas and methods used there.
The theme of our Erasmus+ project is Transportation: Past, Present and Future. We are partnered with schools in Greece, Italy, Spain and Poland. We want all our pupils to learn more about transport issues, locally and nationally, while reaching out and learning from children elsewhere in Europe. The project gives pupils the opportunity to seek out and learn about other countries’ customs, culture, music and traditions, which in today’s world is more important than ever. A further aim is that we, the teachers, gain insights into methods used by our peers and explore first-hand their countries’ culture, geography and history. Finally, this project goes a long way towards promoting inclusion and cooperation among European partners. We are now almost half way through our project: we have hosted a very successful visit to our school in Bearna, Galway and recently had a fantastic return trip to Mogliano-Petriolo in the Marche region of Italy.
Our European colleagues arrived in Ireland on 12 November 2017. After a welcome dinner on the first evening, we began their Erasmus+ visit with a field trip to Salthill Beach focusing on the “Effects of Transport on Beaches – Pollution and Infrastructure Effects” with Dr Kevin Lynch from National University Ireland Galway (NUIG). The day concluded with a presentation on “Sustainable Transport Options for Galway” with Professor Ulf Strohmayer, also from NUIG.
On a day trip to Connemara our visitors enjoyed the beautiful landscape on the way to our first stop at Aughnanure Castle, a 600-year-old tower house that was once home to the O’Flaherty Clan. Travelling on through the Twelve Bens, we arrived at Kylemore Abbey, castle and lake for a tour of the Abbey and Walled Garden. After a short drive to Clifden we stopped at the Alcock and Browne Centre, to link with our Transport theme. Later in the visit, our colleagues had a tour of medieval Galway City paying particular attention to landmarks related to our theme of transportation such as the Galway canals and a Galway Hooker.
We were delighted to host a concert in our school to showcase the best of our culture. Our pupils played traditional instruments and sang Irish and English songs based on the transportation theme. The children also sang in Spanish, Italian, Greek and Polish and our guests were very moved on hearing traditional songs from their own countries sung by our pupils. We had received these songs from our partner schools during online eTwinning exchanges on methods. For the concert, we also hosted Galway city and county mayors and local representatives from two very relevant government departments: Transport Tourism and Sport, and Communications, Climate Action & Environment. The county mayor addressed us in Greek, Spanish, Italian and Polish, displaying her own take on multiculturalism and diversity! All the guests then joined in a céilí which was probably the highlight of the whole concert. Later in the exchange, the visiting children and teachers were very impressed to be included in a game of hurling, having being taught the basic rules first! We also hosted a traditional lunch, where we mingled with our guests for an informal exchange of opinions and ideas.
History and food may be what most of us associate with Italy, but the dance, music and entertainment we experienced in the small villages of Mogliano and Petriola are also worthy of note. Cultural links are forever in our hearts after enjoying dance and music in the schools and villages. Children waving flags and singing songs provided a fantastic start to our two school visits.
Similar to our céili in Ireland, the local teachers and parents insisted that we all take part in local dances. Both young and old were dressed in wonderful, colourful attire, and played lively traditional music. Their welcome to us was special and this cultural element to our visit added greatly to the success of the mobility. We even tried to teach our Irish children one of the Italian dances!
Job Shadowing is an integral part of our Erasmus+ project: each visit allows teachers to spend time shadowing the teachers and staff in their host schools. In Bearna, partner teachers job-shadowed our teachers in their classrooms and exchanged ideas and methods. Both teachers and children enjoyed the art, transport projects, and music that our pupils had prepared. We have Polish children in our school and they were especially pleased to talk in their native tongue with the visiting Polish teachers. In Mogliano and Petriola, we observed the teaching methods and techniques they use as we visited and interacted with the children in their classrooms. It was fantastic to engage with the children in these schools and acknowledge their hard work in the beautiful art displays and notice boards that filled the school.
Throughout this whole process we have found eTwinning to be a huge asset to our project. eTwinning is a free online community for schools in Europe which allows schools to find partners and collaborate on projects within a secure network and platform. We use the eTwinning platform to collaborate with our partner schools. We share photographs, video clips and artwork, and use the Journal to document our journey and project work. The children also have access to the secure platform and use it to communicate with our partners. eTwinning has helped us find partners, access high quality professional development, use ready-made resources and raise the standard of our project.
While we are not quite half way through our project, we already see the huge benefits and learning opportunities that this project has provided and no doubt will continue to provide. We are very grateful to Léargas for their assistance and support in facilitating this very worthwhile experience.
Images courtesy of Karen Naughton. We welcome your contributions to ‘Insights’ at firstname.lastname@example.org.