Monday 25 June 2018

9th Transnational Project Meeting and 8th Joint Staff Training Event and 5th Pupils' Exchange

Our final mobility, the 9th Transnational Project meeting, saw 28 teachers and 22 pupils from the partner schools arrive for the second Rome mobility, hosted by ICS Giorgio Perlasca, our coordinating partner, in Italy. Some of students were able to stay with buddies they met on previous mobilities so, for both teachers and students, it was a joy to see our European friends again!
On our first whole day, resident music maestro Pino Capomolla conducteda highly talented 3rd year class and wowed the crowds at a welcome concert! After that, students joined their buddies in a variety of lessons, visiting teachers began their week with some inspiring job shadowing and the scientific committee got on with preparations for the dissemination conference.
Students and teachers were reunited on Wednesday afternoon and all visiting participants went with the Italian teachers and families on a walking tour of some of Rome’s historic highlights, including the Piazza di Spagna, Piazza Navona, the Pantheon and the famous Trevi Fountain (where I am sure many were already making wishes to return to Rome!). Students got another opportunity to visit some of the sights of Rome on Friday as they took a trip to the Vatican Museum and St Peter’s Basilica, which were full of incredible art and architecture!
The METAMINDS conference also took place on Friday in the impressive hall at ITIS Galileo Galilei. Opening addresses were made by Anita Francini, on behalf of the General Director of USR Lazio; Sara Pagliai, Coordinator NA Erasmus+ Indire; and Ester Rizzi, the Scientific Director of our METAMINDS project. Then it was our chance to tell everyone about the great work we have been doing on this project. Dr. Claudia Sabatano spoke about learning to learn and our wonderful guest Prof. Anastasia Efklides, from Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, described the ways in which talented students use self-regulated learning. Additionally, Monica Melloni gave a presentation about the work of the METAMINDS project, including the intellectual outputs produced for the website and learning platform, the impact for participating schools, and the future of the project. Each of the coordinators from partner countries was also able to contribute and introduce their school. Everyone in the project must, once again, say thank you to Monica for her expertise and patience in providing translations for the conference!
After an excellent lunch, attendees were able to select from five workshops organised by the partner countries and were able to learn about the thinking behind the games on the pupil protocol. Most workshops also gave attendees a chance to try the activities, so there was a fair bit of running about and getting tangled up going on as well as learning!
At the end of the day, those who had attended the conference were very positive about the METAMINDS project and seemed eager to try our activities in their classrooms. All the Erasmus+ partners felt the conference was a great success and celebrated with a lovely intimate soirée overlooking the Colosseum – the views were to die for!
On our last day in Rome, teachers, pupils and Italian hosts went together to the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill, where we learnt a lot about Rome’s history – even those who knew a lot about the Roman Empire were speechless when they thought about standing in the very places where the events they had read about took place!
Everyone was sad to leave Rome on Sunday; the final mobility of the METAMINDS project has been full of mixed emotions. I am sure all participating teachers will agree, it was exhilarating to be part of such a huge conference and we were proud to be sharing the research that we have all worked so hard on. Students, as ever, loved the opportunity to learn about their host families culture and we join them in sending lots of love and thanks to the Italian teachers and families for making us feel so welcome.
Sadly, as our last mobility, the final goodbyes were quite difficult, for teachers and students. Some of our teams will be working together in the future, and of course there is plenty of work still to be done on the METAMINDS project, but this was the last time we were all in one place. As educators, however, we can all be proud of the contribution that we have made and the work that we have produced together through the METAMINDS project. I am sure our friendships will continue and I know that our work will go on having a positive impact in many classrooms!

Written by Rachel Blackmore

Tuesday 20 March 2018

8th Transnational Project Meeting and 7th Joint Staff Training Event

20 teachers from Catalonia, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Lithuania and Portugal spent a delightful week from 22nd to 29th January in England, Tonbridge, hosted for the second time already by a welcoming Hillview School for Girls staff.
The school, which is a performing Arts College, surprised every visitor again by the variety of activities offered to the students, the quality of works displayed in the halls, the quantity of photos and posters illustrating wonderful events and indicating learners' achievements.The guests were met by heartwarming songs performed by the students right in the school arrival hall. 
The visiting teachers were taken on a tour to explore the school premises and, after that, job shadowing activities followed. The Committee discussed the tasks to be carried out during the week. Then, after lunch, everyone took part in David Hodgson's seminar on Neuroscience in Education. It was interesting to learn some facts about the spaced learning, discuss the ways to improve a student's memory, discover effective revision methods and understand the importance of seven key hormones influencing motivation and learning itself. 
On Wednesday, the teams worked on accomplishing project products. As our project intellectual output consists of two parts: teachers' protocol and students' protocol, first, teachers expressed their opinion about the developed project product - Metaminds Teachers' protocol, as well as shared experiences while testing it in each school. Later, the teachers had an opportunity to test the games from the Pupils' protocol on Hillview School for Girls children.
Next day was dedicated to the cultural visit of Canterbury, a cathedral city and a former pilgrimage site, where we could experience the sights, sounds and smells of medieval England, walking alongside Chaucer’s pilgrims and listening to five colourful tales of love, infidelity, intrigue, courtship and death, vividly brought to life by entertaining costumed guides. The city is famous for its medieval centre with cobbled streets and timber-framed houses. The most fascinating landmark is Canterbury Cathedral, which was founded in 597 A.D. and became a major focus of pilgrimage following the 1170 martyrdom of Thomas Becket. A journey of pilgrims to Becket's shrine served as the frame for Geoffrey Chaucer's 14th century classic The Canterbury Tales.
On Friday, teachers had a few more job shadowing sessions and also Character workshop with Margret Smith as, according to Dr Martin Luther King Junior, intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education. After the presentation, the discussion about Character Education in different schools followed.
The Committee have planned the final meeting and conference in Rome, set deadlines for remaining tasks and time for bidding farewell to Hillview School for Girls community came. Too soon as always...However, one more cultural experience was in stock for us that night - Burns Night at Hadlow Manor - traditional Scottish feast with a piper, haggis and dancing!
On Saturday, all the teams could explore London having selected the routes according to their own interests. 
To sum up, it was a great week - we broadened our horizons, improved intercultural competence, grew up professionaly. Thank you, Rachel Blackmore, for such a wonderful organisation and many thanks to all of you, dear English colleagues, for being perfect hosts! We will all meet again in Rome, in May - for the last time under the flag of Metaminds.

Wednesday 27 December 2017

7th Transnational Project Meeting, 6th Joint Staff Training Event and 4th Pupils' Exchange

The third and final project year started with new experiences, challenges and adventures for our international Erasmus+ Metaminds family in Portugal where 18 pupils and 24 teachers from partner schools gathered on 9 - 15 October for 7th Transnational Project Meeting, 6th Joint Staff Training Event and 4th Pupils' Exchange.
The meeting was hosted by Agrupamento de Escolas No 1 de Serpa, which is the central school of the school group, located in Serpa, a city in the central Portuguese region Alentejo, 220 km from Lisbon and 30 km from the border with Spain.
On Tuesday, the meeting began with a warm concert of Portuguese students, who, together with their teacher, sang and played not only traditional local songs and tunes, but also surprised the guests, performing typical musical pieces of their home countries. Then, the senior students took the visitors, divided in teams, on a tour around their school, which functions in two buildings situated in the same campus.
Soon, after the acquaintance with the school premises, staff and pupils, followed the conference, during which the TEIP Plan at Serpa School Group No 1 was introduced by Lucrécia Fernandez. It was a useful sharing of experience and measures, taken to improve pupils' performance, prevent early school leaving and deal with the problems, faced by Portuguese educators at present.
Later, while the project committee were having their first work planning session, and the pupils, together with their buddies, were having classes, Cândida Santos, a Portuguese teacher, presented a fun way for visiting teachers to relax and cope with stress - laughter yoga. The entertaining event was appreciated and enjoyed by all.
In the afternoon, all project participants, together with the hosts, attended a reception at Serpa Municipality and were welcomed by the town authorities as well as traditional local singers. Then, everyone was invited on a guided walking tour around the town and admired fantastic views from the top of Serpa castle.
In the evening, teachers were introduced to rich Portuguese culinary heritage. The region of Alentejo is known as the country's gastronomic soul and it also produces almost half of Portugal's wine. So, educational wine tasting event with a professional wine expert Joao Pereira Santos was another experience not to miss!
Next day, visiting pupils and their buddies were involved in art, music and dance workshops. Meanwhile, teachers were engaged in a conference, during which the pupils’ protocol – fundamental skill to learning to learn - was presented by Claudia Sabatano. 
In the afternoon, after a few job shadowing sessions,  a public presentation of the teachers' protocol was organised. 
To relax and to reflect on an eventful day, evening in Quinta do Quetzal winery was a perfect choice as we had an opportunity to see beautiful vineyards, to take part in a wine tasting combined with typical  Alentejo wine snacks and to visit an impressive contemporary art centre.
Thursday was dedicated to exploring Évora, one of Portugal’s most beautifully preserved medieval towns with its unique historic centre - UNESCO world heritage, Roman ruins - Temple of Diana, and the Macabre Chapel of Bones. We also visited Monsaraz, a nice walled town on top of a hill overlooking the Alqueva Dam waters.
On Friday, while the Committee were planning the remaining tasks of the project, visiting teachers and pupils paid a visit to the Vocational School of Rural Development of Serpa. Later, the visiting pupils showed what they had learnt during the week: pupils' performance included dancing, singing and acting. The meeting ended with Claudia Sabatano's insightful conference on conflicts and metacognitive strategies to cope with them.
Finally, on Saturday, it was time to bid farewell to hospitable hosts of Serpa and, before going home, to visit the capital of Portugal - Lisbon. It was great fun to admire historical neighbourhoods Alfama and Mouraria comfortably going up and down the 7 hills of Lisbon on board of a Tuk Tuk!
Overall, it was another fantastic meeting of great educational value. Moreover, the visitors from England, Denmark and Lithuania were able to enjoy a week of delightful summer sunshine, having left dull autumn weather back home. All the teams are grateful to the Portuguese partners and especially to João Pereira Santos for this amazing experience!

Sunday 28 May 2017

6th Transnational Project Meeting, 5th Joint Staff Training Event and 3rd Pupils' Exchange

On the (unusually sunny) first week of May, the 6th Transnational Project meeting was hosted by Viltis Progymnasium in Panevėžys, Lithuania, involving 22 teachers and 15 students from the partner countries.
Visiting students and teachers were treated to an exciting display of Lithuanian traditional dancing and music, before a welcome from school Director Danutė Valiukienė and a brief introduction to the project from Dr Claudia Sabatano. Every visitor also received a miniature birdbox (made by the Lithuanian students) and I expect these are now on display in homes across Europe!
Over the course of the week, students stayed with families of students from Viltis Progymnasium and took part in their buddy’s classes and social life. As part of the METAMINDS programme, students did activities to develop their cognitive self-assessment, discussed emotions in school and produced a collaborative artwork using colours and emotions. As well as learning about Lithuanian school life, tasting Lithuanian food and learning some “survival” Lithuanian, students made many international friends and were sad to say goodbye! 
Of course, our visiting teachers didn’t miss out! Several professional development workshops were held based around metacognition, including a seminar on reflection, led by Audronė Tichanavičienė, and a workshop on mind maps led by Asta Sakalienė (recognised as one of the top five teachers in Lithuania!). All teachers also attended Claudia Sabatano’s conference on conflict, observed several lessons in Viltis Progymnasium, and played leadership education games with students.
The scientific committee continued developing the training materials for the online teacher protocol and discussed feedback from teachers and students on metacognitive strategies. Work also began in earnest on the tasks that will form the pupil protocol and it was discussed how the project is expected to take shape over the final year.
On the final night in Panevėžys, Viltis Progymnasium hosted a public event as part of the dissemination of the METAMINDS project. Visiting teachers and students were able to show off some Lithuanian language, music and dance skills that they had learnt during the week, accompanied by the very talented students and staff of Viltis! Before the official speeches, each of the partner countries described their school and the aims and progress of the METAMINDS project was shared by Claudia Sabatano and Monica Melloni.
Few of us had been to Lithuania previously, but this trip taught us a lot about the beautiful art, delicious food and turbulent history of this intriguing country (not to mention all the dancing!). On a visit to Anykščiai, we visited a Horse Museum, made traditional bread and saw the work of local artisans, including a weaver, blacksmith and wood carver. On our final full day, we visited the picturesque villages of Kernavė and Trakai, and had a guided tour of the capital, Vilnius, including sights such as the Cathedral, the Presidential Palace and the artists’ Republic of Užupis.
All visitors are grateful to Jolanta and the Lithuanian students, families and staff (Eglė, Jolita, Vilma, Rasa and the others) for being excellent hosts and for teaching us about their country. The next mobility is Portugal – see you there!

Written by Rachel Blackmore

Friday 10 March 2017

5th Transnational Project Meeting and 4th Joint Staff Training Event

19 teachers from 6 project partner countries this time gathered in 3o Gymnasio Edessa, Greece, for the 5th international Metaminds project meeting and the 4th joint staff training event, on 23rd - 28th January, 2017.

On the arrival, the visiting teachers received a warm welcome from the Greek pupils who performed their traditional dances, including syrtaki, of course! Then, they showed us their school facilities and told about school life.

The meeting started with the introduction of the teachers' pilot course on metacognition by Monica Melloni, the general coordinator of the project. Later, all the participants had a Skype conference with Claudia Sabatano, the headmistress of ICS "Giorgio Perlasca" (Rome, Italy), who also gave a lecture about emotions in learning to develop and enrich metacognitive strategies of the teachers, taking part in the Metaminds pilot course. 

Throughout the week, the visiting teachers had an excellent opportunity to do a few job shadowing activities, while the committee (coordinators) thoroughly followed their own schedule, devoting all the time to working on the present and future activities of teachers and pupils.

On Thursday and Friday, the meeting participants had a great honour to meet and enjoy the seminars, given by the expert on metacognition, Anastasia Efklides from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Not only did the professor give her valuable advice on the teachers and pupils' training courses being developed by our project teams, but she also took part in the public event for the school community.

The Project Dissemination Event took place on 26 January. It was attended by a huge number of 3o Gymnasio teachers, pupils and their parents as well as Edessa municipality members. As usual, Metaminds project teams introduced their schools, towns, countries and shared the joy of the joint work of seven schools from across Europe under the Erasmus Plus banner. After the official speeches and presentations, the hosts gave an unforgettable performance of Action Painting and the school choir sang songs from Greek films.

Speaking about the cultural experience, it is impossible not to mention Greek cuisine. During the visit, we have tried a lot of wonderful dishes representing Macedonian Cuisine as the town of Edessa, known as "city of waters", is in northern Greece. The waterfalls of Edessa are the largest waterfalls in the Balkans. The power of water is really breathtaking! To be completely amazed by the miracles of Greek nature, we had an exceptional chance to enjoy Loutraki-Pozar thermal water springs, the healing properties of which have been known since historic times.

Finally, we explored Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece, a port on the Thermaic Gulf of the Aegean Sea. The emblem of this beautiful waterfront city is the White Tower, a 15th century fortification, which is contemporary used as the exhibition space of the Byzantine Museum of Thessaloniki.

The meeting in Edessa has ended, but not the project. We have bid farewell to fantastic Greece and said many thanks to our Greek partners Eyanθια Σοφια and Eleni Kalaitzi, knowing that we will meet again. This time in Lithuania.