Global Learning Schools NI caught up with Sarah Clements, a P6 teacher from St. Bernard’s Primary School, Glengormley to ask about her experience in the Connecting Classrooms through Global Learning (CCGL) programme, funded by the British Council and Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).
Sarah was previously involved in the British Council’s European Comenius programme, so when a new programme called Connecting Classrooms through Global Learning was announced, both Sarah and St. Bernard’s Primary School were only too happy to come onboard.
Sarah reported, “As a school and a lead teacher, the experience gained from Comenius was fundamental to going into Connecting Classrooms with our eyes wide open and understanding exactly what was involved. It seemed a natural progression seeing as global learning was an integral part of our school’s WAU curriculum. Plus, it was an opportunity not to be missed for me as a teacher. Also for the experience and insight it would offer my pupils.”
St. Bernard’s was partnered with a primary school in Jordan – Nuzha Elementary Girls School No.1, part of the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region. She struck an immediate rapport with Iman, the lead teacher there but, unfortunately and due to Covid-19 restrictions, the planned reciprocal visits were not possible, so the collaborative element of the programme was conducted entirely online instead.
We asked Sarah about the programme and the key learnings for both pupils and the school.
“I was disappointed that we didn’t get to travel to see either the country or our partner school,” she says, “It would have been amazing to have met in person. But both sets of pupils have still learned so much about each other through participating in and exchanging activities on planned projects like ‘what makes me happy’ and sharing stories about each other’s culture and traditions."
What makes me happy?
Their collaborative project on ‘what makes me happy’ saw pupils from both schools draw and compare their lives with one another, and with stark similarities in terms of the outcome. The findings, through both stories and pictures showed how friends, family and pets were equally as important to pupils here as they were in Jordan.
See images below of collaborative projects based on 'What makes me happy' and 'All about me'.
A country snapshot
As a ‘country snapshot’ both schools researched, then shared each other’s key country facts (see images below). All of this communication and engagement took place using Google Classrooms, allowing the pupils to view and exchange their work readily.
Both schools demonstrated their natural creativity by painting affirmation pebbles, as well as openly talking about mental health, with the wrapper of ‘what makes us healthy’ and Sarah embedded pupil learning even deeper by sourcing cartoons and other child-centric global learning videos that would help the children explore things like the Global Goals and understand and explore some of the Health and Wellbeing resources from websites like the World’s Largest Lesson and Global Learning Schools NI website resources.
Sarah also completed her Teacher Professional Development (TPL) on global learning, delivered by the Centre for Global Education. When asked about her favourite aspect of CCGL's International Partnerships programme she says,
“It's been working collaboratively. It has created such a wonderful experience - all of us working together and getting on as people first, then teachers second. Leading the Comenius programme beforehand really has helped too.”
Sarah attended a two day course at the start of 2020 that offered a heads-up on the project and its’ desired outcome, helping by offering suggestions and tools suitable for use in school-to-school engagement. “It was all kept very simple,” she says. “Anna and Rosie, our Global Learning Schools Advisors were hugely supportive and always checking in with me on Zoom and by email. Bearing in mind the age of our primary school pupils, simplicity is key in projects like this. And where children can’t express themselves as well in writing, we'd choose the option and opportunity for creativity, expressed through drawing and painting. That way every pupil gets to excel and work to their skillset.”
Celebrating their International Partnership
To celebrate the end of their international school’s collaboration, the children in St. Bernard’s had a class party where they brought together all of their project work and celebrated both their learnings and achievements, producing a wall display that depicted both their partner's and their own school's work.
Sarah tells us,
"The pupils are so proud of their work and happy to share it with other classes and talk about their new learning and experiences they have had throughout this project. It particularly showcases things like the vegetables they have grown - tomatoes and cress, with daily love and care to bring them to maturity. “
This was just another example of their focus on wellbeing and connecting with nature and pupils have left their affirmation pebbles in the school garden to hopefully inspire other pupils. Similarly, pupils from Jordan held a ‘party day’ that showcased all their activities, including their homegrown produce, painted affirmation pebbles, displays of their country snapshots and project work on ‘What makes me happy’, as well as evidence of their 'All about me' jigsaw pieces and the wonderful videos they made to introduce themselves.
“This was all only possible through the great partnership I had with my partner teacher Iman, who was full of enthusiasm and super ideas. She had the same willingness as I did to drive the project and activities on, as we both knew that our pupils would gain so much from their involvement. The relationship with myself and Iman is ongoing, and we will continue to remain firm friends looking forward to our next project together.”
Sarah said she would recommend the Connecting Classrooms programme to all teachers and pupils. “Even if it’s to show them how people in other countries are doing pretty much the same, maybe with slight differences, but largely just getting on with life and living. Allowing the big world to become that little bit smaller as we edge closer together, with a better understanding of one-other”.
Sarah further adds, “Whenever you hear a pupil comment and say, ‘Wow, they like playing with their friends too!” or “they chose the same positive word as me for their pebble,” and “sunshine makes them happy as well,” then you know that you’ve achieved something worthwhile in celebrating our similarities and differences through Connecting Classroom participation.