Comenius Digital Storytelling Project – final visit.
Trévoux, France 14-18 April 2013
The final round of the Comenius Digital Storytelling Project took place in Trévoux, France from 14 – 18 April 2013. Trévoux is located near Lyon in east-central France. The students travelling were fifth years Grace Grange, Kevin Morrison, Jonathon Doyle and Aaron Cahill, accompanied by Ms Greene and Mrs Hennessy.
The group assembled in Villefranche sur Saone on Sunday evening and met up with the host families. The students had an opportunity to become reacquainted or meet for the first time over dinner in the Hotel Plaissance, after which they headed back to the family homes.
The students came to school, Lyçée val de Saone, on Monday morning, where the start time is 8.00 am. After seeing some classes the entire group assembled for some refreshments and were greeted by the school principal Monsieur Pain. There followed a tour of the school. The school’s architecture is very striking. The interior of the school resembles an ocean liner with three decks. The central atrium is spacious and light-filled, but the noise level can be quite high because there is nothing to absorb sound.
Then we toured the school seeing a variety of classes and facilities. There are some very specialised and advanced technology courses more akin to our 3rd level, and then there are many typical language and general subject classes. PE is very well catered for with a ten-minute to the sports centre. The spaciousness of the campus makes for a relaxed atmosphere.
Afterwards the students were assigned to international teams to complete the continuous story that started in Holland two years ago. Lunch was in the very large school cafeteria.
The afternoon programme involved a visit to The Abode of Chaos – a unique outdoor art gallery in St Romain au Mt d’Or. The brainchild of Thierry Ehrmann in 1999, the venue has remained the focus of controversy and challenge since its inception. The fact that we were still discussing the significance of some of the images two days later suggests that the founder may well be on to something!
After the tour, we returned by bus to the school and the students dispersed to spend an evening with a typical French family.
An earlier start this morning as the group boarded a bus to Lyons. Lyon is France’s second largest city after Paris, and is situated at the confluence of the Rhone and Saone rivers. The traffic, as expected, caused some delay, but we managed to make it just in time to meet our tour guide at 10 am. The tour started with a visit to Basilica de Notre Dame de Fourviere in Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon). This area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The church is situated at the top of the hill of the old city. In 1852 the golden statue of Our Lady was added to the original chapel and at its formal blessing the people lit candles to give thanks for their deliverance from the cholera epidemic. This was the origin of the tradition which today is the Festival of Lights which is celebrated annually in Lyon in December. It is one of the most commercially successful events in the city today. By the end of the 19th century a new church was completed incorporating a variety of architectural styles. The church on the hill above the city is a Lyon landmark.
Next it was on to the old Roman sites. These ancient sites were uncovered in the early 20th century and have yielded two Roman theatres, public baths, and a Roman road. The ruins date from the 1st century BC when Lyon was the capital of Gaul in the reign of Augustus Caesar. The first theatre accommodated 10,000 people and was the venue for plays and concerts. The second theatre is smaller with accommodation for 3,000 people and was used as a centre for philosophical debate or seminars.
Then we walked down the ancient Roman road and on through Jardin du Rosaire or the Rosary Garden, (part of the larger Parc des Hauteurs) where many varieties of roses are cultivated. Here also is Maison de Jaricot:Maison de Lorette, a museum dedicated to the memory of Pauline Jaricot, who, as an affluent young woman in the 19th century decided to spend her life and means in aiding the less fortunate. Her work led to the founding of the modern day Pontifical Missions Society, a global Catholic organisation.
Next was the Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Lyon. Built over the extended period from the 12th to the 15th century, the headless statues on the exterior of the structure are a reminder of the bloody revolution in the 18th century. The interior is richly ornate with large scale depictions on the walls and lots of gold leaf. The cathedral posts one of the world’s oldest astronomical clocks dating from the 14th century. Unfortunately this was badly damaged by an irate Iranian Muslim in March 2013 who claimed the clock’s chiming disturbed his prayerful contemplation.
After the cathedral we rambled through the old town to the Renaissance streets and houses. The homes of well-off Chamarier - the key keepers to the city of old Lyon. This Renaissance sector claims to have given risen to modern forensic science or CSI. Other features included the Palace of Justice where World War II trials took place, a walk through some “traboules” – passages running through houses linking streets, the homes of tax collectors (also well-off!) and ending at Place du Change, which was the money exchange in 16th and 17th centuries.
Here we had a traditional regional lunch of Cervelle des Canuts and Quenelle de Brochet. Then after some food and free street entertainment provided by local school children, the group was free to wander through the modern city and do some shopping.
Back to the school by late afternoon, the students had a party to attend later, while teachers sampled some Moroccan cuisine.
Back to school and the completion of the continuous story. Each group presented its own version of the ending in the outdoor theatre (not unlike the Roman one we saw in Lyon). After a lunch in the school cafeteria, everyone went to play the French game of “pétanque” or what we know here as “boules”, some more successfully than others it must be said!
Then back on the bus to visit The Roche de Solutré, situated in the heart of a Palaeolithic site west of Mâcon. This bus trip brought us through a rich vineyard region where many of France’s excellent wines are produced. The climb to the top of the rock was tough but the panoramic view from there was spectacular. A little more tired than usual we returned to school and again the students set off for the evening meal and the final night out as a group. The teachers experienced more regional French cuisine and inevitably came face-to-face with frog legs and some miniature fish which are regarded as delicacies.
Next day it was back to the airport and flight delays due to near-hurricane winds in Ireland! Given the wonderful four days of 20 -25° sunshine in Trévoux, it was hard to believe. This trip marks the end of the Comenius project but a legacy will remain through the website that contains all the presentations and pictures, the contacts and friendships made by international students and teachers, and the inspiration experienced by many of the participants to continue to learn and explore.
TCS/Comenius in Portugal: 27 – 31 Jan 2013
The picturesque town of Arcos de Valdevez in northern Portugal was the venue for the fourth stage of the Comenius programme, Digital Storytelling. Ireland, along with France, Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Portugal are participants in a Comenius project spanning two years. Departing on Sunday morning the group – Craig Doyle, Jordan Welstead, and Damian Gruzdien (5th year), along with Mr Kearney and Mrs Hennessy – arrived in Vigo, Spain in the afternoon. A forty-five minute road trip across the border into Portugal got us to our destination at around 5.00 pm when most of the other countries were also arriving. After reunions and introductions the group had a simple meal in local restaurants and an early night.
Getting to school the next morning was a ten-minute walk. The Escola Professional is a privately-run but Government-subsidised vocational training school catering for teens and young adults. Having been officially welcomed, it was time for the students’ presentations to get underway. Ireland was first up, and Damian Gruzdien and Craig Doyle told the audience about the landscapes in the island of Ireland, along with the legends surrounding the places as well as their more modern associations. Both did an excellent job and Tourism Ireland would be lucky to have such market promoters in its ranks! The presentations were followed by the teachers’ project meeting.
After lunch we took a walking tour of Arcos de Valdevez. The town (pop. Over 22,000) is beautifully quaint, nestling in the valley on the river Vez, surrounded by the wooded hills that provide a picture-postcard backdrop. The town boasts three well preserved churches dating from the 17th and 18th centuries. The three temples, as they are called, are Our Lady of Lapa Church, Parish Church and Holy Spirit Church. All three provide magnificent exemplars of intricate and ornate carvings and paintings.
The evening was rounded off with all the students and staff going to Casa Real “O Matadouro” restaurant for a splendid feast. All you could eat buffet of delicious food. Everyone went home happy. The local wine here is “Vinho Verde” which is unique to Portugal. This is known as “green wine” and is confined to wine originating in the Minho region in northern Portugal. It is ‘gassy’ but not sufficiently so to be classed as a semi-sparkling. It comes in white, red and rosé.
Tuesday was cultural tour day. Everyone on the bus to Braga by 9.00 am. The weather was typically “Irish” – drizzle and misty conditions, but it lightened as we reached the city. This is the third largest city in Portugal and has a population of over 180,000. It was an ancient Roman city and is regarded as the seat of Christianity in Portugal. It was the European Youth Capital in 2012. The city is inundated with historic churches – we just saw a few!
* The Cathedral – we entered by a side door and no photography was allowed – sorry! The building began in the 10th century and was only completed in the 18th century. Hence there is a mix of architectural styles blended together. The interior is highly ornate and rich, and the organ is spectacular.
* Commercial Square – the city’s main square
* The fountain
* Houses with tiled walls – characteristically Portuguese and both decorative and functional
* Former city university – is not seat of education and a library
* Depiction of the founding of the city
* Mary and Child sculpture
* Old wall of the city – the doors/gates were removed and the city entrance was left open. When someone leaves the door open in Portugal, people comment “he must be from Braga”.
* Old City Hall – now used for ceremonial purposes with Market Square in front of it
* City Garden – containing 15th century arches
* St Barbara statue – protector from storms
* Statue of Francisco Sanches – mathematician and philosopher
* Old and new church – side by side
* Church of Santa Cruz – big Easter festival involving fun and games
* Old city hospital dating from 17th/18th century
* Theatre – restored and classed as a protected building
Because of the weather, visibility was too poor to proceed with the original plan to climb to the highest point and get a panoramic view. We were going to go to a shopping mall for some lunch and shopping. We asked if it was possible to drive by the football stadium – home to FC Braga. The team played in the UEFA Europa League Final in 2011 in the Aviva Stadium, Dublin, losing 1-0 to Porto (managed then by one AVB). The team is nicknamed Arsenalistas because they share the same colours.
Yes it was possible to drive that way. So we arrived at the stadium and looked up at it - not seeing a whole lot. Our local hosts decided this wouldn ‘t do at all, and proceeded to drive to the main entrance and negotiated with the officials for a few minutes. It would be possible as a special favour to us to allow inside the main gate! Actually it turned out to be a personal tour for a small number of football fans who jumped at the offer. The stadium is locally called The Quarry, because it was carved out of solid rock and opened in 2004 for the UFEA Euro Championships. At one end of the stadium there is a wall of sheer rock. The stadium was designed to be eco-friendly. The rainwater is collected along the roofs of the two stands and funnelled into a reservoir. It is used to wash the stands and irrigate the pitch. Under the pitch there are several stories, housing offices, dressing rooms, press rooms, car parks. We were brought through it all, and for sure it was and will be, the one and only time I walk on to a football pitch through the players’ tunnel! In the press room the student staged a mock interview marking the arrival of a new player.
After that great bonus, we headed to Braga Parque, a huge shopping mall for lunch and some shopping. Then it was on to Guimarães, the European City of Culture 2012, and European City of Sport 2013. This was another beautiful city with lots of open squares and many historic sites.
The main attraction here were:
* Castelo Paco du Duques – the site where the country was founded in the 12th century. The old castle stands above the city, a wonderful old ruin with walls a metre thick dating from the 11th century.
* Stations of the Cross – spread around the town; life-size statues depicting the road to Calvary.
* Beautifully-tiled town houses dating from the 18th century;
* Market square
Then it was back to Arcos de Valdevez. The local rugby club invited the visitors to a ‘friendly game’, so the sporting heroes togged out in a variety of the latest fashions and headed to the local stadium to take on the might of CRAV (Arcos de Valdevez’s Rugby Club). This was around 6.30 – 7.00 pm and the place was buzzing with youngsters going through their paces. The municipal facility could accommodate rugby, soccer, and track & field. Wish we had these kinds of amenities available in Ireland! The game got underway, but the visitors were roundly trounced by the pros. No complaints there!
That evening we dined in Floresta restaurant. This is a family-run establishment. The meal was again superb, with endless amounts of fresh fish and meat. The platters of king prawns were huge – we could only dream of them here!
On Wednesday morning we were back in school. Ireland started again with Jordan Welstead making a presentation about music – traditional and modern. Some home-made movie clips of the school musical and Jordan’s rendition of the ‘Fields of Athenry’ were very well received. The presentations were followed by the student and teacher evaluation session.
After lunch there was a trip to Viana do Castelo. This is a fabulous seaside resort on the Atlantic coast. The bus climbed eight kilometres to the church known as The Monumental Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Santa Luzia. This provided us with a breath-taking panoramic view of the town and coast. The church itself is an architectural treasure of style, the work of Ventura Terra and Miguel Nogueira, and was constructed in the late 19th and early 20th century.
We were invited to go even higher into the dome to get a better view. This was a little scary – climbing up narrow winding stone steps in an enclosed space with little light, followed by more circular stairs to an exit that was not so easy to climb out of. Only a small number can be accommodated at the top, so the thirty plus students and teachers didn’t have much room to manoeuvre. Getting back down was just as daunting!
Down in the town we stopped off at the promenade and beach. The strong winds from the Atlantic made for powerful waves. The site is recommended for its health properties and attracts many tourists. The summer here could be imagined with sunshine, heat and ice cream. Perfect.
After a brief walk around the town and seeing the lovely town square, we headed to Ponte de Lima. This was an old Roman stronghold, and there is a legend recalled by the soldier scuptures at the river mouth. The legend goes that the soldiers believed it was the River of Oblivion and that crossing it would cause them to lose their memory. Their leader went across first to prove them wrong, and on reaching the other side, called out each soldier by name, thereby proving that he did not forget. The sculpture on the pier of the ploughing scene represents Ponte de Lima as the Portuguese Capital of Folklore.
Around the town we saw:
* The twin prison towers of medieval time
* The levels that flood waters reached
* The statue of Queen Teresa who founded the village originally
The final evening’s dining in Arcos de Valdevez was in “O Grill”, a period town house. The food was sumptuous and plentiful – fresh and beautifully served, capitalising on local ingredients. Portuguese cuisine is first rate. Overall the trip was brilliant and the hospitality of our hosts was marvellous.
Thursday morning, everyone had an early start. Departing from the hotel at 8.00 am, we said our goodbyes and promised to renew our friendships in Trevoux in April.
Comenius in Poland 18-22 November 2012
On Sunday 18 November 2012, four students and two teachers assembled at Dublin Airport T1 for departure to Poland for the 3rd stage of the Comenius Digital Storytelling Project 2011-13. The students selected to travel were Aoife Haughton, Nicole Stapleton, Paul Dunne and Nick Stanley, all 5th years now and in the second year of the project. Ms O’Shea and Ms Hennessy accompanied the students. Arriving in Gdansk airport at about 3.30 pm, there was a three-hour road trip ahead before we would get to Koszalin in northern Poland. However, the flights had gone smoothly and we were actually a little ahead of schedule.
The Comenius group met at Hotel Gromada in Koszalin where everyone got reacquainted or made new acquaintances over a simple Polish dinner.
Monday – 19 November 2012
Proceedings got underway in Ilo Dubois school at 9.00 am with a welcome from the school principal Rafal Janus and a tour of the school. The school caters for senior cycle students only 16 -18 years boys and girls.
Presentations in this round from students covered the topics Traditional Foods; Sports; and Festivals and Traditions. Paul and Aoife made their presentation on the topic of Sports, featuring Gaelic games – football, hurling, and camogie; and other international sports – soccer, rugby, and boxing. Later that evening our teaching colleagues from Norway and the Netherlands discussed hurling at length with us! The day inclueded a visit to the Miller's Palace & Museum to see some relics of a bygone era.
After lunch, the students headed off to the bowling alley, while the teachers got a walking tour of the town of Koszalin. Later that evening the teachers went to Jamneska Restaurant to sample traditional Polish food. This food was very rich and soon everyone was struggling to finish the meal. The soup was served in a bread bowl (a crusty round loaf that is hollowed out and filled with soup which is a nutritious winter variety with meat, veg and even egg! Then there came dumplings (pierogi) with various fillings – these are probably the most popular and famous Polish dish. Then meats and vegetables followed, and then there was coffee/tea, followed by ice cream and raspberries!
Tuesday 20 November 2012
The bus left the school yard at 7.00 am for a trip to Gdansk. A guided tour of the old city took us up to 3.00 pm. Among the historical points of interest were:
The Archcathedral Basilica in Oliwa built by the Cistercians at the end of the 12th century, where the Princes of Pomerania were interred. The church boasts one of the world’s largest organs with 7,876 pipes.
The walk through the Long Market from the Green Gate to the Gold gate. This was where the royals would process through the city.
The crane – symbol of Gdansk
Granary Island – traditionally a grain store, now a monument dedicated to the memory of locals who fought in the resistance to German occupation during World War II.
Amber jewellers – we learned about Polish amber – white, orange and green reflecting its ancient origin, and how to test if amber product is the real thing. We also saw a rough piece of amber being polished into a gleaming beauty. Too expensive to buy unfortunately.
Fahrenheit monument – birthplace of man who gave us a reliable measurement of temperature.
Fountain of Neptune – the second symbol of Gdansk
Town Hall Museum
The Gold Gate – the royal entrance to the city
St Mary’s Church – the oldest church in the world built of brick – and the coldest it seems!
The city is of course most noted to two key historical moments in the 20th century. The refusal of Polish authorities to “give back” Gdansk to Germany, was used by Hitler as the excuse to invade Poland in 1939 and started the Second World War. The second important contribution of Gdansk was the stand taken by the Polish shipyard workers under the leadership of Lech Walesa leading to the formation of Solidarity. The movement through the 1980s led the drive to democracy across eastern Europe which culminated in the tearing down of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Today, the shipyards are gone and a simple monument to Walesa and Solidarity remains.
After the sightseeing tour, it was time for food again. The custom in Poland is to have the main meal of the day (dinner) at around 3 to 4 pm.
A visit to the Baltyk Galleria for an hour – where we all had ice cream and a quick browse around the huge shopping mall – then back on the bus for the 3-hour journey back to Koszalin.
Back to school. Nicole and Nick made their presentation about Irish festivals, focussing on the Lisdoonvarna Match-making festival, the Kilorglin Puck Fair, and of course St Patrick’s Day.
After the presentations, the students got an opportunity to attend class with their hosts, while the teachers attended the evaluation meeting and made plans for the next round in Portugal.
The afternoon included a visit to Darlowo on the Baltic coast. This is a seaside resort and is growing in popularity – the resident population is about 6,000 but the tourist season sees the population increasing to 22,000. Here we visited the Castle of the Pomeranian Dukes and the Gothic church of St Mary’s, which holds the tomb of King Eric who was known as the Pirate King, who took to piracy after he had been dethroned. Finally a walk to the beach where we saw coastal conservation measures being implemented – Ms O’Shea gave an impromptu lesson on the spot and captured some images to share with the class back home! The trip was rounded off with a meal of potato pancakes – another Polish speciality. These can be eaten with ketchup (savoury) or with sugar and sour cream (sweet). Clean plates all round!
Our stay in Poland was very informative and it was great to experience the culture of this proud people particularly as we have a significant Polish population living in Ireland. Our hosts were magnificent and spared no effort in making our stay memorable.
Comenius comes to TCS
TCS played host to five visiting schools from across Europe as part of the Comenius Digital Storytelling Project 2011-13 that the school is part of.
The visitors arrived in Dublin on Sunday 22 April from France, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, and Portugal. This was the third trip in the series following on from the trip to Oslo in early March. Assembling in the Maldron Hotel on Sunday evening, the visiting students got to make friends with their hosting partners for the week.
The week consists of workshops and cultural exchanges. On Monday, the business got underway in Tallaght Community School, where the first round of student presentations took place. Topics included local landmarks and tourist attractions. The morning rounded off with some céilí dancing which the visitors learned in jig time(!) and this was following by displays of Irish Dancing by TCS students.
After a school lunch, the group of 51 headed to Dublin city to visit the Guinness Storehouse and Dublinia Viking Museum. Both venues proved very popular with the visiting students and teachers alike. Guinness is an Irish icon and the spectacular view from the Gravity Bar was excellent in the afternoon sunshine. The Dublinia experience was also apt, as Norway has many Viking and Norsemen artefacts in its collection. The influence of the French (Normans) on early Dublin was also in evidence and the link between all three countries was remarked on.
Tuesday's weather held just long enough for the hike in Glendalough to be completed. Led by TCS teacher, Níall Lenoach, the group visited Glendalough's famous Roundtower and Cemetry - everyone seemed really interested in this. After this we visited one of Glendalough's lakes followed by a short trip up to Glendalough's waterfall where everyone was given a short talk by our teacher Níall Lenoach. This was a really good day.
The second round of student presentations took place in school on Wednesday. This time the themes covered local dishes, the economic situation, local myths and legends. The range of topics and styles of presentations made for an entertaining session and was an enjoyable way to learn about how we are alike and how we differ.
After that, the teachers had their evaluation meeting while the students watched a slideshow about Gaelic sport skills. Then we went to the sports hall to learn these skills. We spent around 20 minutes of training to show them how to play the games. Then we broke up into teams and we played a few games of Gaelic football. The training session was very enjoyable and everyone seemed to have a good time.
The TCS group involved in the Comenius Digital Storytelling project travelled to Oslo in Norway on 4 March 2012. The school party comprised of three TY students, Daniel Murphy, Jake Riddell and Emma Whelan, along with teachers Mr Grimes and Mrs Hennessy. Arriving in Oslo in mid-afternoon, we made our way to the meeting point in Aker Brygge on the sea front. Here the students met up with their counterparts from France, the Netherlands, Portugal, Poland and also their host families from Norway.