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A visit to the warmest place in Europe

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The cold of the outside was in perfect contrast to the warmth of our welcome!

At the beginning of November, in one of the easternmost towns in the European Union, members of staff from four schools across Europe got together to start something special. For the next two school years, the Sindelfingen Campus of ISS Stuttgart will be leading an EU-funded project based on one of our campus's major philosophical motivations: looking at dual-language team-teaching across Europe. Together with our partner schools in Spain, Estonia and the Netherlands, we aim to investigate the most successful ways to teach in a two-language environment, promoting the best in the teaching teams involved.

The EU funding we successfully bid for, will facilitate the following work to take place:

Administering the project, buying materials etc.

Enabling project coordinators from all 4 countries to meet and plan.

Giving the opportunity for students to travel to our partner schools.

Our project outcomes will be similarly threefold:

Students will learn about one another's cultures and produce a beautiful bound book encompassing the traditions of each locality (including our own Swabian traditions). Our partner schools in the Netherlands (Amsterdam International Community School) and Spain (Escola Pla de Mar, between Barcelona and Tarragona) will coordinate this.

Teachers will learn about one another's approaches to dual-language team-teaching and catalogue these. Our partner school in Estonia (Narva Paju School) will coordinate this.

We will develop and promote a web-based platform showcasing best practice in dual-language team-teaching, drawing on our experiences, the work of our partner schools, and academic research. Visitors to the website will be able to see model lessons, gain ideas for how to implement a dual-language ethos, and communicate with us. This online platform will be ISS Sindelfingen’s area of responsibility.

Our partner school in Estonia prepared a superb programme for November’s first project meeting: we discussed the timeline of the project, we investigated the traditions of the local area, and we had the opportunity to observe dual-language team-teaching in action. The temperature outside might have been -10C with heavy snow, but the warmth of the staff and students of Narva Paju School shone forth.

Narva is a very interesting town in which to begin a project focusing on traditions and languages: an old Hanseatic trading post guarding the crossing of the Narva River, its history includes rule by the Teutonic Knights, the Danes and the Swedes, the Soviet Union, and now the Estonian government in Tallinn. Due to the political situation at the end of the Cold War, Narva is today almost a wholly-Russian city by ethnicity: Estonians make up a very small percentage of the town (3-4% is quoted), and the students at Narva Paju School have little experience of the Estonian language in action, since everyone, everywhere is a Russian speaker. This is a challenge for the teachers at Narva Paju School: they know that all the national exams, and the majority of the country’s employment opportunities, demand fluency in Estonian.

Estonian is a Uralic language closely related to Finnish (and very distantly to Hungarian); Russian is the most widely spoken slavic tongue. The languages have pretty much nothing in common, and the differences in grammar and vocabulary are immense, not to mention the different alphabets. We observed time and time again the teachers at Narva Paju School going the extra mile to make Estonian relevant and meaningful as both a language of instruction and a communication tool in its own right: an inspiration to us all.

Aside from seeing amazing things happening in classrooms, we project coordinators used this, our first meeting of all partner schools, to plan a timeline for the project up to summer 2018. Wanting students to get the most out of the project’s opportunities, we arranged the timeline so that our students visit the partner schools when traditional festivals are taking place.

Students from ISS Sindelfingen will be taking part in the following Student Exchanges:

In April 2017, our students will travel to our partner school in Pla de Mar, between Barcelona and Tarragona, in Catalonia (Spain). The festival of St Jordi (St George) will being light and colour to the streets there.

In November 2017, our students will travel to our partner school in Amsterdam in the Netherlands. They will see a rather different interpretation of the St Martin tradition there.

In May 2018, our students will host visitors from all our partner schools, in Amsterdam, Pla de Mar and Narva, around the time of Sindelfingen’s own May Festival. All the students will finalise and celebrate the project’s achievements at this time.

We are very much looking forward to sending our group of students to Catalonia around the festival of St Jordi in April!

Thank you again to Narva Paju School for hosting our visit so efficiently, and to the EU’s ERASMUS+ funds for enabling all the above to take place.

Matthew Knights & Amanda Clem (Project Coordinators) – Sarah Kupke (Head of School).