Comenius in Estonia, on the Island of Saaremaa
Last week was unforgettable for the students of Kärla Basic School. People from Poland, Turkey, France and Italy arrived at our school to complete the Comenius project ‘Choose 2 live and think healthy in a healthy community’. The project has lasted for two years, during which time our students have visited the above mentioned countries. Now, the final event of the project took place and the facilitating country was Estonia and our little Kärla school. There were altogether 35 guests, who spent a pithful week in Saaremaa during the 10th until the 17th of May. The main theme for this week was the Internet and the joys and dangers of it.
The long-awaited guests arrived at Kärla in the evening of the 10th of May, where the host families were waiting for them. The youngsters were accommodated in the students’ homes and the teachers stayed in Kuressaare at Linnahotell. With the arrival of the guests, the eventful week began.
Monday morning was anxious for the whole school. The guests arrived at the school in the morning and everybody communicated in English. There was a gathering in the school’s assembly hall where everybody got to meet and greet the guests and the plans for the week were introduced. The students of Kärla school took their guests for a tour around the school and the borough. The day continued as our students went off to class and our guests went for a trip to West-Saaremaa. All the outings were carried out by Elle Mäe, our guide. They enjoyed Saaremaa’s nature and the local food. Since the plans for the evening activities were left up for the families, the students were taken to various SPAs to relax. The guest teachers got to enjoy a tasty meal at Veski Tavern, accompanied by our school’s teachers.
On Tuesday they went sightseeing in Kuressaare, Kuressaare Castle and the Lääne-Saare commune administration. After that the student spent time if various cafés. The day was not finished after that – at Kärla they finished an orientation game with a tablet, led by Simmo Kikkas from Kuressaare. The students got to orient around Kärla with the help of a modern device. The youngsters were given an opportunity to use the devices with expedience. It was visible that they enjoyed this type of contemporary approach, since they arrived at their destination with positive emotions. At the same time the teacher spent a lovely time at Kärla health track. The rest of the night was free for the students and later it turned out that the students had had a barbeque at Paul-Mark’s. It was very fun because all 30 students had shown up.
Wednesday was very busy – Kinobuss arrived at Kärla, where Mikk Rand told us about making a cartoon. First he gave an overview about making the movie and the techniques used. Our school’s students had previously come up with the scenarios for the cartoons, that they started to make in different groups. There were students from different countries in every group, so all the communication was in English. We found out that in order to make a good cartoon, it will take about 2 years, but we only had a few hours – so we had to make haste. The techniques were various: who decided to use a tablet, who drew or who played the characters themselves. The whole process was hard, but very exciting. The young people had to be creative, work together, and keep in mind the differences in each other’s culture. They were very excited and enjoyed the process. Once again we confirmed that young people today are very eager and willing to use different programmes and techniques to express their creativity. The animations that were completed, can be viewed here:
During the second half of the day, a lecture was held on ‘Spending Your free time on the Internet, playing online games and the dangers accompanied by them.’ The lecture was conducted by Birgy Lorenz, a project manager for Tallinn University Information Institute’s Education Technology Centre and IT developer for Tallinna Pelgulinna Gymnasium. After a break we gathered on the lot if front of the cafeteria, where Birgy played a game with us called ‘Computer and Virus’. Everyone was happy because they got to move around. After that we moved on to the assembly hall, where a three-hour lecture followed about the safety of telephones and computers. Different group activities were conducted, through which students were explained how easily they could become victims of cyber bullying because of their own stupidity and unknowingness. When the lecture ended, there was one thing left to do – to watch the animations that were made in the morning. It was completely unbelievable that the students could do such work in such a little time. A full day’s work was worth it because we left excited and with new experience, and with the same mood we headed home, ate and the students gathered behind the school to hold a football match. The teachers went for a traditional meal in Kuressaare.
On Thursday our guests got to enjoy Saaremaa’s views once again – this time at Sõrve peninsula. The guests were in awe about Sõrve and felt that they had been at the edge of the world. In the evening they were invited to the annual Spring concert, which was very memorable for our guests. It was very moving for them to see the performances, which emphasised the love of our country. After the concert the visiting students, our students who took part in the program, their parents, and the teachers had a meal prepared by the parents. After that was a party with a DJ. It was obvious that all the time spent together had drawn the students close. The party was very enjoyable and the assembly hall was never empty. Here, the children would like to that DJ Heri Rump. Not only the students, but also the teachers went dancing and the students enjoyed seeing their teachers having a good time.
Friday was a busy day once again – a student conference was held in the school where different reports were presented about the dangers of the Internet. The day ended with a conclusion of an online questionnaire on the same subject. The conclusion was presented by Paul-Mark Pihl, a 9th grade student. Thanks to these reports, the students are more aware of what is happening online and the dangers involved.
The day continued at Good Kaarma, an eco-farm where students could take part in making soaps. Since most of the students were from big cities, they got an idea of how life works in the country, where technical advances are not displayed as much as a nature-friendly lifestyle. At the same time the teachers held a meeting at the school. The students spent the evening at Käesla village square, where they had a barbeque and played traditional Estonian games.
Since there was no luck with the weather, everybody sat at the tepee by the fire where they reminisced about the past week when they got to know each other and different European cultures better. The whole group stayed together – when something was done, they did it together. The Polish students found that technology cannot substitute friends and the experiences you get while communicating with others – friends, to be exact, because when they left Estonia, they were no longer guests but friends.
There was a festive dinner for the teachers at Kuressaare at Saare Golf’s restaurant MO. The mood was kept up by our school’s music teacher Marika Aarnis with her daughter Eva Aarnis, who played the piano and the violin.
The Saturday morning send-off was filled with tears and Riccardo from Italy said that the weather in Estonia may be very changing and cold but that was ok because the people in Estonia are very friendly and warm. That warmth they took to their homes. Thank You for Your friendship.
Comenius project ‘Choose 2 live and think healthy in a healthy community’ meaning is about a healthy community in every sense – sports, environment, healthy eating, and using technology wisely. Thanks to non-formal studies the students have gained much more knowledge in these topics. The student exchange has widened the students world view, as well as developed their creativity, language and have learnt to take into consideration the differences in cultures.
It was a great honour to entertain students and teachers from four different countries. A big Thank You to the project initiator, Tiina Luks and the leaders/bigwigs Jaan Lember, Katrin Mesila, Margit Lindau, Anne pildre and Külli Luup. Also a big Thank You to the teachers, the parents, the students and the supporters, who gave their contribution to make this project happen.
Kaisi Õispuu, Katriin Soon ja Sander Õispuu