Erasmus programs in middle School: Istituto Comprensivo San Giorgio Mantova

We talk with Maria Rosaria Grasso teacher at Istituto Comprensivo San Giorgio di Mantova (Italy) recognized by Ashoka as one of five the Change Maker schools in the country.

One of the most interesting innovations of the school is its Erasmus program for students from middle secondary school (12 to 14 years old), which is not very common considering that Erasmus programs are usually offered to older students from high school to University.

They take part in the Erasmus+ project that comes from the European Commission and offers schools and universities the opportunity to connect and work with different countries. This is the third project for them.

Talking about the benefits of this program, Maria thinks that the students have a chance to meet people from different countries, work with them, understand their cultures and of course, learn English. The project lasts two years. This year six countries are involved and the project is about wellbeing improvement for new generations at school. During the project, the students have meetings in each participant country. A couple of weeks ago they hosted 30 students and 13 teachers coming from the countries they work with, this is, Spain, Poland, Finland, Luxemburg and Greece.

To support the development of Erasmus projects, Etwinning offers a free platform for school staff to connect and collaborate in projects with other schools in Europe. They are using Etwinning to communicate, to share stuff and to work together. As Maria told us it’s also a good way to find partners for Erasmus programs. In Etwinnning you have a virtual classroom where you can have video conferences, communicate through forum, chats, share videos… There also groups and training sessions…It’s a way for school to grow.

Another interesting innovation they started over the past few years was the usage of Feng Shui theory to redesign classrooms.

They started renovating one classroom in 2013 because they wanted to create an environment where students feel more confortable. They met an architect who suggested them to use the Feng Shui theory and she gave them a hand during the process to create the environment. Feng Shui theory helped them choosing the right colours for the classroom because according to the theory all the colours have a particular sense.

After renovating the first room, the municipality offered them money to paint other rooms with the same idea. At this moment they have 11 rooms painted this way. In these rooms they still have the old furniture but they are planning to get new one in the future.

Talking about methodologies, Maria told us that she uses Flipped classroom with her students. Students study the lesson at home by themselves with video explanations, articles or websites. Once at class they work in groups, have practice and formative assessment.

Talking about the evaluation system established by the National Curriculum, she thinks that it is too strict. She would remove the grades. In her opinion if students get the minimum grade they feel like they value the minimum.

On the other hand, she thinks that there are people who believe that if there wouldn’t be grades and exams, the students wouldn’t study. But in her opinion the reality is that two weeks after the exams the students normally forgot everything. She prefers another way of working, developing student’s intrinsic passion towards searching, discovering and finding the answers.

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