2009/12/18

BROKEN BARRIERS - ONLINE COLLABORATION

At the beginning of this month, Romania and Greece succeed to break the space barriers between them. Our students were sitting in the same classroom , even this classroom was a virtual one.


SUBJECT: HISTORY ONLINE LESSON
TOPIC: “ROMANIA INTO THE GREEK BOOKS”
Target of the lesson: 40 students
Age: 16-17 years old
Time: 50 minutes

Aims of the lesson:

  • To learn about the Romanians' history
  • To share new knowledge to Greek partners
  • To apply a new kind of teaching through ICT
  • To encourage students to present their opinions in English
  • To practice different learning approaches (storytelling, learning through drama, outdoor education, learning using ICT tools/technique)
  • To work in a group
  • To socialize in a group
  • To make students more responsible for their actions
Draft of the lesson:

1-5 min : Saying hello and names of the participants-showing with the camera the place around
6-8 min : About idea why those lessons through ICT technology are needed in our program
9-10 min : Explain the choice of history as a work case
11-25 min : The Romanian National Day
26-35 min : Romania (land and people) in Greek history books(last 3 grades)
36-40 min : Questions and answers
41-42 min : Greek conclusion
43-44 min : Romanian conclusion
45 min : Appointment for April after the Greek national day with the Romanian presentation of Greece in your history books.
46-50 min : Saying Goodbye

Technique:


(right click on image --> open link in new window)

Final Products:
  • Discussions
  • PowerPoint presentation
  • Joy :)












Romania-Greece, December 10th 2009



Romanians'Presentation





Greeks' Presentation






How it really was?

Part I






Part II






Part III





Part IV





Dedication



written by Camyk and Zaharias

2009/11/21

LESSON PLAN OF THE EXAMPLE OF OUTDOOR EDUCATION

SUBJECT: LESSON OF ART IN LODZ

TOPIC: “MANUFACTURE IN ART THROUGH THE EYES OF STUDENTS”

Target of the lesson: 20 students

Age: 15-16 years old

Time: 4 hours

Aims of the lesson:
- To encourage students to draw
- To learn different drawing and painting techniques
- To practice different art techniques
- To learn the architecture of the hometown
- To work in a group
- To socialize in a group
- To make students more responsible for their actions
Draft of the lesson:
  • Introductory lesson explaining different art techniques and explain what the techniques are characteristic for:
  • a) Computer
  • b) Crayon
  • c) Pencil
  • d) Paint
  • e) Watercolour
  • f) Coal
  • g) Collage
  • h) Pastel pencil
  • Division of the students into 7 groups and share the task. Each group is responsible for drawing a chosen fragment of architecture using different techniques.
  • Prepare and collect all the materials: papers, pencil, paint, coal, crayon, collage.
  • Students visit the shopping centre in Lodz – “Manufactura” which is known for its architecture. They are shown with a chosen aspect of the architecture, which should be presented on paper using different techniques.
  • All pictures are joined to make a panoramic view of Manufactura Centre.

Final Products:
  • Discussions
  • Posters
  • PowerPoint presentation
EXAMPLES OF STUDENTS' WORK:









~~~~~~~~~~~~~





2009/11/10

FIELD TRIP : "HOW TO MAKE A GREEN TRIP?" (II)

~GOOD PRACTICE EXAMPLE~

THE PLAN OF THE LEARNING TRIP PECICA- BEZDIN-PECICA ROUTE


1. The theme of the learning trip: “ How to make a green trip?”
2. The timetable of the learning trip:

9: 00 – Meeting if front of the school
9: 30 – The departure from the school
10:00 – Meeting with the representatives of the Culture House of Pecica
11:00 – Meeting with the representatives of the local community at the Momac fountain
11:30 – Outdoor exercise- “observe and note!”
12:00 – Outdoor exposition
13:30 – “A cruise with the raft on the Mures river”
15:00 – Outdoor Workshop
16:15 – Interview at Bezdin Monastery
18:00 – Leaving Bezdin Monastery
19:30 – Cooking outdoor Dinner
21:00 – The end of the learning trip



3. The unfolding of the activities

A1- “ICE BREAKING”

THE DESCRIPTION OF THE ACTIVITY
  • At 9:00 o’clock in the morning the two classes meet in front of the school (6 and 11 grade): teachers check the attendance and give the students the briefing regarding the behavior and safety norms which they need to follow during the entire learning trip. (click here)
  • The organizer teachers present the students the aim of the trip.
  • Students receive badges and ICE BREAKING GAMES unfold
  • Students write their expectations on the Expectation Sheet.
  • The students were distributed in three groups: "DOGS", "CATS" and "CHICKEN". Each team has to find their flag, choose a leader (an 11 grade pupil) and a mascot (a 6 grade pupil).
  • Each team receives its task: until they reach the park they have to compose the hymn of the team.
OBJECTIVES
  • To develop their socialization skills within an uneven group( students of different age)
  • To develop the organization ability of the group they are part of.
MEANS:
  • Human Resources: the organizing teaching staff, students
  • Materials: carton, coloured pencils ,decorative stamps, decorative staples, decorative scissors, laminating foil, laminator, markers, coloured paper, sticks, block notes, glue, pens, clipboard, A4 sheets of paper, copier, prizes ( candies, biscuits, pens, shell nuts, leaves, pebbles )
TARGET GROUP : The students and the teachers

TIMING: 30 minutes

RESULTS AND FEED-BACK : The formation and organization of the 3 groups

EVALUATION
  • Frontal
  • Expectations sheet

A2- “ THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE LOCAL HORIZON AND ITS IMPORTANCE”

THE DESCRIPTION OF THE ACTIVITY:

By the time the group reaches the first destination they have received in Activity 1 such as the “Children’s Park”, several local sights are presented and visited : The Catholic Church, The Baptist Church, “Dragos” School, The Basket Factory, The Cultural Centre, “Ghiutoaie” School, “ At Mimi’s” Sweet-shop, The Serbian Church, “Momac” fountain. Every correct answer was rewarded.

OBJECTIVES
The students have :

  • To develop their knowledge about different institutions and representative monuments of Pecica
  • To develop their interest to discover traditions and customs of the area ( folk dancing, folk costumes, trades, going to collect water, weaving baskets, going to church)
  • To respect the believes and opinions of the people around them
  • To be aware of their position within the group and the community
  • To be aware of the importance of conserving the local, national and European cultural legacy.
MEANS
  • Human Resources: the organizing teaching staff, students
  • Materials: carton, coloured pencils, decorative stamps, decorative staples, decorative scissors, laminating foil, laminator, markers, coloured paper, sticks, block notes, glue, pens, clipboard, A4 sheets of paper, copier, prizes ( candies, biscuits, pens, shell nuts, leaves, pebbles )

TARGET GROUP: The students and the teachers

TIMING: 2 hours

RESULTS AND FEED-BACK
In the next days the students will:
  • Write essays, articles about the town of Pecica
  • Make a photo album containing pictures from Pecica
  • Make a power point presentation of the town
EVALUATION: Frontal


A3- “ OBSERVE AND WRITE”- OUTDOOR ACTIVITY

THE DESCRIPTION OF THE ACTIVITY

Each team shall sing/acting/mime their anthem/hymn. In 10 minutes, each team will solve the quiz from the sheet. Teachers will asses all teams’ sheets. They will establish the winners after another quiz regarding students’ knowledge about the regional words and regional types of food. After that there will be formed 2 new teams. Each team will have new tasks: each team must find a marked places, based by a map reading.

OBJECTIVES
Students will have to:
  • To discover and emphasize their artistic skills in order to develop their personal creativity
  • To develop their collaboration skills and also the distribution of tasks
  • To develop their investigation skills
  • To improve their ability to read a map
  • To develop their spatial orientation skills by using a map
  • To improve their foreign language skills
  • Students , teachers, parents and the local community will have to become more open to outdoor education
MEANS
  • Human Resources: the organizing teaching staff, students
  • Materials: carton, coloured pencils, decorative stamps, decorative staples, decorative scissors, laminating foil, laminator, markers, coloured paper, sticks, block notes, glue, pens, clipboard, A4 sheets of paper, copier, prizes ( candies, biscuits, pens, shell nuts, leaves, pebbles )
TARGET GROUP: The students and the teachers

TIMING: 30 minutes

RESULTS AND FEED-BACK
  • The hymn of every team
  • In the next days the students will make a map with all the objectives they have encountered during the learning trip
EVALUATION
  • Frontal
  • Expectations sheet
  • The special copy-book (click here)

A4- OUTDOOR EXPOSITION

THE DESCRIPTION OF THE ACTIVITY:
Groups of 2-3 children present their posters and promotional materials they have made in the previous days. The aim of this presentation is to promote the Bezdin monastery.

OBJECTIVES: Students have to develop their artistic and linguistic skills

MEANS:
  • Human Resources: the organizing teaching staff, students
  • Materials: carton, coloured pencils ,decorative stamps, decorative staples, decorative scissors, laminating foil, laminator, markers, coloured paper, sticks, block notes, glue, pens, clipboard, A4 sheets of paper, copier, prizes ( candies, biscuits, pens, shell nuts, leaves, pebbles )
TARGET GROUP : The students and the teachers

TIMING: 1 hour and 30 minutes

RESULTS AND FOLLOW-UP: Students have an outdoor exposition before their journey on the raft

OBSERVATIONS: Weak points: the poor hygiene of the area


A5- “ ADVENTURES ON THE MURES RIVER”- A cruise with the raft on the Mures river


THE DESCRIPTION OF THE ACTIVITY
The students are going to look for different flora and fauna species on the other side of the river
OBJECTIVES
  • To identify flora and fauna species
  • To understand the importance and the necessity of the environmental conservation
MEANS:
  • Human Resources: the organizing teaching staff, students
  • Materials: carton, coloured pencils , decorative stamps, decorative staples, decorative scissors, laminating foil, laminator, markers, coloured paper, sticks, block notes, glue, pens, clipboard, A4 sheets of paper, copier, prizes (candies, biscuits, pens, shell nuts, leaves, pebbles )
TARGET GROUP: The students and the teachers

TIMING: 2 hours

RESULTS AND FOLLOW-UP: Students will pick up different natural items which will be put in the treasure-box

EVALUATION
  • Frontal
  • Special copy-book
  • Posters, photo albums, collages and advertisements


A6- “GREEN PECICA, GREEN ROMANIA, GREEN EUROPE” - OUTDOOR WORKSHOP

THE DESCRIPTION OF THE ACTIVITY:

The students are organized in three teams (new teams) : The spirit of the forest”, “The spirit of the water”, “ The spirit of faith”. Each team receives an envelope which has as a task to create a story with a specific theme. To emphasize their affiliation to a certain team, the students received a sticker on their cheek.

A dissemination session of the activities unfolded during the Comenius project ( Comenius- Sweden , Comenius multilateral partnership) takes place. Activities with ecological thematic which were part of the projects previously mentioned are presented and shared along with the personal experiences of the participants at the meeting in Poland. This meeting is part of the multinational partnership “ European Journey through Legends”
OBJECTIVES:

  • Students have to create and interpret the stories
  • Students are active participants at every activity
  • Students have to revise the environmental problems and identify active measures to solve those problems.

MEANS:
  • Human Resources: the organizing teaching staff, students
  • Materials: carton, coloured pencils ,decorative stamps, decorative staples, decorative scissors, laminating foil, laminator, markers, coloured paper, sticks, block notes, glue, pens, clipboard, A4 sheets of paper, copier, flags with European countries
TARGET GROUP: The students and the teachers

TIMING: 1 hour

RESULTS AND FOLLOW-UP
  • The Story- its interpretation will be done at school the next day
  • The students will manufacture an advertisement presenting “ The green trip” theme which will be exposed on the school’s hallway.


A7 - OUTDOOR INTERVIEW


THE DESCRIPTION OF THE ACTIVITY:

The students take an interview to the nun from Bezdin monastery. They gather historical, spiritual and cultural data using authentic written and unwritten sources.


OBJECTIVES:
  • To emphasize the importance of discovering and conserving the local, national and European cultural legacy.
  • To develop their ability to dialogize with a personality.
MEANS:
  • Human Resources: the organizing teaching staff, students, monastic personal
  • Material Resources : camera, video camera, block notes, pens
TARGET GROUP: The students and the teachers, local community, local authorities.

TIMING: 1 hour

RESULTS AND FOLLOW-UP: The interview- written and filmed



A8 - “LIVING ROMANIAN’S TRADITIONS”



THE DESCRIPTION OF THE ACTIVITY
The students are going to cook an outdoor traditional Romanian meal

OBJECTIVES:
  • Students have to inform themselves in the matters of outdoor traditional cooking
  • Students learn how to survive in a natural habitat
  • Students learn about personal, group security and how to protect the environment
  • Students become aware of the fulfillment of the objectives discussed at the beginning of the trip.
MEANS:
  • Human Resources: the organizing teaching staff, students
  • Material Resources: garbage bags, barbecue sticks, knives, forks , bacon, onion, cheese, bread, apple, water, napkins, matches.
TARGET GROUP: The students and the teachers, local community, local authorities.

TIMING: 2 hour

RESULTS AND FOLLOW-UP:
  • Cooked food
  • Fun :-)


CONCLUSION



This experience illustrates some valuable lessons from outdoor education. It demonstrates that good education is holistic; it is concerned with mind, body and spirit. motivation and enthusiasm are essential ingredients of effective learning. Adventure is a great motivator. Time spent alone or in small groups in natural areas also motivates. Young people who under-achieve in the classroom may suddenly come alive and show a range of skills that have remained hidden in formal teaching.

We think Outdoor Education could play a vital role in educating tomorrow's citizens. We are working in a field where we constantly experience success. Many young people who fail in school, fail at home and sometimes fail amongst their friends will succeed in the outdoors. There is an opportunity to inspire, to break a mould, to offer alternative views and begin to change attitudes.

written by Camy, Simo and Ioana

FIELD TRIP : "HOW TO MAKE A GREEN TRIP?" (I)

~GOOD PRACTICE EXAMPLE~

ARGUMENT

The main challenge of our world today is to learn living together and in harmony with our environment on a planet where resources and space are limited. To meet this challenge it is important to discuss a global vision of the “world” in which we want to live thinking in the long-term and acting responsibly. A teaching method that could be described as a “big experience” or “big simulation” is the field trip. A nature walk with a treasure hunt or a visit to a factory is an experience; a trip to a museum that depicts historical events and artifacts is a simulation - one is not actually going back in history.

Field trips have some value simply because they provide variety in the learning environment. Sometimes the teacher and students need to get out of the classroom just to get a broader perspective of education. For example, one of the best ways to stimulate writing in children is to go for a walk and then ask the students to write a description of the surroundings.

The activity “ How to make a green trip” had two aims:

  • to promote the local identity of the town through the benefit of a life experience, through cooperation , and cultural dialogue about the local values.
  • to practice the pedagogical approaches which were studied along the first year of the project.

The activity took place in our school during the European Day of Modern Languages. This gave us the opportunity to integrate this activity into an international and intercultural context. This outdoor educational activity called “ How to make a green trip?” is a natural following of the work session “ How green are you?” that took place in Poland. In this activity students were stimulated to look into the ecological problems of the area they live in. They also had to present a legend, a myth or a story which emphasizes the cooperation between man and nature . During the trip, one of the aims was the creation of a story which combined both fantastic elements and real ecological problems of the area.

The activities held on the course of the day followed the pattern of a “learning trip” which had the following route: Pecica – Bezdin - Pecica. The activities had to fulfill the four main aims of the Comenius project which has the following theme: “European Journey through Legends”:
  • O1. Understanding cultural diversity from schools and living life;
  • O2. Developing the natural gifted/skills of pupils
  • O3. Improving teaching methods and evaluation methods through ICT
  • O4. Improving the pupils’ ability to preserve or enhance the natural environment.
To reach the first objective O1 the organization and accomplishment of some of the socialization activities had as a purpose the development of tolerance for :
  • age diversity - mixed teams were created from students of different ages( 6th grade and 11th grade)
  • language, ethnical diversity - specific activities had a contribution to strengthen the relationships through students of different ethnics: Romanians, Hungarians, Romany, Germans, Slovakians
  • historical diversity - at the two sessions from the Cultural House and Momac fountain different aspects of the local history have been presented
  • religious diversity - during the trip different religious sights from the town of Pecica were presented.
The first objective O1 also had the aim to make students aware of the importance of the local cultural and historical legacy. Thus a series of work sessions presented customs and traditions connected to the Momac fountain, the former bathing-establishment, the traditional local gate and the Romanian folk costumes and dancing. Romanian legends, myths and stories were emphasized through the three plays which had the following themes: ”the Water spirit, the Forest spirit and the Faith spirit”.

The second objective O2 was fulfilled through the discussion topics regarding
  • the atractivity of school enhancement- by organizing this trip as an interdisciplinary activity, which is part of the curriculum as a new format of the counseling hour.
  • the involvement of parents in the life of the school by preparing food for the students who were going to cook traditional Romania food; and that of the local communities such as the director of the Cultural House, news staff, clerical staff, town hall staff, during the activities students were involved in
  • students’ creativity was encouraged through drawing expositions, posters in the nature.
To accomplish the third objective O3 it was used an interactive approach; the necessary material support were prepared ahead, by using IT&C materials. The dynamic of the lesson was given by the combination of the three pedagogical approaches studied along the first year of the project: learning through drama, the usage of ICT tools and materials and outdoor education.

These activities led to a better communication both horizontally (student-student; teacher- teacher) and vertically (student-teacher; student- local community) between all the participants to the learning trip. The activities related to the 4th objective O4 developed the students and teachers’ conservation and environmental protection skills. Outdoor exercises led to the acknowledgement of some cleanliness and environmental esthetics problems. The beauty of the places they have visited that day made all of the participants desire to play an active part in the conservation of the natural environment.

THE EVALUATION OF THE LEARNING TRIP:

If we take into account what Schaub and Zenke’s “Pedagogy Dictionary” is saying about evaluation, its definition would be: “the collecting, good use and learning of the information resulting from the learning process”. Both the learning process and the revision takes place in nature.

The revision is considered a way through which the teacher checks the student’s level of knowledge and the development of skills tested through the usage of different methods suitable to the “target goal”. The evaluation methods can be classified in :
  • Traditional evaluation methods ( classic)
  • Alternative evaluation methods (modern)
Due to the fact that the learning process used alternative learning techniques such as outdoor education, dramatization, and IT&C skills, it is obvious that the evaluation also has to use alternative methods. Thus the following evaluation methods were used:
  • Small rewards ( candies, biscuits, pens, chestnuts, leaves) are given as prizes to students who answer correctly at the frontal evaluation: if a member of a team gives the wrong answer or if he doesn’t know the correct one , the team has to give back one of the prizes they have previously won. A1& A2 are evaluated this way.
  • The working sheet: which evaluates the cooperation, investigation and examination, spatial orientation skills
  • The map: through it one can verify the discovery of the marked spot on the map, fact which assumes the existence of some orientation skills and a good knowledge of the town
  • Outdoor exposition: which seeks the development of artistic, practical and linguistic skills
  • Telling/acting a story: which as an aim the development of acting skills and also the good cooperation among the members of the community
  • Expectation sheet - it is also an evaluation method , both for the beginning and ending of the activities which take place during the entire day. At the end of the day each student is asked to read a note with expectations which was written in the morning. Thus the pupils understand that their expectations were outshined by reality, which tells the teachers that the trip was a success.
  • The special copy-book - aims to revise individually the whole activity unfolded through this learning trip.
  • The portfolio of the trip: it’s a tool which evaluates the teachers involved in this activity. This portfolio contains:
  • the plan of the trip
  • essays about the learning methods applied along the trip
  • expectations sheet
  • photos, posters, collages made by children
  • an interview
  • the special copy-book
  • the maps
  • the sheet for the outdoor activity
  • the booklet of the activity
  • other materials
It must be emphasized that if we take each activity as a single unit as we did in the previous presentations, we no longer have a coherent, homogeneous and consensual process. At this moment the role of the teacher steps in- who is above all a modeler, and then an evaluator – one who chooses the proper evaluation methods for each didactic situation and one who makes everything possible to create a coherent, homogeneous and consensual evaluation system.

(~The End of part I~)

written by Camy, Simo and Ioana

2009/09/30

IT'S TIME FOR A LITTLE PEDAGOGY REFLECTION

We decided to make a brochure about :

  1. Traditional vs. modern teaching methods
  2. New technology- new pedagogy
  3. Enhance learning with technology
  4. Learning through drama; storytelling
  5. Outdoor education

You could download it from here .

2009/08/24

EXPERIENCING OUTDOOR EDUCATION IN ITALY

The main challenge of our world today is to learn living together and in harmony with our environment on a planet where resources and space are limited. To meet this challenge it is important to discuss a global vision of the „world” in which we want to live thinking in the long-term and acting responsibly.

Outdoor education has been defined in a variety of ways throughout its history. L. B. Sharp (1943), one of the earliest advocates of camping education, offered the following rationale for outdoor education: "That which can best be taught inside the schoolrooms should there be taught, and that which can best be learned through experience dealing directly with native materials and life situations outside the school should there be learned".

Originally, outdoor education was used mostly for nature study. Today, it includes outdoor experiences designed to meet objectives in many areas. For example, a teacher could take students outside to measure objects on the schoolyard for a mathematics lesson, or to a fire station to study an aspect of the local community. As these examples show, outdoor education appears to have emerged as a "context" for learning. Although environmental education can trace its lineage, at least partly, to outdoor education, it is considered a distinct field. The goal of environmental education is to develop a world population that is aware of, and concerned about, the environment and its associated problems, and which has the knowledge, skills, attitudes, motivations, and commitment to work individually and collectively toward solutions of current problems and the prevention of new ones.

Outdoor education follows the experiential philosophy of learning by doing. It takes place primarily, but not exclusively, through involvement with the natural environment. In outdoor education, the emphasis for a subject of learning is placed on relationships concerning people and natural resources. The outdoor environmental education it is also one of the main goals of the Comenius Project, which we tried to achieve through our journey to Italy. We had the opportunity to learn more about the history of this beautiful country, especially by the trips to some impressive historical buildings very well preserved for centuries.

The first trip was to the remains of the castle of Countess Matilde, especially known as the seat of the Walk of Canossa, the meeting of Emperor Henry IV and Pope Gregory VII during the Investiture Controversy (1077).



We were very impressed by the „medieval” welcome that was organised for us. Two ladies dressed in epochal clothing took many pictures with us and served us with tea and cookies.









Then a gentleman told us the story of Matilde and lead us to visit the remains.












We learned that the castle was built around 940 by Adalberto Atto, son of Sigifredo of Lucca, a Lombard prince, on the summit of a rocky hill. Apart from Adalberto's residence, it included a convent with 12 Benedictine monks and the church of Saint Apollonio. It was protected by a triple line of walls; between the two lower lines were the barracks and the residence of the servants. During the Middle Ages, it was one of the most impregnable castles in Italy. In 1878 the Castle was acquired by the Italian State, and was declared a national monument.

The church of Saint Apollonio within the walls, contemporary of the castle, was also destroyed, only the christening font remains, preserved in the national museum "Naborre Campanini" next to the remains of the wall. The Walk to Canossa refers to both the trek itself of Henry IV of the Holy Roman Empire from Speyer to the fortress at Canossa in Emilia Romagna and to the events surrounding his journey. These events took place in and around January 1077.

When Henry reached Canossa, the Pope ordered that he be refused entry. According to the first-hand accounts of the scene (letters written by both Gregory and Henry in the following years), Henry waited by the gate for three full days. On 28 January the gates were opened for Henry and he was allowed to enter the fortress. Contemporary accounts report that he knelt before Pope Gregory and begged his forgiveness. Gregory absolved Henry and invited him back into the Church. That evening, Gregory, Henry, and Mathilda shared communion in the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas inside the fortress, signaling the official end of Henry's excommunication.



Another city that we visited is Parma, famous for its architecture and the fine countryside around it. Parma is divided into two parts by the little stream with the same name. Parma takes its name from the roman round shield called Parma. In the historical centre of Parma lies The Palazzo della Pilotta built around 1583, a complex of edifices, its name deriving from the game of pelota. The existing complex includes three courts: the Cortile di San Pietro Martire (now best known as Cortile della Pilotta), Cortile del Guazzatoio (originally della pelota) and the Cortile della Racchetta. The Pilotta was to house a large hall, later turned into the Farnese Theatre, the stables and the grooms' residences, the Academy Hall and other rooms.










We also had the opportunity to visit Parma Cathedral (Duomo), an important Italian Romanesque cathedral. The construction was begun in 1059 by bishop Cadalo, later antipope with the name of Honorius II, and was consecrated by Paschal II in 1116. A basilica existed probably in the 6th century, but was later abandoned; another church had been consecrated in the rear part of the preceding one in the 9th century by the count-bishop Guibodo. The new church was heavily damaged by an earthquake in 1117 and had to be restored. Of the original building, remains can be seen in the presbytery, the transept, the choir and the apses, and in some sculpture fragments. The wide façade was completed in 1178: it has three loggia floors and three portals, whose doors were sculpted by Luchino Bianchino in 1494. The Gothic belfry was added later, in 1284-1294: a twin construction on the left side had been conceived, but it was never begun. Beside the Cathedral lies the octagonal Baptistery of Parma, considered to be a transition between Romanesque and Gothic architecture, and is one of the most important Medieval monuments in Europe. The Baptistery was commissioned to Benedetto Antelami by the City Council of Parma in 1196. The outside of pink Verona Marble is octagonal. The inside contains sixteen arches, forming alcoves each containing a painted scene. All these are 13th and 14th century frescoes and paintings. The most striking part of the Baptistery, however, is its painted ceiling. Sixteen rays come out of the center of the ceiling, which each correspond to the arches. However, problems were posed over time as the paintings were not true frescoes. The paint would start to come of the walls and would be literally hanging on. Due to this, the Baptistery had to be painstakingly consolidated and restored with syringes and spatulas.









The Sanctuary of Santa Maria della Steccata is a Greek-cross design Renaissance church in central Parma, Italy. By 1392, the site held a small oratory to shelter a miraculous image of St. John the Baptist and was neighboring a religious confraternity that had an equally miraculous image of the Virgin and child on the facade. The popularity of the icons led to the construction, starting in 1521 and using plan by Bernardino and Giovanni Francisco Zaccagni with modifications by Giovan Francisco d' Agrate. The church was finally consecrated in 1539. The sacristy was rebuilt over the following centuries. The interior was decorated by prominent artists, both local and foreign to Parma. In the crypt are the tombs of twenty-six members of the Farnese family including Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma and his wife Infanta Maria of Portugal. In a niche is a crystal urn containing the heart of Charles III, Duke of Parma.

The abbey church of Saint John the Evangelist (San Giovanni Evangelista), was originally constructed in the 10th century behind the Cathedral's apse, but had to be rebuilt in 1498 and 1510 after a fire. It has Baroque facade and bell tower (most likely designed by Giovanni Battista Magnani), with a Latin cross plan, a nave and two aisles. In 1520–1522, Correggio frescoed the dome with the Vision of St. John the Evangelist, a highly influential fresco which heralded illustionistic perspective in the decoration of church ceilings. Bernardo Falconi designed a putto in the high altar. Also the cloisters and the ancient Benedictine grocery are noteworthy. The library has books from the 15th and 16th centuries.

Our next trip was to the city of Mantua or Mantova, founded, probably around 2000 BC, on the banks of the Mincio, on a sort of island which provided natural protection.







The name derives from the Etruscan god Mantus, of Hades. The first duke of Mantova was Federico II Gonzaga, who acquired the title from Emperor Charles V in 1530.



Federico commissioned Giulio Romano to build the famous Palazzo Te, on the periphery of the city, and profoundly improved the urbanistic asset of the city.

Palazzo del Te is a simple square building, constructed 1524-153. The shell of the palace was erected within 18 months. It is basically a square house built around a cloistered courtyard. A formal garden complemented the house. This was enclosed by colonnaded outbuildings terminated by a semi-circular colonnade known as the "Esedra". Once the shell of the building was completed, for ten years a team of plasterers, carvers and fresco painters labored, until barely a surface in any of the loggias or salons remained undecorated. Under Giulio Romano's direction, local decorative painters such as Benedetto Pagni and Rinaldo Mantovano worked extensively on the frescos. These frescoes remain today and are the most remarkable feature of the Palazzo. The subjects range from Olympian banquets in the Sala di Psiche and stylized horses in the Sala dei Cavalli to the most unusual of all — giants and grotesques wreaking havoc, fury and ruin around the walls of the Sala dei Giganti.




The Palazzo Ducale di Mantova ("Ducal Palace") is a group of buildings built between the 14th and the 17th century mainly by the noble family of Gonzaga as their royal residence in the capital of their Duchy.








The buildings are connected by corridors and galleries and are enriched by inner courts and wide gardens. The complex includes some 500 rooms and occupies an area of 34 000 m². Although most famous for Mantegna's frescos in the Camera degli Sposi (Wedding Room), they have many other very significant architectural and painted elements. The most ancient parts of the palace are the Palazzo del Capitano, built in the early 14th century by the Captain of the People Guido Buonacolsi (whose family ruled Mantua from 1271 to 1328) and the Magna Domus.



The Gonzaga lived in the palace from 1328 to 1707, when the dynasty extinguished. Subsequently the edifices saw a sharp decline, which was halted in the 20th century with a continue process of restoration and the destination of the area as museum.









We didn’t have to go far because there were many things to see even in the city of Reggio Emilia where we stayed for a week. Taking long walks we discovered the beauty of the city, rich in historical monuments.









For example, the Basilica di San Prospero, built in the 10th century and dedicated to Prosper of Reggio, a bishop of the city, it was reconstructed by Luca Corti and Matteo Fiorentini between 1514 and 1523. The façade, with eleven statues of saints and patrones, was redesigned by Giovan Battista Cattani in mid-18th century. It includes a pleasant belfry/tower, begun in 1535 and never quite finished, with an octagonal plant. The interior of the church has a Latin cross plant, with three naves. The apse houses the splendid Last Judgement, frescoed by the Bolognese artist Camillo Procaccini. Also noteworthy are the wood choir from 1546 and the Assumption altarpiece by Tommaso Laureti and Ludovico Carracci (1602). The church of St. Peter, designed by Giulio della Torre and built in 1625-1629 has an interior in Latin cross shape with a single nave. It houses notable Baroque paintings by Tiarini, Pietro Desani, Luca da Reggio, Camillo Gavasetti and Paolo Emilio Besenzi.

We also visited Palazzo Comunale (begun in 1414), with the Tricolore's Room and the Museum of the Italian Flag.



The "Room of the Tricolor" is currently the council chamber of the Reggio Emilia comune. Designed, by the architect Lodovico Bolognini, to be the archive of the ducal family of Este, it is mostly known in connection with the creation of the Italian tricolor, from which it takes its name.





This room in fact, on December 27, 1796, hosted the congress of delegates from Reggio, Modena, Bologna and Ferrara who, after proclaiming the Repubblica Cispadana, adopted on January 7, 1797 a horizontal tricolor of green, white and red (with red at the top) which is considered the first Italian tricolor.




Another magnificent building is the Municipal Theater of Reggio Emilia, also called the Municipal Theater Valli of Reggio Emilia, built in neoclassic style between 1852 and 1857. It acquired its present name in the 1980s, when it was named after the actor Romolo Valli. The theater has a rectangular base that measures 80x43,60 meters and covers an area of 3763 square meters. The audience capacity is 1150 people. The concert hall is elliptical and has 106 boxes placed on four tiers plus a regal box and a gallery.



The outside is composed by 12 Tuscan columns made of granite on the ground floor while on the first floor it has 13 windows spaced by ionic columns. On top of the building there are statues that represent: Moderation, Reserve, Painting, Sound, Comedy, Caprice, Dance, Joke, Fable, Delight, Education, Labor, Virtue, Drama, Glory, Vice, Tragedy, Remorse, Curiosity, Silence. We were also very impressed by the fountain in the front of the Theater, which is more beautiful in the evening, when it is illuminated.


I really think that we had a lot to learn from all the experiences in Italy, but I liked best the trips we had to different cities with their churches and castles, an opportunity to learn Italian history and culture through its remains and to put in practice the outdoor education.