Pentrehafod School, as part of a cluster team involved the British Council’s ‘Connecting Classrooms’ initiative, welcomed our visiting teachers from Zambia during the week of October 11th to October 18th 2019.
On Monday morning, Siavonga staff were welcomed by the link teachers and introduced to Mrs J Ford, Head Teacher at Pentrehafod School.
The following five days included familiarising the Siavonga Staff with the school premises, pupils and other members of staff in the school by visiting classrooms, observing lessons, and holding informal conversations to outline the plans for the week.
These opportunities offered staff and pupils the chance to hold appreciative inquiries and develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills as they considered the over-arching themes of the project. During this time, Siavonga and Pentrehafod staff were given the opportunity to discuss pedagogical approaches and the the Four Core Purposes of our curriculum in Wales.
On Thursday 17th October Mr Muyanga and Mr Mwenda worked together with Miss Rymer, Miss Francis and Beth Thomas to deliver a plastic recycling workshop with a group of Year 8 pupils. Students were invited to reuse plastic bottles to create items of jewellery and decorative crafts. The group engaged with this activity wholeheartedly and developed competencies such as teamwork, communication, verbal reasoning and critical thinking as the session progressed.
Once the students had actively listened and contributed empathic thoughts to a power point presentation about the effects of plastic on land and below water the groups outlined their expectations for the session and observed a demonstration of how to make beads and jewellery out of the reusable plastic products.
Students were allowed time to design, elaborate upon, and create their items of jewellery by working in small groups. Pupils demonstrated many skills during this task such as problem-solving, communication, design processes, and employing solution-focused approaches to overcoming barriers. Students were reminded of the expected outcomes that they set at the start of the lesson and which of the core purposes of the curriculum they were engaging with and were encouraged to reflect on their own learning by completing a Diamond 9 ranking activity to encourage self-reflection and analytical processes.
The overwhelming majority of students agreed that their expectations of the session had been fully met, they had learned new skills and enjoyed the task. The evaluation of this session showed that staff and young people enjoyed the opportunity to develop working relationships and broaden their experiences by working together on a creative project.
Many conversations took place throughout the day to ensure that students were engaged in the overarching theme of the project and it was evident that students understood the importance of reducing, reusing and recycling plastic products. Making beads and reusing plastics allowed pupils to express themselves creatively through artistic processes with some of the reflections including: “I enjoyed learning new skills”, “I wish we could have had more time to make more beads” and “Loved working with our partner teachers from Siavonga”.
Following the student’s session, link teachers undertook a staff reflection session whereby we evaluated the day’s events to discuss had been successful and what, if any, challenges we had faced in the day before collectively working together to firm up the plans for the future of the partnership.
With relationships strengthening daily s were keen to share other skills with the Siavonga teachers such as inviting them to watch and contribute to the school band’s practise session in preparation for a collaborative performance during the Celebration Event.
As well as completing the Zero Plastic project, Siavonga and Pentrehafod staff worked together to outline plans for the final celebration day including the running order of presentation, catering and transport for all schools involved in the cluster project. During the bead making lesson, several pupils volunteered to speak in the Celebration Event, echoing the events that took place at the Siavonga Celebration event in July.
As part of the running order, invited speakers contributed to the programme and students delivered accounts of their experiences of working in Siavonga. Each school was invited to present their experiences of the week to the room, with most choosing to display reused plastic products, songs and performances. Siavonga Secondary School link teachers and Pentrehafod Staff collectively delivered a presentation and photo slide show of the week’s events and invited pupils to express their views on the week, detailing the links to waste management and the Sustainable Development Goals.
As well as inviting all of the cluster school link teachers and pupils to Pentrehafod School for the celebration event, a local media station was also present providing full coverage of the event and conducting interviews with staff and pupils which was later edited and broadcast that evening. As a result of this coverage, local councillors and other dignitaries have shown an active interest in the project and contact has been made to ensure that the sustainability of the future of the links is secured.
As well as continuing with making beads, students in Pentrehafod School had penned meaningful replies to the letters they received in September (having been brought back to Wales by the Pentrehafod teachers).
Siavonga teachers have since taken a selection of pen pal responses to Siavonga and distributed to students involved in the exchange programme. Our most up-to-date correspondence with Mr Muyanga and Mr Mwenda has been to exchange feedback from students having received their letters.
A picture is worth a thousand words!