The final meeting took place in Aarschot, Belgium, from 24th to 28th March 2014. This time the pupils stayed with host families for the first two nights, before joining the staff at the hotel in Lueven for the final two nights. The reason for the short stay with the host families was that nothing like this had been organised before with the school’s families and no-one knew how well it would work or even whether there would be enough families willing to take pupils. In the end there were more applicant families than available pupils and the whole thing was such a resounding success that nobody really wanted to move into the hotel. Many thanks are hereby due to the hosts, who really did their very best to make the pupils feel wecome. Tuesday morning began with some “getting to know each other” games, while the teachers met to discuss the progress made so far and what still remained to be done.
One of the highlights in Belgium was the opportunity for the pupils to try out the typical national recipes prepared by the different countries in an environment where they could all cook at the same time – not such an easy thing to coordinate and keep under control! Luckily the hosting school, Koninklijk Atheneum, has two kitchens that we were able to use. The pupils worked in mixed-nationality teams and spent most of the second morning working hard to prepare enough food for the entire group (nearly 100 people) and the results were not only pleasing to the eye, but also delicious! One pupil from each country then presented the dishes to the group before the buffet was opened. The recipes used will be put together into an international cookery book. This part of the project was definitely a great success.
The Comenius Song proved to be the most difficult part of the project to really complete effectively. The idea was that every country produce 16 bars of music in a ceratin key (G or Em) which could then have tracks added to it by other countries. The resultant multi-track pieces could then be joined together to form one piece of music. Early on it became clear that many schools either did not have the equipment, expertise or suitably musically-motivated pupils to make this a viable proposition. Nevertheless, at the final meeting a finished piece of music was presented, unfortunately without the Austrian contribution, which had been overlooked.
Drama has been a central theme of this Comenius project and Aarschot was the stage for some highly diverse performances. Our pupils translated “Der Krieg und sein Bruder” into English and performed it for the other participating countries.
Musically our pupils were also able to shine, with Sümeyra and Daria singing a beautiful traditional Austrian folk song completely a capella (they were the only pupils to do so and the only ones to sing with two voices in harmony!).
Originally a trip to Brussels was planned for Wednesday afternoon, but President Obama’s visit put a spanner in the works and the Belgian team had to find an alternative. Antwerp seemed like a excellent solution, but this was almost made impossible by a large protest march. Luckily the march was over by early afternoon and were able to go to after all, though the riot police were still very much in evidence, complete with portable barbed wire barriers.