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Learning through Travelling in eTwinlandia

In October 2019, I participated in the democratic learning activity at the eTwinning Conference called eTwinlandia. I was amazed by the names of the cities of eTwinlandia as they were all related to our unique human traits such as caring, determination, listening and empathy.

I have always tried to apply positive psychology and pedagogy in the classroom because we all need to feel valued, competent and accepted. I felt this was an extraordinary opportunity to work in a new and exciting way. Therefore, I decided to travel around eTwinlandia with my students.

Every week, one student chose a city in eTwinlandia, without telling the others. The day after, I brought our eTwinlandia suitcase and opened it. Inside the suitcase was the name of the chosen city and a clue about the week's theme. The theme was decided by myself and I based the theme around our curriculum. Every week, the theme was different such as flags, traffic signs, professions and so on. We explored the theme and learnt about it by researching and having discussions around it. The theme was always introduced by a clue in the suitcase. Students were intrigued and very eager to participate. They wanted to guess the subject and tell you what they knew about the subject (or thought they knew) and they asked a lot of questions.

One of the themes was flags. We discussed the flag of Finland and how it is blue like blue skies and lakes and white like clouds and snow and we also discussed it having a cross like many other Christian countries. We found a lot of other flags with similar colours or patterns, but also flags that were not similar to the Finnish flag, which led to interesting conversations such as sovereignty, democracy, traditions, religions, and cultural heritage.

Then we went to eTwinlandia. We started by discussing the life they live in the city based on its name. When a city is named Caring Town, people value caring. But what is caring? How can people be caring in their everyday life? And how do those values show in their flag?

After these discussions, students wrote and drew their idea of the city. They were often very proud of their ideas and enjoyed sharing their thoughts.

To truly explore the new city, we spent the week prioritising the human trait that it signified. When we were in Caring Town, the students suggested various ways to be caring and we then applied those ways of caring for a week. We did not forget the democratic part. We talked about democracy and we voted when we had to decide on cooperative activities.

Due to Covid-19, we, like many others, had to start online teaching in the middle of the term and eTwinlandia gave us a feeling of continuity as we kept travelling through this country.

Next year, I will continue with the eTwinlandia suitcase and I am pleased, because I know that my students are already looking forward to it. We had four to six lessons a week for eTwinlandia; learning music, writing, reading, STEAM and emotional skills.

One day, I explained an assignment outside of eTwinlandia and one of my students looked at me and said: “Anne, Anne, I know. This is cooperation! You want us to cooperate, like in Cooperation Town.”

Guide to traveling through eTwinlandia

  • Help your students comprehend the eTwinlandia toponyms. Provide enough time for discussion and give examples that students can relate to.
  • Look at your curriculum: what academic themes are important this year and which of them would fit your tour?
  • Make it adventurous - engage your students by giving clues about their travelling adventure. Use an eTwinning notebook and an eTwinning suitcase.
  • Help students make connections between eTwinlandia and their home country. For example, learning about traffic signs and then creating signs for a city in eTwinlandia will make students reflect on why traffic signs are needed.
  • Always refer to the name of the eTwinlandia city and describe people’s values and priorities. This is a way of helping your students develop their emotional skills.
  • Use a variety of activities and keep a balanced mix of different approaches e.g. painting, building, competitions, stories and outside activities.
  • Make sure your planned activities include opportunities for students to make decisions, both individually and as a group by voting. You need at least one activity for each theme.
  • Live and act like an eTwinlander. If you are in Caring Town, live like the people in Caring Town, and talk about it both before, while doing it and after.
    • Tip! You can also tell other people at school or the parents what you are doing each week, so they can help you by complementing the students when they act like eTwinlanders. Unexpected praise will make the students go an extra mile!

Anne Levon, eTwinning Ambassador, S:t Karins svenska skola (st Karins swedish school)