By Anni Haandi, Kuressare State High School, Estonia
The integration project “Journey in medieval Saaremaa”, which introduces students to medieval churches located on Estonia’s largest island – Saaremaa, is a good example of the possibility to include various school subjects through tailormade activities. By using the knowledge coming from different fields, students prepare a model of a church at the end of the project. This project can be applied and replicated in students’ hometown, city or country.
What kind of issue does this practice address? Through research-based activities, one learns about the local, cultural life in a historical context. This creative work can be stimulated by employing the skills and knowledge that students acquire in different subjects (history, languages, technology, mathematics). Only then, students are able to see how and where they can apply the knowledge and how different subject areas are related to each other.
Applying the Teaching Practice
In order for all supervising teachers to have the same understanding of expectations, a training was organized which involved the preparation of informational texts and anticipated aims of the project. Students and teachers jointly prepared the assessment guide for the project.
Students were divided into groups in accordance with the number of medieval churches. Each group studied one church. The project was carried out with four different classes (103 students all together) and in each class the students were divided into groups in the same way.
The first task was to understand how to make a model of a church. The students visited the Saaremaa museum and put together models of the Kuressaare fortress in groups. After that, the project activities were initiated as group work in the class. History teachers and Estonian language teachers chose three texts concerning each of the churches, which were shared with students in the Padlet environment.
In history class, students studied these texts. They tried to find descriptions to the following keywords: altar, spire, arch, portal, time of construction, material (limestone), roof material, stained glass. In the Estonian language class, students continued to work with their groups on the church source materials to find answers to the following questions: What is a good informational text?; Which description do you like and why?; What are the characteristic features of the text?; What is highlighted?
Subsequently, students wrote a short (5-sentence) informational text about the church they were researching. The texts were then exchanged with other groups, and each group could make suggestions to complement the work of the others. Finally, the updated texts were returned to their authors. An information text prepared and edited in the Estonian language class had an attached photo of the respective church. Then, an interactive poster was created on the computer, showing six medieval churches in Saaremaa.
In the foreign language lesson, students translate the terms found in the informational text into a different language. For instance, English, German, Russian, and Chinese are studied at our school. Then, by using the Internet, students investigated the examples of churches in different language areas and cultures.
Next, each group prepared a 10-slide presentation about the church they have studied. In the presentation, students elaborated on the construction materials, the location and time of construction of the church as well as different pictures of churches’ interior and exterior.
In mathematics class, the plan of the church is calculated and drawn under the guidance of the teachers. It took two 45-minute lessons. In the last step, the models of churches were made in art and technology classes.
Last but not least, students visited the medieval center of Saaremaa. Various workshops and games were held in the center, which helped students to better understand the discussed historical period (Middle Ages). On this day, they were able to try medieval crafts, learned about herbs, and danced medieval dances. A study tour was also organized to all investigated churches.
The project results were presented in the form of a student conference. In addition to the models made as a creative work, students also shared their written contributions which were distributed as presentations. The models were displayed at the school for all interested parties to see.