Netherlands - Science Across the World: Using the Internet for Inter-School Communication I

Science Across the World: Using the Internet for Inter-School Communication

July 3-10th 2005, Amsterdam

Monday 04.07.05 - The skies came down in Amsterdam, western parts of the country were submerged in water, transport was cancelled, buses, trains, tube and bicycles were rested for a day, but we started the Comenius course.

Lida introduces herself at the official opening
The Felix Meritis Building


Teachers came from The Basque Country, Catalonia and Galicia in Spain, from Switzerland, Denmark, Lithuania, Poland and Greece to attend the one-week training programme

Science across the World: using the internet for inter-school communication

The week was formally opened by Ton Koet, director of the English Course at Amsterdam Faculty of Education and of the Graduate School of Teaching and Learning, Universiteit van Amsterdam, and Ruggero Lala administrator for the Amsterdam-Maastricht Summer University.

The participants represented all age ranges of learning from primary through middle school, secondary, young adults, and higher education as well as an education advisor.

Subjects represented included Health and Hygiene, English language and culture, Biology, Physics, Maths, Chemistry, Geology, IT.

Teachers explained their interest in the course coming from a need at home to take up an integrated approach to teaching and learning, some mentioned that they were here specifically to find virtual partners for school educational exchanges, others suggested they wanted to learn new ideas in using IT in their classrooms.
Teachers were introduced to the Science Across programme
The participants then presented their own teaching and learning context in short 5 minute bursts and using a variety of media, posters, ppt, web page.

Daniel Stotz presented the project he coordinates where primary materials are written in English specifically for the children in primary schools in the canton of Zurich, Switzwerland. You can access the site at and you will find downloadable materials and media here. Grazyna Kaminska from Poland also presented her school - ZSO Nr 10 - in Kielce on the Baltic sea.

Colleagues presented throughout the programme on their home and teaching contexts. A number of their presentations will be available in ppt format on the FACTWorld website behind their country flags as soon as our web wizard has uploaded them.

The day ended with an enjoyable guided walk around the city of Amsterdam.

Tuesday 05.07.05

Day 2 - We spent the whole morning investigating issues to do with integrating language and content. Colleagues discussed methodology for integrating content and language and were presented with various activities for developing language skills through the medium of a content subject.

These included information gap activities for Science, group speaking activities, whole-class info gap speaking, jumbled reading activities for Geography, creative writing in Science, as well as a number of listening task types focusing on the structures and diagrams of content subjects.
Writing advice to persecuted lungs…
Q - What to do with a lot of text…?    
A – reorganise and restructure it
A– investigate it for language awareness
Marion Geddes in 1978 identified the ‘semi-script’ as an invaluable tool for creating listening opportunities approaching authenticity. We spent time looking at what these semi-scripts might be in content subject materials. The theory of ‘ideational frameworks’ by John Burgess at Manchester University in the UK is also a useful place to look for more ideas for organising processing and production of language in the content curriculum.

You will be able to access some of the materials written based on the above discussion at the FACTWorld website in the ‘materials’ section (as soon as our web designer manages to upload them).
Investigating the language of Science

In the afternoon, participants worked through a webquiz to familiarise themselves with the Science Across the World website, sign up and browse the materials in the programme.
Lida explains   

Wednesday 06.07.05

Kees Zwaga head of the Socrates National Agency for Holland gave a presentation outlining plans for the future of educational initiatives in Europe. His talk described the ILLP - Integrated Lifelong Learning Programme for the periods 2007-8, 2013-14 and specifically on Comenius funding for school partnerships.

Kees informed us that reforms of the ILLP will include the offer for teaching assistantships through Grundtvig to include subjects other than languages!!! Kees suggests that the clever students and the clever teachers can make the most of the many opportunities for language learning in this initiative. The scenario was presented of an English-speaking Dutch student teacher of Geography applying for funding to go and do a teaching practice placement in France where the medium of instruction for Geography in the school is English.

I’m sure that this will be of interest to a lot of colleagues working in content and language integrated learning teacher education looking for ways to send their students abroad.

A significant number of the postings to the list focus on project partnerships and since the ILLP requirement is now for 4 partners, lists such as this (and ELTeCS, Global Gateway, European Schoolnet are one way for putting possible partners in touch with each other. Keep an eye open for ‘contact seminars’ organised for colleagues to find partners and bringing together people who are specifically looking for such a partnership.
Practical work
Kees was asked if there are any themes for partnerships which would more likely be approved? He answered that there isn’t, but that teachers on this course were fortunate because Science is a priority area and is likely to remain so for several years to come. Science Across the World, then can offer great opportunities as a focus for school partnership projects with EU funding.

Although most of the talk focused on school partnership, Kees added that there is a window within Comenius for teacher training colleges to get together to prepare partnership projects. Deadline is Feb 1st

Ulle gave a short presentation about her work in Denmark contextualising intercultural learning in a vocational training centre EUC MIDT entitled ‘international technology and culture’. At the same time, Ulle explained that although learners aren’t yet learning through the medium of English, the Danish system will require from August 2005 that there be integration between Sciences and English and she has the challenge of developing this area of her teaching.

Colleagues brainstormed ideas for setting up school partnership projects and identified a number of issues and challenges to be dealt with along the path to partnership creation. A number of colleagues identified participants in the group with similar interests to begin communication on a partnership project.

It was suggested that colleagues start off with a Science Across topic (or other) for email exchanges and e-twinning ( was also suggested as a possible place to start for finding partners.

A participant asked if it was possible to find a database of schools in order to find out about the profiles of schools and so make decisions about possible partners? I didn’t know of any such site, but perhaps colleagues out there can help?

The afternoon was taken up with two practical activities related to Science Across the World topics, Talking about Genetics and Chemistry in our Lives.

Firstly, colleagues had to construct a DNA model made of sweets, a very sticky practice indeed!

After that, Lida had colleagues design, mix and market their own line of cosmetics products.
The room soon stank sweetly of perfumes and detergents.
In the evening the participants had to present their products to the group in the form of a TV commercial during the International Dinner.
Danish Herring

They also brought lots of culinary goodies from their home country to share with the group.
Dutch Herring
Greek Salad   
Cosmetics Products

Thursday 07.07.05

After the international dinner everybody came for an early start the next morning. Thursday’s programme contained a review of the Science Across the World programme for developing language skills. Colleagues looked at identifying specific language within the topics; they considered the visuals for ‘guided listening’ practice; awareness raising activities were also presented based on the materials; opportunities for developing vocabulary through games using the materials were discussed; colleagues looked at areas where information gap activities could be created to develop speaking skills using the packs; we also considered how the materials could be exploited to get students to deliver presentations to the class; we shared ideas for developing reading skills using Science Across; and finally, we talked about the opportunities for investigating culture through the programme.
You will be able to take a look at some of these materials at the FACTWorld website.

We spent a lot of time carrying out information transfer activities using the data within the materials packs.
Each pack contains an information section and pages of statistics on various topics such as pregnancy in young women in Europe. The colleagues were a mixed ability group in terms of experience in using software such as Excel for creating visuals and so Lida and I produced a simple instructions sheet for the less experienced. Others had a great deal of knowledge and many wonderful visuals were created.

The importance of this activity for our learners, of course, is that you can ‘see’ the information in the visuals much more easily than you can in a table of numbers. This, in turn, lends itself well to presenting language structures based on the visual materials.

The results produced a good bullet points list of advice for creating visuals using Excel.

Key points for EXCEL visuals

make your table with labels
choose the appropriate chart
2 columns – pie chart/bar chart
3 columns – barchart
keep it relevant, explaining, numbers clear (not too big, small)
try not to use superfluous numbers, text
keep all labels visible
make use of legends
After such an intensive day it was delightful to be taken on a boat trip in the summer sunshine around the canals of Amsterdam followed by a group dinner in one of the city’s many Indonesian restaurants.

Friday 08.07.05

Lida commented on the redrafts of the Excel visuals.

As a follow up colleagues were presented with links to websites for resources and networks.

Daniel informed us of an interesting website at
We carried out a cluster debate in order informally to evaluate the course.

Colleagues were asked to list things they liked best and things to change. Comments highlighted the need for more pre-course information and pre-course tasks to save time during the course itself. The mix of work and culture was praised as well as the spirit of sharing resources and techniques in the course.

Personal action plans in the group included:

Investigate Comenius link with Education Faculty Amsterdam

Materials Development
Secondary links to SAW, ASE CDs
INSETT for Secondary on SAW
Develop Spain – Lithuania link
Research SAW exchange Spain-Lithuania
Researching funding

Seminar wrap-up and evaluation
We were joined by the Director of the Summer University Joanneke Lootsma to present participants with their certificates and say our farewells.

This is the first year of this course. It’s been a wonderful experience and very much a learning experience for both participants and tutors. I’ve no doubt that this course will run again next year. There is a great deal of enthusiasm in the University for hosting a repeat event and this report should go some way to publicising the event to future interested colleagues.

Hope to see you there next year!