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Holywood, a challenging programme!

Holywood, a challenging programme!

The Holywood programme was quite challenging this summer. And for some students quite struggling as the bar was set high. In education, struggling is not necessarily a torture: it may also be a step that leads to achieve new capabilities or discover new areas helping the learner gain self-confidence and satisfaction. It is through some struggles that we all overtake personal difficulties and reach the wanted goals.

Let’s recall first a general overview of the programme: there were 30 students in three classes of English and nine different activities: batikgaelic games (football and rugby), choirdramaIrish musiccraftsphotographybaking and fashion design.

To complete the picture there were significant events: the talk with Prof. John Barry at the Queen’s; the gathering at the Ivy Bar; the visit of Stormont, the house of the Northern Irish Assembly, and the meeting with Ross Brown, councillor in Belfast City Council.Finally the outings: to the Orange Fest, to Bangor, to the Giants Causeway and Carrick-a-rede rope bridge and to the Fiddler’s Green Festival in Rostrevor where the AEL choir gave a great performance.

 
Although all the activities would deserve to be described in details, I daresay that two threads gave a character to this edition of the AEL summer school in Holywood: the theme discussed at the Queen’s with Prof. Barry and the performance of the AEL choir at the Fiddler’s Green Festival in Rostrevor, prepared and directed by Laura Plummer.

 
Prof. John Barry offered a new stimulating theme to our students: “Young people – creating  the world they desire”: a key thread for  debates and team work. In previous meetings prof.  Barry introduces our students to the “History and Politics in Northern Ireland” (2009), “Two  ecological issues in Iceland and Gulf of Mexico” (2010), “Active Citizenship” (2011), “The  Ethical Life” (2013): all of them aiming to wake up the interest of the youngsters for an active  participation to the social and political life within their community.

The workshop at the Queen’s University was followed up one week later by the visit to Stormont, the House of the Northern Irish Assembly (Parliament), where our students met councillor Ross Brown, also from the Green Party. He mentioned the students three categories of issues that they might have to face when in a few year time they will be adults: issues connected with climate changes; issues related to international relationships; issues of social justice. A very good food for thoughts.

Choir was one of the challenging activity as the students need to get ready for their performance in Rostrevor. Singing in choir is a powerful tool of community building as well as to improve self confidence within a social context. Still, singing is for some people a pure blockage, Laura led the workshops with patience and firmness in addition to her professional skills and  natural attitude for teaching: everybody was encouraged to give any free contribution to the “choir community” and the final result was honestly excellent..

When I arrived in Holywood for the last few days of the course (having heard from the distance dramatic lamentations of the “dislikers” of singing), I deeply appreciated the level achieved already in rehearsals. Especially, I praised those students who had difficulties in singing but managed to be part of the choir regardless their personal difficulties and showed a very polite style in their behaviour.

The AEL choir performing in Rostrevor at the Fiddler’s Green Festival in July 2014

You can now watch the outcome of the choir workshops in the videos published on our AEL channel on YouTube. “Johnny, I hardly knew you”, “Molly Melone”, “Tell me ma” have been sang very well. There were unfortunately some technical problems in recording outdoors that prevented to publish on YouTube the whole performance.

The area where some students struggled the most was instrumental music. It has to be acknowledged that instrumental music might be extremely difficult for pupils who don’t have any previous background and confidence in playing any sort of instrument. So, we offered music only to those students who wanted to do it. And this a reasonable compromise that leaves open the question whether and how to include instrumental music in future programmes.

All the other activities and events have been very well attended and students have shown a great range of talent and creativity, especially in batik, fashion design, photography and crafts. The Gaelic games were highly appreciated as every year.

So was the whole crew coordinated by Ruth Caughers with the English teachers Ann and Elinor and the precious support of Sarah as student’s carer. The host families coordinated by Ruth Horan have done a great job as well as the  teachers assistants and everyone engaged with this summer programme in Holywood.

I daresay that such a programme was good: not perfect -as luckily nothing and nobody is perfect in this world-, not the best -as the best might pave the road to the hell-, but good, simply good.

So was the whole crew coordinated by Ruth Caughers with the English teachers Ann and Elinor and the precious support of Sarah as student’s carer. The host families coordinated by Ruth Horan have done a great job as well as the  teachers assistants and everyone engaged with this summer programme in Holywood.

 

I daresay that such a programme was good: not perfect -as luckily nothing and nobody is perfect in this world-, not the best -as the best might pave the road to the hell-, but good, simply good.

I hope now that the previous crew will confirm their availability so that the new programme 2015 can be outlined soon, newly designed and reshaped for the best interest of our students.

vr

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