Why read about Greece in a textbook when you can go there and see it for yourself?
Students at A. Fantis Parochial School of Sts. Constantine and Helen Cathedral did just that. Proving that learning is more effective when it is active rather than passive, eighth graders traveled to Athens, Greece, on Feb. 22 as part of a newly established cultural exchange program.
“We call our new strategic vision, ‘Classroom NYC & Beyond,’ ” says Theodore Tasoulas, the principal of A. Fantis. “We are seeking ways to make learning more meaningful and enriching by having students learn in authentic environments.”
The week-long trip brought to life what many of the students have been studying at A. Fantis since kindergarten; Greek language, history and, arts. The trip gave students the opportunity to meet with students from the Greek private school Moralitis, and students from Public School 4 of New Iraklion. They learned about Hellenic culture and history, while establishing relationships with students at those schools. They continue to keep in touch via Skype.
While in Greece, the Brooklyn students gave a PowerPoint presentation on life in New York City and on Greek-American schools in the United States. They participated in a lively question and answer session, tackling subjects like where American kids go after school, their favorite music, sports, and school subjects. The eighth graders also performed Greek dances with their new friends, and introduced the Greek middle schoolers to American line dancing.
Of course, site-seeing was part of the agenda. The students managed to conduct research on ancient Greece by visiting different archaeological sites in Athens, Delphi, Cap Sounio, and Mycenae.
“Their visit to the Cycladic Museum of Athens will serve as the impetus for another project about the lifestyle of ancient Greece,” says Tasoulas.
Next month the students of Moralitis School will travel to Brooklyn to visit A. Fantis, and they will work together on a project that compares the two educational systems. The results will be presented at A. Fantis School.
“The launch of the cultural exchange has given the eighth graders of A. Fantis a deeper comprehension and appreciation of Greece,” says Tasoulas. “It is the school’s hope that they will find sponsorship to underwrite costs, and support the school’s mission to foster cooperation between A. Fantis and its Athenian counterparts.”
The trip was organized by Ioanna Glava, chairperson of the Greek Department, and Peter Vlitas, a school board member. The students were accompanied by parents and faculty members that included Amy Linden, chair of the A. Fantis English Department.
Locally, the A. Fantis students take learning outside the classroom by participating in projects like the Billion Oyster Project, where they cultivate and monitor oysters in the East River. They spend weekends at the Greenkill Environmental Center in upstate New York, engaging in science and adventure activities.
Once upon a time students had “pen pals” in other countries. Today it’s a whole different experience.
“We are preparing our students to become 21st-century learners by taking learning outside the classroom, and utilizing critical thinking skills,” says the principal.
A. Fantis is a diverse community open to children baptized in all Christian traditions for pre-kindergarten to eighth-grade students. Established 55 years ago, it continues to carry the name of the benefactor.
A. Fantis School [195 State St. between Court Street and Boerum Place in Brooklyn Heights, (718) 624–0501, www.AFant