Welcome to the Humanities Department
Albert Einstein (1934) once said to a group of children he was teaching
“My dear children: I rejoice to see you before me today, happy youth of a sunny and fortunate land. Bear in mind that the wonderful things that you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labour in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honour it, and add to it, and one day faithfully hand it on to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common. If you always keep that in mind you will find meaning in life and work and acquire the right attitude towards other nations and ages.”
This is the reason for which we work so hard in the Humanities Department. We teach our students, not only about ‘the work of many generations’ but we also challenge them in thinking critically and to have thoughts and ideas of their own.
The study of the humanities covers a broad range of ideas and subjects drawn from religion, history, environmental studies, accounts, economics, geography, and PSHE. Through an interdisciplinary approach to these subjects, the study of the humanities raises critical questions about the achievements and controversies associated with the human condition.
As one can see from the group of subjects making up the Humanities Department, Humanities refers to the study of human culture in all its aspects. Humanists – whatever their particular area of study – share the view that all knowledge is interconnected. Humanities examines how we construct our aesthetic, intellectual, religious, econimic, social, and political worlds, and it looks comparatively at the differences in such constructions in different times and places, or for different people.
This is why all teachers of these different subjects work hard in our interdisciplinary team so that our students can see Humanities holistically. We also make it a point to show the students that Humanities subjects can and do interconnect with all other areas of life.
Geography Fieldwork – Learning Through Experience
As part of the Geography syllabus, students were exposed to conduct fieldwork on geographical subjects. Fieldwork on geographical theories provides firsthand experience on the subject together with the enjoyment of the outdoor life.
This year’s grade 11s conducted their fieldwork at Għajn Żejtuna in Santa Maria estate, Mellieħa. Few are aware of the existence of Wied Għajn Żejtuna and unfortunately, also, of its degradation throughout the years. During the rainy season, when there is a substantial flow of water through the valley bed, vegetation is more abundant and a good number of flora and species of animals live and survive in this valley. Originally, the land belonged to the Curia of Malta. It was leased to tenants mainly farmers. Field rubble walls had to be constructed to help conserve the soil. Terraced fields on both sides of the valley helped the natural habitat to thrive on. Regretfully, in the mid-sixties, a permit was issued for the building of luxury bungalows and roadways. This had a devastating environmental effect on more than 70% of the area – a large scar in ecological terms.
The students conducted their fieldwork on the small pebbly beach at the lower end of the valley. Here, they investigated a number of hypotheses. The students examined and carefully recorded the varying size of the pebbles found on the water’s edge and those found further up the beach. After collecting data, by sampling pebbles from different areas of the beach, students will prove or disprove the hypothesis, listing a number of reasons for their result. The students also surveyed the flora around the coast to establish whether there are plants that could resist salty water (halophytic plants) or if there was the presence of any plants that could resist drought (xerophytes) for more than three months.
It is clear that fieldwork activities are an effective way of learning because students enjoy applying and experiencing the knowledge imparted by the teacher during the lessons in the controlled environment of the classroom, outdoors.
Jonathan Muscat, Religion Teacher and Humanities Coordinator – 10th June 2011
Students following Humanities subjects exhibit their work during the annual Science Soiree. Students get to research and do experiments about different topics and discussions that would have taken place in class and then present their findings to our parents and guests on the night. The idea behind this is to support our children in taking initiative and forming their own opinions of current affairs and then present their ideas.
Students work in small groups in order to find the hidden treasure. They have to solve riddles and answer questions about humanities and mathematics subjects in order to finish the treasure hunt.Not only does this show our students that Humanities can be used with Mathematics but also help them generalise and use what they have learnt in class.
Whole School Campaign
Together with the Guidance, Language and Practical Subjects Departments, we organise an annual whole school campaign about a topic that is being dealt with in PSHE. The campaign runs over a whole month and includes essay / poetry and art competitions. The Drama students also have a brain storming session about the topic being dealt with and then write and perform sketched during the school assembly.
Recent whole school campaigns were:
2007 / 2008: Bullying
Students had workshops about bullying, and as a whole school we watched a performance which was a very good opportunity for the children to reflect and associate with situations in their own school. This was then processed in small groups during PSHE lessons. The drama students also put up a very good sketch.
2008 / 2009: From all walks of life
San Andrea’s whole school campaign for this year, “from all walks of life”, tackled the issue of diversity. Speakers from different NGOs visited the school to give talks to the students about the organization they were coming from.
Then the students were divided into groups and did community work in different homes. Students attended lessons and cleaned the grounds at Guardian Angel Special Needs School, met and entertained elderly people at St. Vincent de Paul for a day, visited asylum seekers homes and open centres, and attended Al Batool school.
San Andrea students playing football with asylum seekers at Dar is-Sliem.
Students refurbishing Guardian Angel School benches.
San Andrea believes in holistic learning and therefore the campaign was followed up in different subjects in various ways. The Art and language departments organized competitions . Others covered diversity in their subjects to show the students different aspects of the topics tackled during the campaign. The campaign was completed by a moving drama sketch that the drama students wrote and performed during an assembly. During breaks related films were being shown.
One could see the benefits of such a campaign during processing in PSD, as students were telling each other about the minority group that they visited. The fact that their peers corrected their misconceptions because they actually got to know the truth literally changed the way most of them think. Let us all learn from a student who told me that, “we judge others because we’re ignorant. Once we get to know the other people we realise that they’re not scary after all.”
This year’s whole school campaign, organised by Mr.Matthew Bartolo, the Guidance teacher at San Andrea, tackled the topic of Addiction. The students were given talks by professionals from Caritas, Sedqa and the Malta Medical Students’ Association. During these workshops students had the opportunity to meet a person who is currently rehabilitating at San Blas, who told them how difficult it is to quit once you are dependent on substances.
During PSHE lessons the students then had organised-workshops to process what they had heard during the talks. The older grades also had a non-alcoholic party one Saturday night. The themed party resembled a normal party but no alcohol was served. The music started with Dj Triscal and was followed by Dj Ruby, who was the main attraction on the night. All the students were asked to wear a mask in order to compliment the theme and decor of the venue. The venue was transformed into a Masquerade club, with professional dancers entertaining and a cocktail bar man serving cocktails. The majority of students in grade 11 and 12s attended the party with much enthusiasm and energy. The most important lesson that was learnt during the party, as the students themselves realised, was that one could still dance into the late hours of the night and have a good time without drinking alcohol. Such experiences, when accompanied by processing and teaching can be much more growthful than just a normal lesson.
Students who attended the party
Most of our students get to have lessons on locations that are being discussed in class. All subject teachers see that students get a chance to see and touch what they’re learning about. Malta boasts of many historical, geographical and other sites and our teachers surely make very good use of this.
Seminars and talks
Students are also given the opportunity to meet and ask questions to professionals related to what they’ve just learnt. This is usually a very satisfying experience for students, and even more so for their teachers who witness the fruit of their hard work: students forming their own ideas and challenging what they are being presented with. Obviosult the humantities Teachers also organise seminars in their own areas of expertise.
2012/2013: Educational Fieldwork to Hagar Qim, Mnajdra Archaeological Park and the Tarxien Temples
Monday the 20th of May 2013 was a special day for the Grade 9 students of San Andrea School since they spent the day visiting some of Malta’s megalithic temples to complement what they had already learnt in class about Maltese prehistory. We started the day by visiting the Visiting Centre at the Hagar Qim and Mnajdra Archaeological Park. At this visitor centre, the students had the opportunity to learn from the various interactive displays available. The students then proceeded to visit the megalithic temples of Hagar Qim and Mnajdra where they viewed all the various unique features of these UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In the afternoon, the students visited another world heritage site, the megalithic temples of Tarxien. During their guided tour of this site, the students learnt, amongst other things, about how the site was discovered, who excavated it and the various unique decorative elements of the temple. This outing was truly enjoyable for the students since it was very informative and fun at the same time.
2013/2014 : Geography Fieldwork in Mosta
As part of the Geography syllabus, students have a study about settlements in the Maltese Islands. Students research how the settlements developed over the years and study their sphere of influence. The chosen settlement for this year’s study,Mosta is a large town that developed over the past decade into a major shopping area, especially on Mondays when the hawkers market is in full swing. The Sphere of Influence is also known as the catchment area of a settlement. This is the size of the area served by the same settlement. The larger the settlement, the greater the number of shops or services and a wider variety. Therefore this area has a wider area from where people are travel to get to it. This means there is a larger sphere of influence.As part of the fieldwork the students had to form a questionnaire and ask the consumers in the area a number of questions related to the main three hypotheses:
– The sphere of influence will extend more to the north than to the south.
– Most people will travel to central Mosta to shop on foot.
– Consumers buy more low order goods than high order goods.
Once the students gathered enough questionnaires to prove or disprove the first two hypotheses presented to them they were asked to map out the market – mainly Constitution Street – and list each and every shop as selling high or low order goods. Eventually, this exercise would help provide results to conclude the third hypothesis.
The students enjoyed the opportunity to engage in an out of class activity. Through the questionnaires the students had to chance to interact with people, from various walks of life, doing their shopping from the Mosta market.