Campanar: an International Valencian School

Ever since I have lived in Valencia, since 1981, I have been involved with schools, and if there is one that springs to mind when talking about internationalization, it is, without a doubt, IES Campanar, the Marco Polo and Christopher Columbus of Valencian schools.


Let them tell their own story.

March 2008 EU Socrates programme

What other EU members had to say about Valencia!

A group of students and teachers from various EU countries visited Valencia Town Hall. They were in Valencia as guests of IES Campanar School as part of a EU Socrates exchange programme.

We asked them for their impressions of the visit.

“We are from Warsaw, Poland. We are doing the last year at a grammar school there. This is our first visit to Spain and we are very satisfied to be able to know a different culture from another country in our Comenius Project. This is a possibility for us to learn a new point of view about the E.U. enlargement. We will pass all the information we have received to the other students in our country”.

“We the Hungarian teachers and students would like to express our gratitude for the excellent preparation, activities and welcome of the Spanish teachers and students. This is the first time our students have visited Spain and we have been able to discover a new school, a lot of people, Valencia and something of Spanish culture”.

“We really enjoyed being in Spain and our trip to Valencia was great. Valencia is a beautiful city and the Comenius Project is really fun because you meet a lot of new people from all over Europe!”                       –German and Austrian students–

“We think the Comenius project is a good arrangement between European countries. Because of that the students learn much more about the E.U. It’s great to see other political situations in these countries and hear what the people think about the European Union”.                –Bulgaria–

April 2008 Viva Geneva!

Valencia-Geneva Exchange Finishes with a bang

Twenty three students and two teachers from the Sismondi School of Geneva, Switzerland were in Valencia in mid-March just when the internationally famous Fallas festival of fire and gunpowder was getting underway.

The exchange was arranged at the auspices of Miguel Puchalt of Valencia Town Hall, and the students were welcomed to Valencia by Education Councillor Emilio del Toro in the Town Hall Chambers.

Teachers Ana Cujean and Françoise Pereira, both daughters of Spanish emigrants to Switzerland accompanied the students around some of Valencia’s landmarks such as the colourful central market, the historical Lonja building where the world’s first letter of credit was signed and to the space age City of Arts and Sciences and Oceanographic Park, the former designed by world-famous Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava, whose head office is in fact in Switzerland, and whose works there include Wohlen High School, Wohlen, Stadelhofen Railway Station, Zürich, Lucerne Station Hall, Barenmatte Community Center, Suhr, Tabourettli Theatre, Basel and the University of Zurich “Bibliothekseinbau” library remodelling.

The Swiss students were the envy of their Valencian counterparts, having a good command of Spanish after only three years of study. Their biggest problem was adapting to Spanish meal times with a light breakfast, mid-morning snack and late lunch. Perhaps for this reason the Central Market visit was very popular with abundant sales of cheese and ham, which disappeared before the market had vanished from view.

The Sismondi students had prepared their trip by acting as travel agents for Valencia, preparing an itinerary using Internet information and then visiting the places that they had chosen, including the impressive ceramic museum and the Albufera Lake, one of the largest in Europe and home to the city’s emblematic paella dish.

Paella is apparently quite popular in Switzerland too, although not in the same class as the original according to all those who had the chance to compare.

The exchange was considered a great success by all who took part in it, and is yet another achievement for Campanar Secondary School, one of Valencia’s most European organisations, who have similar exchanges with Portugal, Hungary, Bulgaria, Germany and France among others.

May 2008 IES Campanar, Valencia is taking part in a European Union project in which they interact with schools from other EU countries. They recently participated in a video conference with the other schools and their teacher Mercedes Villegas sent us this note and photos.

 “We logged in this morning at 10.30 and it was impossible to get rid of the students, they all wanted to participate in the big event, which, by the way, has this slogan: “EUROPA WIRD 50; KÖLN FEIERT MIT” = Europe turns 50, Cologne celebrates it too.

In the beginning our students didn’t want to say anything and they didn’t like seeing their faces on the Germans’ computers, but after some warming up they took control and began writing and speaking and even dancing and pulling faces at their peers in Germany. Hungary also participated actively. Of course there were some small failures when for some minutes they couldn’t hear us but the technology didn’t let us down.

 The Hungarian students had a list of ‘official’ questions to ask, but ours preferred doing so about their likes and dislikes, or by asking them why there were photographers around or the results of yesterday’s international football matches.

They exchanged their e-mail addresses and Fernando, who is the Head of the Maths Department, and also the coordinator of our Comenius project at Campanar High School, was still with them at 2.00 when I left!

May 2008 IES Campanar visits Vienna

Students Lucía Piñeiro and Guillermo Collado and their teachers at I.E.S Campanar, Valencia, Mercedes de Villegas and Fernando Escuin, recently spent a week in Klosterneuburg, a beautiful village near Vienna as part of a European Union Comenius Project. Also participating were teachers and students from Debrecen (Hungary), Warsaw (Poland), Cologne (Germany), Varna (Bulgaria) and Austria. Among the many activities,  Lucía Piñeiro and Guillermo Collado gave a Powerpoint presentation about the Comunidad Valenciana and the city of Valencia.

August 2008 Campanar Students in Portugal

Water Project Bridges Iberian Peninsular

Teachers and students of IES Campanar have been participating in a European programme with a school in Portugal. The title of this project is “Water and our city”, an attempt to make students aware of the importance of water and its proper use.

Teacher Mª Jesús Caballer said: “We have been to the Oceanario in Lisbon and  the Oceanogràfic in Valencia, to the aqueduct in Lisbon and the Albufera and its ‘ullals’, a Valencian word meaning ‘natural springs’ and to the Turia river bed,  possibly the city’s best-known landmark, as well as the whole sewage system and waterworks”.

The project, which was shared with the Instituto de Cacém in Portugal, was more than a simple student exchange. 2008 was after all International Water Year, which focused on sustainability, and which has been the inspiration of the whole scheme.

Much of the work has been done in the students’ own free time, and has involved independent research, synthesising and organising information to be communicated to a wider public in Valencia, particularly in the form of posters, which have been displayed in the school.

Students have also practised the art of conference speaking, revealing their findings to their classmates in short oral expositions to younger students and to their colleagues of the Ferreira Dias Secondary School in Cècem, Portugal.

There will also be projects developed about Valencia port, the beach, floods, water treatment plants, pollution. There will also be visits to the Valencia city water deposit; the oldest in Europe, the diverted Turia River and the Albufera Lake.

All in all, 13 students from each centre have taken part, although many other students and teachers have collaborated.

May 2009

IES Campanar in Valencia has always had an inclination to join EU programmes: Euroscola, Comenius, linguistic exchanges and so on. This year, for example, we have already participated in two exchanges, one with France and another one with Switzerland and the school has also applied to be the Coordinating school for a Comenius Project which, if approved, will run from September 2009 to July 2011, and will include seven European countries.

It was clear then that the 9th of May (Europe Day) was a date to celebrate and the school did so, joining the European Union SPRING DAY 2009 campaign, for which more than 6,000 schools had already registered all across Europe.

At our school the activities included an exhibition with information about Spring Day 2009 and the EU, and different games was put up in the hall. Then from 10 to 12.30 there was a video conference in one of the school computer rooms with the Georg-Simon-Ohm Schule in Cologne, Germany. There were two different sessions: thirty three 18-year-olds in the first one and twenty four 16-year-olds in the second. The former had previously seen some podcasts and videos their German peers had uploaded on their school website. Other students participated in ‘their usual way’ through e-mails and Messenger with the Ödeme Gymnasium in Lüneburg, Germany and the Collège Sismondi in Geneva, Switzerland.

In the afternoon some of the students doing 4º ESO handed in their compositions on ‘If I were an MEP’. Then there was a very interesting talk on the importance of the EU institutions and the need to participate in the polls the following June. The students had prepared lots of questions for the lecturer, Mr Andrés Perelló, a candidate himself for the EU Parliament.

Taking into account that these students are 16 years old now, it is obvious that they cannot vote this time but it is our commitment as teachers and parents to educate students so that they could become the new generation of responsible citizens of Europe.

November 2009 Our trip to Hungary

Nine teachers and twenty-three students from four secondary schools in Germany, The Czech Republic, Switzerland and Spain visited the Bródy Imre Gimnázium, Szakközépiskola és Ami in Ajka, from the 3rd to the 7th of November 2009. This Hungarian school received both teachers and students with typical Hungarian dances performed by some of their pupils and presented us all with very interesting activities which included a short trip to the charming city of Veszprém and to the beautiful lake of Balaton, often called “The Hungarian Sea”.

The 5 partner schools take part in a multilateral Comenius project –‘The School as Integration Engine’, of which IES Campanar in Valencia is the Coordinator . We also had working sessions together, attended some lessons and tasted some of the most delicious dishes of Hungarian cuisine. The weather was a bit cold for Spanish standards but it did not matter when you are so warmly welcomed. I understand now why you say “Cold hands, warm heart”. Közönöm, Ajka! (Thanks, Ajka).

Our five days in Hungary were incredible. The first day we were received by a traditional folk dance and we could appreciate their hospitality the very first time we met. On the following days we visited a lot of interesting and famous places. For instance we could see the huge Lake Balaton, with its ducks and sailing ships.

During those days our host families offered us traditional, delicious Hungarian food, which was rich and spicy and we even tried their most famous drink, palinka, which was very strong. The only problem for us is that they drink nothing but fizzy water.

One day we attended three lessons at the Hungarian school. We learnt that they love Spanish football and our most typical dance, flamenco, too, so we spent some time in the afternoon dancing “Macarena”.

Our days there went by too quickly. On our last day, we did a bit of sightseeing in Budapest, the most impressive city I have ever seen. And it is so different from Spain.

Well, it was a great trip and a very interesting way of meeting people from different countries and cultures. I just hope to be able to visit Hungary again.

June 2010 A “Che” team speaking Czech!!

IES Campanar Crossing Frontiers

Five students and three teachers from IES Campanar in Valencia have just come back from a visit to the Czech Republic. We will not easily forget such a pleasant stay and the positive experiences we all had in Lipník nad Bečvou after four days of non-stop activities, all of them very interesting, like visiting the beautiful university town of Olomouc, the impressive Punkva caves, and the ancient Helfštýn Castle.

Our host school this time in the EU Comenius project we coordinate was the Gymnázium Lipník nad Bečvou, which worked hard in the preparation of this successful trip. The students did not want to leave Lipník, but all of them will keep in touch in this project we share. Germany, Hungary, Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Spain: five countries, five languages, one soul.

It has been awesome and a unique experience for me. I have taken part in other exchanges but being with young people from so many countries has been very, very interesting. Prague was wonderful, but Lipník is such a beautiful little town and its people, particularly the teachers, students and my host  Katerina, were really kind and nice. I also find Czech boys (and girls) more open and frank than Spanish ones.



Seventeen students and seven teachers from Ajka (Hungary), Lüneburg (Germany), Lipník nad Bečvou (Czech Republic) and Valencia (Spain) have just come back from the beautiful city of Geneva after spending some unforgettable days at their partner school Collège Sismondi. There we all enjoyed a very friendly and varied school show followed by a potluck dinner with the headmaster, and with the host parents and the students. We also had time to visit a chocolate factory, had a guided tour of the city and an outing to the picturesque village of Gruyères. The synergies between the school, families and the Geneva Canton’s institutions have made this mobility possible, something for which all the other schools are most grateful. With its four official languages, Switzerland has always shown cultural diversity and encourages multicultural integration and education, being but the perfect place to meet for ‘The School as the Integration Engine’ Comenius Project.

At the end of the trip, when you come back to your country you have not only spoken English, French or whatever, you’ve grown as a person.


A very interesting visit to Ballinstadt, the Museum of Emigration, a reception at the town hall of the beautiful city  of Lüneburg, different working sessions -with a rally, a collage,  power point presentations and a farewell party with a stunning school band playing for us, all the ‘movements’ planned and organized by Mrs Frels and the Comenius team of her school, the Gymnasium Oedeme, were very well-orchestrated. They all worked hard too on the perfect musical decoration for the visit, making Lüneburg look even more glorious in a bright white robe of snow that made the ideal background for the city’s popular Christmas market.

The Comenius teachers and students from Lipník nad Bečvou, Ajka, Valencia and Geneva want to congratulate the director and players of such a splendid symphony.  The Spanish team, however, ended it with a conga, since they had to queue up and down and spend two extra nights, one in Hamburg and another one in Majorca, because of the air controllers wildcat strike, though the sweet memories of Lüneburg will stay in their retina and hearts for a long, long time.

It is difficult to say which things our students have liked best about our stay in Germany. Cristina thinks it is the snow, Lüneburg itself, the landscape and, particularly her host family. Helena agrees; her host family has been really friendly and nice. She also liked their houses and the Christmas decorations that could be seen everywhere, in houses, villages, towns and cities. “It is as if they celebrated Xmas one month ahead of us”, added Dídac, who also liked the Christmas market, their beer, and how good a level of English the German students had. He was also happy about the prices of CDs, much more expensive in Spain or difficult to find. Marta liked all those things too and added the Gymnasium Oedeme and some German boys to the list of likes. Pedro, finally, mentioned the high level of education and discipline they are taught. The fact of the students riding their bicycles to school also amazed him. And no matter that it was snowing!

Was there anything these 5 Campanar students did not like? Well, the few hours of daylight together with the different timetable confused them a bit in the beginning and when they thought it was almost time to go to bed because it had grown dark, it was only 4.00 p.m!  Perhaps the only thing they did not like was the sparkling water most people drink!

March 2011 You’re a Firework

The IES Campanar has dressed up to offer a warm welcome to a group of 22 students, 8 teachers and 4 headmasters from its four other partner schools in the Comenius Project ‘The School as the Integration Engine’, which they all share.

In these last two years since the project was approved by the EU institutions, the five schools have met in Ajka ( Hungary),  Lipník nad Bečvou (Czech Republic), Geneva (Switzerland) and Lüneburg (Germany). Now it’s Valencia’s turn and the school worked hard to offer a welcome party to their dear colleagues and students and host families.

Mr Ricardo Rizo, the headmaster, spoke in his opening speech about the aim of a Comenius project, which is to strengthen the European dimension in the field of education by promoting the knowledge of the different countries that make up this supranational reality.

Ms Mercedes de Villegas spoke on behalf of the Comenius team about the different activities carried out in the five countries, with which both students and teachers have been in permanent contact through Internet and through the blog specially created for the project.

These activities included several exhibitions about the different countries, two Maths Puzzle Competitions, two EU & Europe Competitions, Powerpoint presentations made by the students of each school and presented on each working meeting, two Literary Contests and video conferences among many others.

After this introduction, the IES Campanar treated parents, students and teachers to a musical show in which there were students singing and playing music, a rock band, another student solo pianist, or a group doing hip-hop, ending with two superb performances: The Quavers Choir Children Singers from the DIVISI School of Music –some of IES Campanar host students are in it, and the ‘Taller Flamenco’ from the Valencian Conservatory of Dance, coordinated by the Conservatory Director Ms Julia Grecos.

The closing ceremony was held in the playground and consisted of beautiful fireworks and noisy firecrackers, which may be the appetizer for the Valencian school’s guests since they will be taken to a “mascletà” during their stay in our city. After the sparks, a potluck dinner brought parents, students and teachers together.

Well, the thing is it did not matter that some songs were in Valencian, Spanish or Japanese. There we were, five countries with five different languages plus the one chosen as the project ‘official’one (English) and spending a very intense and beautiful evening together. Is it because we spoke with our hearts? We are all fearing the end of the project is nigh but we are already making plans for the follow-up: another Comenius or exchanges? Meanwhile the foreign students will have a lesson that is not easily forgotten: the Spanish way-of-life lesson. You don’t learn it at school but with the host families, and Campanar students have but very sweet memories of the ones they had in Hungary, The Czech Republic, Switzerland and Germany.


Fifteen students and two teachers from IES Campanar flew to and spent a whole week in the town of Skövde (Sweden) where they lived an unforgettable experience together with students, teachers and parents of the GymnasietSkövde.

The very night we arrived at their snow-covered town we began to see how different our two cultures and lifestyles are. We were treated with pepparkakor (ginger biscuits), lussekatter (St Lucy’s buns) and Glögg (mulled wine) in their cosy and  beautiful candle-lit school canteen.

When asked what each student liked the best obviously the Swedes’ hospitality came first here, there and everywhere. Also the way they live and respect life, nature and your own space made us see them as free as a bird. Spaniards are usually more extroverted and also noisier, something which makes me think we were a sort of revolution at the GymnasietSkövdeVästerhöjd.

The snow came second in the list of favourite things and seconds before we arrived at Skövde. We all concluded the teachers in Sweden had planned that special detail as efficiently as the rest of the activities we were offered, like the visit to Skara, the one to Gothenburg Universeum Interactive Museum and Liseberg Christmas Market in Gothenburg or the Christmas dinner at school.

The landscape was very different from ours in Valencia and our outing to Billingehus on Sunday allowed us to observe its plains, woods, sweet hills and lakes. The Swedish love for nature is so great that we can actually see it in their names: Ask (ash tree) or Björk (birch tree).

Every little thing is important for many of students and the GymnasietSkövdeVästerhöjd is very different from our schools in Spain. The students can arrive late, use a mobile phone, there is not a bell ringing between lessons, more laptops than books and something in the way they move around is different too. Their timetable also struck us -we sometimes had lunch at 11.30 and dinner at 5! By the way, I must say I particularly liked their cuisine: salads, herrings, salmon …

We had been told the lack of sunlight in the autumn-winter would make us feel down and blue but the sight of the sun gleaming on the snow is for sure a wonderful, invigorating view. And what could be said about Swedish? My own view is that this beautiful singsong language also tries to adapt to the weather conditions in Sweden and that’s why they have a symbol that looks like rain (ö) and another one like snow (å).

Today the 13th of December is St Lucy’s Day, and I already miss Skövde. I just hope I’ll be back there some day! Fortunately, the Swedish students will visit us in March.

June 2012 Euphoria

We’re going up-up-up-up-up-up-up!

It has been a difficult year in a crisis-struck country and continent but the IES Campanar, a state-run secondary school in Valencia, is going to end the academic year on a high note. We have just received two awards and what is more important to us, the recognition of our work; I mean here both the teachers’ and the students’ hard work.

The first one is the Euroscola 2012 First Prize. This award comes back to our school ten years after a group of students and their leader Mr Emilio Martínez López  won it for the first time. I had the chance to travel then with them to the European Parliament in Strasbourg where teachers and students could learn about the workings of the different European institutions and we all felt as if in the shoes of an MP. Moreover, our voices were also heard there as we were invited to ask questions and the students had to prepare oral presentations on a particular topic to do with democracy and human rights as well as their views on Europe.

This year Mr Emilio Martinez, Head of the Technology Department at the IES Campanar, and his students of 1º Bachillerato have been the winning team in the whole of Spain so there are new plans to go to Strasbourg again in the months to come with the grant provided by the European Parliament.

As for the second award, it has been in the 20th edition of “Valencia Abierta al Mundo”, a competition neatly organized by the Educational Projects Department of Valencia’s Town Hall. This contest allocates funds to help with the expenses of school exchanges carried out by Valencian Primary and Secondary schools. Our project ‘Nature, Culture and a Sustainable Society’ has been ongoing all through the year between our school, the IES Campanar, and the Skövde Västerhöjd Gymnasiet, in Skövde, Sweden. It has been a very rewarding experience which, we hope, will continue in the years to come. Our school is also enjoying an exchange with Germany.

It is good to see that student exchanges are widely and properly appreciated as a way to get to know new countries, cultures, languages and lifestyles. With a recession looming, going places is clearly a low priority but with this grant, our IES Campanar and the great students we are proud to have, will be able to smile their thanks, and that of their parents too. And Europe will remain at the forefront of our future projects at the IES Campanar.

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