A New Virtual School

South America Launches Lithuanian Language School

In an article for the website World Lithuanian (www.pasauliolietuvis.com), Deimantė Žukauskienė writes about the launch of the new “PALM” (Pietų Amerikos lituanistinė mokykla – South American Lithuanian School). She interviewed  one of its founders, president of the Chilean Lithuanian Community Adriana Giedrė Barkauskaitė, who said the first year of work brought plenty of challenges, but it was successful and interesting.

The idea of an online school was inspired by the virtual schools in Italy and Spain. The South American language school is attended by students in Venezuela, Columbia, Uruguay, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Argentin, Spain and other countries as well. Most of the teachers, assistants and volunteers work from Lithuania and other European countries, together with pedagogues and Lithuanian language specialists in South America. PALM maintains ties with the Lithuanian Language School Association established in Ireland, and participates in various events, forums and professional development courses. It also cooperates with the “Draugystė” Lithuanian school in Alicante, Spain, the Italian virtual Lithuanian school and the Vilnius Lithuanian House, which helped teachers prepare for the first semester of PALM last year.

Cofounder of the PALM school Adriana Giedrė Barkauskaitė

In the last semester of  PALM registration included 63 students aged 16 and up, and 27 pupils aged 3 to 15. There were many adults in the older group. Adriana Barkauskaitė  explained that the virtual Lithuanian school is conducted on the basis of integrated language and cultural learning, that is, including elements of theatre, music, art, heritage and history. Teenagers are attracted by the use of modern technology and media, for example the “iPALMiukai” club, which uses the “gamification” method, programming and creating comics. Another club was introduced this year, called “ArteHistoria.LT”, for interactive learning through art. For adults, PALM strives to enhance their knowledge and culture through topics such as current events in Lithuania and youth news, as well as encouraging cultural and linguistic exchanges with Lithuania.

A special project for a volunteer group was an intensive language course for Lithuanians in the Venezuelan diaspora, specifically to help them communicate and to socialize with others, as they may live in various countries and find it difficult to reach Lithuanian communities and schools. It was also important for anyone planning to emigrate to Lithuania or who are already there, to connect with others in the same situation and feel less isolated in their new environment. About 30 students registered for the four-month course, which was taught by two teachers and two assistants. An important aspect of this project was the volunteer programme of conversation classes, where students apply their knowledge, meet new people and carry on simple conversations.

A teacher from Argentina conducts lessons for preschoolers and early primary children in Spanish, based on games and stories to introduce them to language learning. These children were very eager to learn and many were interested in their roots, especially those whose families were planning to move to Lithuania.

The virtual school’s plans for the future  is to continue working in the strong and friendly environment that was created over the past year. From www.pasauliolietuvis.lt