Gozo Via Sagra – Stella Maris – Malta

Last Sunday 12th March, students of Stella Maris College, Gzira along with some members of the school staff and a number of parents, decided to participate in a Via Sagra in Gozo. This event is held annually by the school as part and parcel of Lenten activities.

It happened to be a fantastic day with the bright sun shining and basking everything with its warm inviting light. It was a welcoming contrast after all the cold and rainy days.

Once we arrived in Gozo by the ferry from Cirkewwa, we headed to Rabat by coach. From there, the walk to Ta’ Pinu sanctuary, turned out to be a short and pleasant one which certainly got our feet working. As we got there we were in time for the 11’o clock mass.

After mass ended we had a short break, eating and chatting away, while some of us listened to music and others were busy preparing and going through the Via Sagra, which was to take place right afterwards.

Junior pupils celebrate Barba Marta

Today (Wednesday 1 March) Year 2 and 4 pupils learnt about Bulgarian culture as they celebrated Baba Marta (or Grandma March). The day relates to the welcoming of the Spring – bringing joy and new hope. Our Bulgarian students Minna and Mihail brought in gifts for their classes and shared the story of this ancient tradition.

In Bulgarian folklore Baba Marta is a grumpy old woman who changes her mood very rapidly, and it reflects in the changeable weather in March – when she is smiling the weather is warm and sunny, but when she is angry the cold stays for longer and it may even snow!

As is tradition, Minna and Mihail exchanged ‘Martenitsa’ with each other, pupils and staff, as well as teaching them how to say ‘Chestita Baba Marta!’ meaning ‘Happy Grandma March’.

The Martenitsa is usually two small wool dolls – Pizho and Penda. Made up of twined red and white threads, Pizho is the male doll in white; representing strength purity and happiness, and Penda is the female doll in red; associated with health, conception and fertility. These were worn by Minna and Mihail, as well as their form tutors. As the Martenitsa can come in a variation of forms, each pupil received a bracelet to wish them great health, good luck and happiness.

The children learnt that when someone gives you a Martenitsa you should wear it until you see a stork, or a fruit tree in blossom for the first time that Spring. After that you can tie it on a blossoming tree. The Martenitsa is said to hold magical powers to protect you from ill fortune, diseases and the evil eye.

Thank you Minna and Mihail for sharing your traditions with us, once again demonstrating the breadth of the St John’s College community.

Scholarship Group Meeting: Andy Robertshaw on The Battle Of The Somme

Military historian and TV presenter Andy Robertshaw visited St John’s this week to give a talk on the Battle of the Somme, perhaps the most controversial event of the First World War.
St John's College Scholarship Group
With the aid of some stunningly sharp photographs of the battle, he took us through the events which led up to the catastrophic first day of the Somme, 1 July 1916, when the British army suffered 60,000 casualties. Yet, horrific though the battle was, it affected the German army much more, because proportionately they were less able to withstand the heavy casualty rate. One hundred years ago this month, they withdrew to new defences behind the Hindenburg line. The battle was also part of a learning curve, or perhaps a more uneven ‘Loch Ness Monster curve’, in which the British army acquired the tactics that would eventually bring victory in 1918.
St John's College Scholarship Group

At the end of his talk, our Scholars asked Andy about politicians involvement in the Battle and the artillery used. Freddie was very impressed to learn that Andy played a part in the film War Horse too!  It was an excellent talk accompanied by brilliant and well-selected photos.

Year 3 & 4 Trip to Tuppenny Barn

On Monday and Tuesday Year 3 and 4 travelled to Tuppenny Barn in Southbourne to learn about where food comes from; the nutritional benefits of eating fresh fruit and vegetables; and to understand how to ‘grown your own’ and prepare healthy fresh meals.

Tuppenny Barn is a non-profit organic smallholding which grows and sells organic fruit and vegetables and aims to be a beacon of sustainable living for the local community; “A Place to Grow, Naturally”.

St John's College | Junior School

As the pupils arrived they were greeted by Abi Young, Tuppenny Barn’s Education Officer, and her fantastic team of volunteers, who had planned lots of fun activities for the day ahead. After a short Q&A session to find out how much the pupils knew about organic farming, recycling and sustainability, the children set off on their first activity.

As group 1 headed out on a tour of the small holding, group 2 picked herbs and vegetables from the gardens to make a delicious seasonal soup. Back in the kitchen the children were tasked with peeling, grating and chopping the ingredients which included; carrots, parsnips, onions, turnips, potato, leaks and garlic. They also picked some curly kale to make kale crisps.

St John's College | Junior School

St John's College | Junior School

St John's College | Junior School

St John's College | Junior School

St John's College | Junior School

St John's College | Junior School

Out in the grounds, group 1 explored a variety of areas including the pond, the polytunnel and the Orchard. They also found out how different herbs from ‘Lizzie’s Herb Bank’ were used, and learnt that the Dragonfly dates back to prehistoric times, when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

Unfortunately due to the cold weather, the pupils didn’t get to see any creatures in the ‘Minibeast Hotel’, ‘Newt House’ and ‘Slowworm Hut’. However, they learnt some very interesting facts about the local wildlife and their natural habitats; everyone was shocked to hear that hedgehogs are now as endangered worldwide as tigers!

St John's College | Junior School

St John's College | Junior School

St John's College | Junior School

As they walked through the polytunnel the children tried some home-grown rocket, which was a lot stronger than packets you buy in the supermarket. With mixed reviews, and thumbs up from the staff, it was great to see all the children trying something new. The pupils also got to touch and smell different herbs through the ‘companion garden’, which ranged from curry plants to lavender.

St John's College | Junior School

St John's College | Junior School

St John's College | Junior School

The last stop on the tour was to see the bee hives, which the children were looking forward to the most. Even though winter is still upon us, the sun was shining on Monday and a few bees came out to welcome their visitors to their home. As the students headed back to the education centre Abi gave a few interesting facts about these amazing creatures;

  • There is 1 queen to a hive, and she can lay up to 2,000 eggs a day during the summer.
  • 95% of the hive is made up of females, as they do all the hard work such as pollination and making honey.
  • 1 in 3 bites of food we eat have been pollinated by bees.
  • A third of all food we eat is pollinated by insects.
  • 80% of all food that is pollinated is done so by bees.
  • If we didn’t have animals that pollinated our food, self-pollination would cost the food industry around £1.8 billion.

After swapping activities halfway through the morning, the children then got to try the delicious soup and kale crisps they had made. The staff were very proud of all the students, as everyone tried a mouthful of the seasonal soup. After a few mixed reviews, the votes (from both visits) came in with most of the students giving it 5 out of 5!

St John's College | Junior School

St John's College | Junior School

St John's College | Junior School

After a spot of lunch, the children were refuelled and ready for the afternoon’s activities. First up was a mapping activity; Abi asked the children to draw a new map of Tuppenny Barn, as hers was out of date, and the children did not disappoint, as they remembered the location of the different features and the finer details of the small holding. The pupils will be finishing off their maps in class, and Mrs Robertson is hoping to send the finished ones back to Abi for her to use.

St John's College | Junior School

St John's College | Junior School

St John's College | Junior School

The last activity of the day was making bird feeders and potting beetroot. By using sunflower seeds, the children designed their own patterns on half an apple, tying string around the middle so it could be easily hung up. These were great to make as everyone, even those without gardens, could hang the apple outside to feed the birds. The children then made small paper pots out of newspaper and planted a small beetroot seed in the middle. Mrs Robertson and Mrs Trinkwon will be holding a competition in class to see whose grows the quickest!

St John's College | Junior School

St John's College | Junior School

St John's College | Junior School

Both Year 3 and 4 had a brilliant time, and we would like to thank Abi and her team for a fantastic day that was filled with fun activities to help the students with this term’s topic on ‘land and mapping’.

A Level Biology Trip – St. Johns College

On Monday our A Level Biology students visited Portsmouth University and took part in a range of lectures and lab sessions. The students had a Molecular, Genes and Bioscience lecture in the morning, followed by a DNA and Genetic Engineering Lab session in the afternoon. They also carried out a PCR reaction and then set up and loaded DNA samples onto agarose gels for electrophoresis.

St John's College | Sixth Form

St John's College | Sixth Form

St John's College | Sixth Form

Science investigation – St. John’s college

This week Year 1 have been investigating puddles. They have been looking at weather patterns for the UK and discussing the weather needed for puddles. Sadly we had no rain this week so they had to make artificial puddles, but that didn’t stop Year 1. The children had great fun exploring the puddles and set up an investigation to measure the size of a puddle over two days. They have also been using this to support their work on solids, liquids and gases.

Portsmouth Music Festival Centenary Concert – St. John’s college

On Sunday 6th February the Chapel Choir took a major part in the Portsmouth Music Festival Centenary Concert.  This was a high profile event and was performed in the presence of civic dignitaries as well as the local MP Flick Drummond.  The choir performed very well despite several absentees due to illness and their performance was commented on favourably by many people in the audience.  They were also joined by the Havant Clarinet and Saxophone Choir as well as many soloists who had gone on to make names for themselves both nationally and internationally.

St John's College | Chapel Choir

Year 3 & 4 pupils share history & culture at Chinese New Year

Year 3 and 4 pupils have taken part in a variety of workshops and activities in preparation for Chinese New Year.

As a Boarding School with an international community, the Chinese festivity marks an important occasion in our School calendar. As we have welcomed overseas students from China for over 30 years and, due to a long history with the Chinese community in Portsmouth, we have long celebrated Chinese New Year, and this year is no exception.

St John's College | Junior School

Pupils spent the morning creating Chinese Zodiac headbands; designing paperchain Chinese Dragon puppets, and making ‘Lai see’ – red envelopes which contain money and are given to loved ones to wish them a safe and peaceful year. They also learned that these special envelopes are also known as ‘yasui qian’ meaning ‘supressing ghost money’.

St. John’s College

Religious Studies GCSE visit to the Al Mahdi Centre

The visit to the Al Mahdi Centre, the Fareham Mosque, was beneficial and interesting to all. When we arrived we were surprised to see that there is no dome or obvious ‘mosque’ shaped building. Sheikh Fazle told us that there had been a great deal of planning with the local community and that the Centre is designed to fit in with the environment; it is of a similar architectural shape to the nearby Titchfield Abbey.  We were surprised to hear that solar panels are concealed on the roof and that copper pipes run through the grounds bringing hot underfloor heating. These things are in support of the desire to be a steward, a ‘khalifa’, on behalf of God.

St John's College Trip to Al Mahdi Mosque

St John's College Trip to Al Mahdi Mosque

Once inside were shown areas such as the prayer halls; the mihrab facing towards Mecca; the classrooms or ‘Madrassah’; the kitchen, where meals can be cooked for 300 people on special occasions, and the area for wudu or ritual washing.  In this room deceased members of the community are washed and prepared for burial – and this made us stop and think about our own lives.

St John's College Trip to Al Mahdi Mosque

St John's College Trip to Al Mahdi Mosque

Some memorable parts of the visit included when we all took part in the prayer positions, prostrating and placing our heads on the floor; listening to Sheikh from our class reciting the Qu’ran, and the very interesting question and answer session led by Sheikh Fazle where we could give our own views and develop a further understanding of Islam.

Mrs J Turner
Head of Philosophy Religious Studies & Head of Chaplaincy  

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