In an age where we are increasingly relying on augmented reality and virtual reality to create simulated opportunities for immersive learning, the unique Cultural Heritage Program at American International School in Cyprus provides students and faculty real, tactile opportunities to take a deep dive into the island’s history to truly immerse themselves in its fascinating culture.
From a 700-year old castle to a 4000-year-old Neolithic settlement, the AISC community has been discovering the history of Cyprus through AISC’s unique Cultural Heritage Program, in partnership with the Cyprus Department of Antiquities. The program includes visits and educational learning activities by the entire school aimed introducing the students and teachers to the rich cultural heritage of Cyprus. Focusing on selected iconic monuments and sites from all periods of the island’s layered history, the program aspires to engage international students and their families with the culture of Cyprus and to help local students reflect on the global significance of Cypriot heritage.
Dr. Rachel Iannacone, program lead and a teacher of Social Studies at AISC shares, “The Cultural Heritage Program envisions the study of heritage as a learning thread that can help bond AISC’s culturally diverse student body together. Whether they consider Cyprus their permanent or short-term home, understanding and relating to the universality of heritage sites can be a most effective path to help the school’s families connect with the local community.”
The program’s core structure hinges on the adoption of a heritage site for two academic years, during which time Dr. Iannacone completes a comprehensive study of the monument, faculty create innovative hands-on curriculum appropriate for students ranging in age from 5 to 18, all students visit the site for a full-day field study, and finally the school collaborates with the Department of Antiquities to create a lasting contribution to the site.
The Department of Antiquities and its Director, Dr. Marina Solomidou-Ieronymidou, also provides critical support to the program, including the supply of academic resources and curation of an exhibition at the selected site.
Since its inception in 2013, faculty and students at the school have studied Choirokoitia, the village of Fikardou and the medieval castle at Kolossi. Five years ago, the school raised over one thousand euros to plant trees at Choirokitia after fires destroyed hundreds of acres. Last Spring, Dr. Iannacone, along with Despina Papacharalambous, of the Cyprus Institute and two AISC students, unveiled an exhibition at Kolossi Castle that focused on fun learning activities designed for children and families.
Since its inception in 2013, faculty and students at the school have studied Choirokoitia, the village of Fikardou and the medieval castle at Kolossi. Five years ago, the school raised over one thousand euros to plant trees at Choirokitia after fires destroyed hundreds of acres.
Last year a faculty retreat was held at the House of the Dragoman Hadjigeorgakis Kornessios Ethnographic Museum, the only monument in Nicosia that teaches the history of the eighteenth-century. Constructed in 1793, the house is an example of upper-class domestic architecture of the period. Restored, maintained and managed beautifully by the Department of Antiquities, the museum is among the most interesting monuments in the historic walled city and an iconic remnant from a most important period in the long history of the island.
A committee of faculty, including Elpiniki Papageorgiou, Ourania Costi, Pantelis Charalambous, and Antonia Poyiadjis developed six flexible learning opportunities designed for different age groups. These include discovering the house, its inhabitants and habits through a short play and scavenger hunt, learning about the dome of the small hammam by building a geodesic dome out of newspaper, discovering the textiles of eighteenth-century Nicosia by learning to weave on hand looms, developing architectural vocabulary to describe elements of the building, mapping the mansion within its contemporary urban context, and debating the legacy of Hadjigeorgakis Kornessios using primary documents. Activities like these are essential in order to cultivate a deep and lasting love of history, learning and Cyprus.