Smiling high school students have placed second in a national writing competition.
The third edition of, CHE STORIA!, a school writing contest aimed at secondary school students and teachers, kicked off on 30th October last year.
Its aim is challenging: combine historical research and literary fiction. Entrants had to bring events from the past to life, using stories or testimonies from sources and then transform them into a narrative.
Classes across the linguistic high school joined forces to participate in this project. From November to May, the team has been meeting every week for a couple of hours to craft their literary piece. Even the limitations posed by COVID-19 didn’t stop their enthusiasm and in fact, they made the most of distance learning.
The judging panel consisted of Accademia All’Arcadia, the Italian Historical Institute for the Modern and Contemporary Age and the Institute of Mediterranean Europe History. They received a hundred entries from all over Italy.
Our Smiling writing team included Matilde Baldassari, Andrea Ottone berselli, Giulia Cavicchi and Fiorile Giacomoni. Through words and photographs, they told the story of Palazzo Gulinelli. This special building is the home of our school and the family of the same name.
In their piece, “Of rooms – the voices of Palazzo Gulinelli”, they looked at the building’s history through the latter decades of the nineteenth century. The school is incredibly proud of the second place achieved. Equally, it marks a special moment for the teachers, who guided them along this journey.
The students took an active role in all stages of the process. They selected material, created the structure and produced the final look. Only the editing was exclusively done by the teachers.
A journey of discovery
“This was an extraordinary journey. We moved forward, step by step, students and teachers together. We had a common goal of content and style. This developed gradually, responding to the questions and interests that emerged along the way. Curiosity motivated those taking part.
“It was a collaborative project on many levels. It involved students from classes across three grades and combined research and creative writing. This gave them the creative space to embellish history with fiction. It has intertwined different languages, disciplines and methodologies from history, visual art and literature. They have developed high-level skills in specialised areas.
“The role of us teachers has been to offer the children an opportunity and to encourage them to ask questions. From there, they can consider possible answers, sometimes playing and creating.
“The students were absolutely in charge and responsible for every stage of the process. They cast light on the shadows that are hidden with the walls of Palazzo Gulinelli, our very special home. This is how these children have become authors. Between words and photography, they distilled a complex idea into an enjoyable read.
“It was remarkable for me to be at their side and support them in this exciting journey of discovery, expression and growth.”
Barbara Pizzo, teacher at Smiling International School.
Independence in learning
“The initial choice we made as teachers in proposing this project was not to involve an entire class, but to give the students choice. They had the opportunity to decide if they wanted to take part.
“We did not want to dictate from high. Instead, we wanted to give them the chance to be free and have autonomy. The result was a small and cohesive group of very motivated students. They were not defeated by the difficulties of quarantine and continued to give their all, sharing ideas and creativity at every stage of the project.
“Today, they can be proud of the result they achieved. They truly deserve it. For them it was an opportunity to have a go at historical research, consulting archives and sources. They also had to deal with the challenge of finding and reconstructing the past when some sources were destroyed or no longer accessible.”
Cecilia Bucci, teacher at Smiling International School.
Motivation and creativity
“Passion, a will to succeed, personal contributions and also a beautiful final piece have allowed students of different ages to give shape to their ideas. They also got creative with the past, narrating as “inhabitants” of the story’s building.
“Despite the tough restrictions we’ve faced the past few months, the students have worked with motivation and consistency through every stage. In their interviews and search for sources, they created an original piece of work.
“I can only say that this experience has been formative from a professional and personal point of view. I feel really proud of the work and success of our students.”
Giada Zerbini, teacher at Smiling International School
Click on this link for a downloadable version of their story:
For the full contest ranking, go here: