SPAIN - Francisco González Montes
Francisco González Montes lives and works in his native Cantabria, in the north of Spain. He occupies the post of Director of Studies at the Pancho Cossio public college, in the small town of Sierrapando.
A teacher of geography and history by training, Mr González Montes is an artist by vocation. It was his passion for visual art that led him to introduce subjects like ‘visual-plastic education’ and ‘pre-technology (craft and design)’ at the secondary level, in parallel with the regular classes. He was the originator of materials that are now used not only in his own school, but also in many other schools in the region.
His desire to assist children to better absorb the content of the school programme and at the same time to learn to value and respect the cultural and artistic heritage of their country motivated him to develop a series of multidisciplinary projects, two of which have been widely recognized.
The first one of them, the ‘Altamira Project’, began in 1992 with the construction of a replica of the Altamira Caves located 6 km away from the school. The paintings from these and other Spanish and European caves were reproduced on the ceiling and walls of a classroom. In the same classroom, a museum of pre-history was also created in which the pupils made replicas of ancient objects: wooden wheels, fossils, necklaces, ornaments, clothing, tools, pottery and many other artefacts. In the following years, Francisco González Montes wrote and illustrated stories about these remote times, and his texts were subsequently transformed into lesson units used at different levels of primary and secondary schooling.
The ‘Arches Project’ consists of constructing seven arches and vaults which represent seven architectural styles from various historical periods and different cultures: from a dolmen, built by prehistoric man, to ‘the arch of the future’. This project involves pupils in studying the history of mankind and art in a condensed and unusual form, develops their creative and artistic capabilities, and introduces them to various technologies and the use of natural materials, such as stone, wood and clay.
This non-traditional, multidisciplinary method of teaching, combining history, geography, craft and design, contributes to reinforcing the pupils’ interest in learning. It proved to be particularly effective in such areas as, for example, Torrelavega, with its low level of economic development and populated by a significant number of ethnic and religious minorities. Clear evidence of the success of this method is a significant reduction in the number of pupils who have failed at school.
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