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How to educate young people?

Practical ways, suggested by „Centrum Mlodziezy Imeni Dr. H. Jordana“

Monika Stachnik-Czapla’s story about education of young people in Dr. Jordan Youth Centre (Centrum Młodzieży im. dr. H. Jordana)

Monika Stachnik-Czapla is an active woman working in Krakow Dr. H. Jordan Youth Centre (Poland) – an institution with a long tradition and work experience of more than half a century not only with children (from 4 years), young people (up to 22 years), school classes of pupils or groups of teachers but also senior people can find interesting and useful activities.

Jordan Youth Centre conduct about 20 educational, artistic and sport classes for children and young people: workshops of animation, photography, art, ceramics and theatre, different styles of dance and vocal lessons, a folklore ansamble, a rock band, workouts of judo, ski, volleyball and basketball, etc. In the cinema of the Centre film screenings, discussions and debates on various topics are organized. Every year the young people from the Centre participate in different international projects.

Jordan Youth Centre is open to everyone

  • There is no orientation towards the gifted only – doors are open to everyone who wants to try out the chosen activities.
  • There are many older visitors which exceeded school or student age. After coming to the photography or dance classes in their childhood, they do not even intend to stop – not so much for the activity itself but because of the old and strong friendships, as well as friendly relationship with the heads and teachers of the Centre.
  • For those who have an exclusive area of interest robotics, astronomy, journalism, biology and math classes are organized.
  • For school classes the Centre offers intercultural workshops.
  • Another area of activities is the Study Visits events presenting the Polish education system advantages (system, methods, innovation) to the teachers coming to the Youth Centre not only from all over Poland but from other countries.
  • The increasingly popular novelty is the dance, photography and computer classes for seniors of age 60 and over.

Encouraging children‘s adaptation

Adaptation is a particularly relevant issue to the children of families that have come from abroad to Krakow, the number of which for the last three years is growing rapidly in Jordan Youth Centre. The children of foreign families very often do not know the Polish language at all, therefore they are very quiet and timid, shying away from interaction with others. Educators and children are facing a big challenge in helping them to integrate through a variety of games, slower and clearer talking, as well as patient and friendly communication.

For more rapid integration of children into society an important role goes to their parents. The Centre worker Monika is happy with the example of seven years old girl: “Opening the door of the Centre for the first time, she was very quiet and shy because she could say only few words in Polish. It took just four months and she learned to communicate in Polish. And recently she has surprised everybody around with the fact that she wanted to shorten her foreign name for a similar polish name Ala, which is commonly used in Poland.” The worker of the Centre emphasized that it was the girl‘s mother who also helped her a lot to build such a warm relationship with the other children. Every week she invited other children to their house, where Ala not only played but also communicated with them. Today, thanks to the workers of the Centre and the mother, this girl feels fine surrounded by her peers.

Development of creativity

In the film-animation section for little ones, which are conducted by Monika herself, children model different playdough shapes. It is a very “grateful” material because the characters of future stories are able to “move” their hands or feet, “rotate” their head… Later, children create various stories with them, play those stories, take pictures, make cartoons, etc.

“We start from the ABC“, tells Monika presenting topics of the created animated stories. “Each kid receives a letter, models it and comes up with its legend. We do not try to tutor children or limit their imagination. It is not necessary for the child to know a particular word beginning from that letter (for example, “A” is an “Apple” and “P” is a “Potato”). Instead, children are encouraged to fantasize and create stories, for example, about how the “A” went to the wood and met a fox. The ability to fantasize encourages children to work with enthusiasm. When creating, they learn the art of cooperation. Our created fairy tale is not an individual but a team work, cooperative creative work. Each child creates his own part of the text, and then all is rolled into one story. In this way during the school year the whole film about „Abecadło“ is born”, happily tells Monika.

Encouraging curiosity and eagerness to read

According to Monika, letters, as the choice of main story characters, have another very important mission. “If I can help children to learn to read in a funny and interesting way through the games, fairy tales or creative work – I just do it”. In the Centre children become acquainted with the letters and their combinations. Monika welcomes the fact that the children are very sincerely curious and try to read anything she has written and it is great because often teachers at school are simply short of time to do this with patience and involvement. When a child comes to school already being able to read, he/she feels more confident and has a higher self-esteem.

Encouraging friendship, openess and colaboration

The workers of Jordan Youth Centre are trying encourage participants to stand become more friendly and open to their colleagues in the group. “During my workshop I try to help the children to learn how to take personal and team responsibility, teach them cooperation, e.g. I offered the newcomer with a volatile fantasy to work in a pair with a boy who had a logical way of thinking. They have become a great team because they learnt how to distribute their work. Each took on part of the task in which he or she was the most successful, therefore, after using the strong side of each one, they received an excellent result”, Monika is pleased with the success of children.

When the atmosphere of goodwill, warm communication and mutual assistance sets in the group, it becomes easy and simple to adapt even for newcomers. Monika smiles when she mentions a funny incident: “When a newcomer Kevin came into the group, children engaged the boy into the activity quicker than a teacher managed to introduce him to the group, even though she was late just for a few minutes.”

Encouraging critical thinking

Monika teaches school youngsters and students photography. Working with them she strives to excite curiosity of teenagers, encourage their desire to look for new possibilities, teach to evaluate their own capabilities, achievements and adequately to take observations of others. According to Monika, here group conversations helps a lot, where they discuss such things as how well the photos are prepared, what could be changed to improve them, whether they are suitable for exhibiting, etc. “Critical self-assessment of capabilities is a very important thing in the planning of independent activities. For example, in preparation of individual exhibitions of photography it is important to not overestimate your capabilities. It is better to start with small but thought over expositions. After all, we develop in small steps and it takes a long time to spend in the process after you grow up to a large exhibition”, she says.

Lessons of erasing boundaries and overcoming fears

During international projects, in which the Centre is constantly involved, young people come together with their peers from other countries. Communication in a language other than your own makes you step outside your comfort zone, also you need to overcome certain fears. However, when there is a wish, everything becomes possible.

An international photography project in Germany, where participants had an opportunity to communicate with emigrants, has left a lasting impression on Monika. “We were listening to their extraordinary life stories and recording our emotions in photos. Interestingly, young people understood each other quite good not knowing each other’s language. I never understood how all this could have been … “, confessed Monika.

Monika’s experience clearly shows that international projects develop youngsters communication skills and help them to unfold, i. e. to become more open. This is quite understandable, as, after all, non-formal education makes personalities free. “I always wonder how all children around the world have so much in common: they are all open and curious, love to travel and are able to warmly communicate with one another not only during classes but also after them. It is fun to see how they eventually open up, choose another people own way and become personalities”, Monika ends up her story.

The story of Monika is another real example showing the importance of non-formal education to children. What matters most is the everyday actions and simple things. If an educator who has knowledge in his subject and is able to read children’s signals contributes to this, he will always find the key to a child’s heart and teach them the most important things in life.

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