Bringing schools and local institutions together

As is surely the case in many educational institutions in various countries, schools in Vologda cooperate with local cultural institutions and civil society organisations in subjects like arts, history, literature and music but only rarely in social studies. In order to remedy the situation, participants in the Practicing Citizenship programme set up a matchmaking database.

Extracurricular activities at a modern Vologda school are rarely concerned with social studies. Unlike other subjects of the school curricula (fine arts, literature, music, physics, history, geography) for which local cultural institutions (museums, galleries, philharmonic halls, libraries, scientific centres) develop special integrated programs, social science stands somewhat isolated. Some sections of the subject are included into cross-disciplinary courses, dedicated to ethics, morality, spiritual education of children, while information related to civic knowledge, which is so necessary for the modern person, is often only transferred in a class setting. The educational course of social sciences is frequently confined within the school walls, since cooperation between the school and civil society organisations and cultural institutions is underdeveloped.

The project Being Together – A Civic Map of Vologda was carried out by the Vologda Museum, School No. 20 and Out and About Travel Agency. The aim of the project was to collect information about a pool of organizations working in the sphere of civic education and willing to co-operate with schools.

“The school today is a somewhat “isolated institution”, and so children and teachers often do not know what takes place in their city. This project aims to inform school teachers about these initiatives”, E.S. Khobotova, head of Out and About Travel Agency, said.

According to the coordinator of the project Nina Smelkova, in total 30 meetings were held with representatives of non-governmental organizations, cultural institutions and local authorities. About half of the sampled organizations worked with schools from time to time, but had no distinctly formulated proposals for teachers of social science. The project group also prepared an informative resource for educators and published it online as a kind of map. In addition, they organized a one-day seminar entitled Formation of Tolerance and a Civic Stand of Students in the Framework of Co-operation between Schools, Cultural Institutions and NGOs for a total of 84 teachers, school principals, representatives of cultural institutions and NGOs and other volunteers. The seminar gave rise to new professional contacts, new project ideas, and also new work methods, e.g. involvement of stakeholders like parents and teachers into the process of organising museum activities and use of games for educational activities.

“As a social science teacher, I was personally very much interested to learn about organizations I can work with in our city, to make 6th grade social science classes more versatile”, a history and social science teacher at a local school, said.

Schools can now consult a database of institutions, and their representatives, who are ready to co-operate with schools of the city in the field of civic education. The map is open access and already in use by teachers. New partnerships between educational institutions and cultural institutions, NGOs, and civil organizations for training of school students in the subject of law and citizenship continue to flourish.

“This project unites efforts of schools, NGOs, cultural institutions, and I believe that it may serve as a base for long-term professional cooperation and perhaps even friendship”, Nina Smelkova, head of the Museum Literature. Art. XXth Century, said.

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