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Russian Orphanage

Golden Key Schools

Information on Golden Key School Program, in Russian text by Elena Kravtsova, and her team PDF

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During Perestroika in Russia many new innovative educational programs came into being. The grand daughter of L. S. Vygotsky (Dr. Elena Kravtsova), and her laboratory of 23 people established one of these new programs. The purpose of the Golden Key part1 & part 2 (requires RealMedia to view) curriculum is to break down the traditional alienation children find in many schools and in many families of post-Soviet Russia. Using the tenets of both L. S. Vygotsky, and Elena (requires RealMedia to view)and Gennadi Kravtsov, over 30 Golden Key schools have been established around Russia since 1989, and there are plans to expand this curriculum to higher levels of education, including the coordination of a hospital clinic. The inclusion of medical attention will not only involve children with physical illnesses, but also children with learning disabilities, and family problems.

Regarding methods that are used, the overall understanding of the process of interaction is implemented within the Zone of Proximal Development by placing children in families instead of classes. Therefore, each family has between 15 to 25 children between the ages of 3 and 10. There is a feel of an extended family, having its own “home” instead of a classroom. Teachers attend in-service training in order to learn to enhance a community of learning, and parents are active in school events, often participating as historical figures, or helping to sew costumes, or sing or recite poetry. The children meet in their families every school day to discuss problems and to learn to solve problems. Since there are children of different ages, the older children can learn to model more competent peer behavior, as well as support the younger children. Happenings (requires RealMedia to view) are a source of the core concept of the Golden Key schools. These happenings are based around historical events, seasons of the year, and personal events. There are weekly events and monthly happenings.

The following is the description of one such happening in Belaya Kalytva part 1 & part 2 (requires RealMedia to view) (on the outskirts of Moscow) related to the study of the world, and in this case, Australia. One day, when everyone was gathered in their families, a woman dressed in a traditional Russian costume came to each family and told the children (3-10 years old) that a young boy from Australia had lost his way and asked if the children could help. All of the children promptly took the hands of the adults and everyone went to the school’s museum where the young boy was dressed in an aborigine costume with a dirty face (from being lost). The young boy (pretended that he) could not speak Russian, and was very sad, actually in tears. The various families were asked if they could help and were then divided into age groups. Each group (led by a teacher) helped to guide the children with ideas to solve the problem. One group of very small children made presents for the boy to take home, while an older group wrote a telegram to his parents in Australia (leaning about the differences between writing letters and telegrams, as well as learning Russian grammar). Another group figured out where Australia was located and how far it was from Moscow by drawing maps and using math skills. Another group worked on finding out about the animals in Australia, which incorporated exercises in math as well. It was then announced that the boy would be able to fly home to Australia, to his family, but first there would be a happening (which takes place once or twice a month, with the children and parents preparing for it weeks in advance). The children (requires RealMedia to view) brought the boy into a special room that was decorated, and they told him that they wanted to have a party and share Russian culture with him. They wanted him to be able to share his adventures in Russia with other children in Australia. The children were now in mixed age groups, and again in a special room where they were singing Russian songs in costumes, dancing, and reciting poetry the children had written themselves, etc. There was over an hour of entertainment, always with piano music and other instruments being played by the staff. After the festivities, a man (Gennadi Kravtsov) came with a car to take the boy to the airport, and all of the children, parents, and staff waved to him from the window as he got in the car and drove off.

I almost felt that the boy was actually going home to Australia, it was so real. After the happening, refreshments were served to all. During the afternoon, there was further work on Australia, including music, history, dance, geography, the study of climate, animals, etc.

The following videos include Azov1 and Avoz2 (2004), and Belaya Kalytva (2006). (requires Windows Media to view) Please note, these videos are in Russian.

The educational importance of this curriculum cannot be overstated, as most of the Golden Key schools receive very little funding from the government, and these schools are open to all children. The methods used are innovative and new, and can become a model of education in other parts of the world. View the Golden Key Workshop. (requires Windows Media to view)

Take a few moments and take a Photo Tour of some Golden Key Schools.

For reading material, please see the chapter on the Golden Key schools in: Schools for growth: Radical alternatives to current educational models. Lois Holzman. Mahwah, N.J: L. Erlbaum Associates, 1997.

For more information, please feel free to contact me via email at dot.robbins@gmail.com.