Volume:1, Issue: 3

Dec. 15, 2009

Holistic System of St. Petersburg School No. 260
Chirina, Svetlana [about] , Yeliseyeva, Nonna [about] , Krol, Lyudmila [about]

DESCRIPTORS: school holistic system; school concept; different extracurricular programs; program “Contact”; “My Beloved City”; “Nature and We”; “Students’ Free Time”.

SYNOPSIS: The article presents a conceptual framework, goals, objectives, and a description of a few primary programs that School No. 260 uses to create and sustain its school holistic system.

Holistic System of St. Petersburg School No. 260

Conceptual framework. In 2000 we began developing a framework of our school holistic system that set new challenges and outlined new goals for the entire school. The school's primary objective is to facilitate creativity in children, to help them develop positive attitudes toward their social environment, and to become flexible in a constantly changing world. To meet these objectives, we made the following steps:

  • created conditions for enabling students to become active and independent lifelong learners, ready to face changes and thus capable of finding their places in this world;
  • rearranged the curriculum to become more creative and focused on problem-solving;
  • motivated students to adopt environmentally-friendly behavior;
  • encouraged student-to-student communication based on mutual respect;
  • involved students in community-oriented service to facilitate their further self-actualization.

It is necessary to mention that school should not simply “prepare” a child for life. It should become a special way of life, because each stage of the human life cycle (including childhood) is precious and sufficient by itself.
Our school has a long tradition of running extracurricular activities in the form of holiday programs, and it schedules them throughout the year accordingly. Many Russian schools can still be found that use this same model. In our school, traditional holidays have become "all-school” events, which bring most students, teachers and parents together to enjoy the meaning of each and every holiday celebration.
But after a while, it has become obvious that such events alone are not enough to meet our educational goals and objectives. Step-by-step and keeping in mind the fundamental concepts of our school holistic system, we developed a number of target programs.
These programs cover all sectors of school life:

  • Curriculum
  • System of Extended Education
  • Extracurricular Activities
  • Co-Management.

The "Contact" was one of the pioneering programs of this kind with the aim to increase parent involvement in the work of the School Council, school various activities and initiatives, as well as in organizing social events and participating in them. Setting up school governing bodies (School Council, and School Board of Guardians) became one of the program’s major results. The name of this program was chosen not only because it reflected the program’s main function – to form a unified team of adults and children, or in other words, a team of partners sharing the same ideas. “Contact” is also the name of our unique family club with a 15-year history.

In the beginning it was merely a parent-teacher association but very soon parents noticed that educators hold the same views and they decided to bring their children along. Parents quickly realized that a club atmosphere would help to unite all members of the educational process (students, teachers and parents). Usually the topic of a club meeting is announced in advance. The topics can be serious such as: "Psychology of parent-child relations,” “Family traditions,” “Teacher, you are on,” etc. But sometimes they could be just fun like “Knight Tournament” or “My pet”, etc.

The club members would get together in a relaxed and easy atmosphere and, while sipping tea, socialize and express their opinions, listen to what others think of any burning questions or delicate issues. The meetings can be held in various forms, such as group and individual presentations, brainstorming and a search for solutions to problems (the problem situations are always role-played or performed in the form of skits), and group discussions which are always followed by a debriefing. Our long-term experience shows that such methods of interaction not only help members of the educational process learn more about each other, but they also contribute to the solution of important school problems.

Some time later we realized that the experience gained during club meetings must be extended and “Contact” should become an "all-school” program with the following objectives:

  • to develop students’ communication skills and the ability to understand themselves and others;
  • to create a positive psychological environment at school by engaging students, teachers and parents in common activities;
  • to provide conditions for students to be active and independent (this also includes the work of the School Council);
  • to enable students to reveal and develop their talents and needs (for instance, through extracurricular activities and interest clubs);
  • to create conditions in which students will gain the experience of communicating with adults (for example, through the work of the "Contact" Club).

Since the program was launched, the students’ influence on school life in general has noticeably increased. They began eagerly sharing their ideas for improvement, making changes and rejecting some activities which they considered to be "of no interest” or simply “imposed on them” by their teachers. Instead they suggested activities, which they considered valuable. When we came up with the idea to create a body of co-management with children, parents and teachers as its members, the students fully supported it. That was the birth of our School Council. Elections are held every September. All students in a grade level nominate their candidates and start their campaign: they put up posters, hand out flyers, hold press conferences, give interviews, organize concerts, etc. Some students nominate themselves because they feel capable and worthy to represent their peers.

One can only imagine how successful and lucky those students who get elected, feel. Having gained trust from both students and adults, they are ready to represent their classmates and the entire student body, and bring their interests to the attention of the Council. The adults treat students’ involvement with the School Council with equal responsibility. School personnel elect teachers and school staff members, and the School Board of Guardians elects parents.

The School Council is mainly responsible for planning interesting activities and social events, developing and approving normative documents which regulate students’ school life, including: “Rules for Students,” “Rights and Responsibilities of the Class group on Duty,” and “School Council Regulations.” This amazing team of children and adults creates new forms of school activities as well as reviews and amends the existing ones. It was the School Council’s idea to start mixed-aged teams responsible for fulfilling duties at school, for organizing the "Abracadabra" creativity club, and developing a series of "the best of the best" games. The School Council also made the preparation plans for the 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg, and later on, for the 65th anniversary of our school.

The "Achievement" Program is aimed at implementing an individual approach to the educational process. While working with large groups, educators might sometimes fail to detect students’ individual potentials. As a result, a student might feel unsatisfied and out of place, which consequently might cause aggressive behavior.

Program Objectives are:

  • to develop a school strategy, enabling students to grow into socially successful personalities;
  • to find effective educational technologies, methods, techniques and means, enabling educators to facilitate socially successful personality development.

This program is closely connected with students’ academic, and community and creative achievements. To make the school aware of these achievements, we developed and organized the following all-school events: “Achievements” for elementary school students, and “Eureka!” for the middle and high school students. The celebration of “achievements” is not merely a ceremony where students receive awards for excellent academic performance throughout the school year. It is also the time when anyone (including the members of interest clubs and extra-curricular groups) can showcase his or her own creativity. "Eurika!” is the event for students who have shown outstanding results in various (city or regional) intellectual contests or team competitive intellectual games. The presentation of students’ "Group Achievement Journals" has recently become an essential part of this event, while the process of making these journals is a novel and interesting class activity for all age groups. The entries in these journals do not only reflect outstanding class, team, and group achievements but also tell personal success stories.
Another important part of the Program is the game called "The best of the best.” When we launched the "Achievement” program, students saw that their excellence was not merely noticed by adults and peers but was also encouraged by them. Students decided to showcase their creative, intellectual, and physical abilities in a competitive setting. One of the educators came up with the “game” idea but the teachers lacked time and energy to plan and organize such a game, so they asked students to help. During one of the School Council meetings the categories in which all the contestants could compete to get "The best of the best" title were agreed upon. Both teachers and students enthusiastically started planning and organizing the games.
Another important school program is called "Nature and We” with the following objectives:

  • to develop a positive attitude towards nature;
  • to provide conditions for teaching patriotism and citizenship.

As a part of this program, students from all grades annually participate in the “Nature and We” project during which they go on overnight or multi-day hikes, camp out, go on nature walks to the city gardens and parks, or take river trips, or boat rides along the rivers and canals of St. Petersburg. The pictures and posters showing the places the students have visited become the project’s creative results. Other activities which are part of the "Nature and We" program include the school building improvement, participation in the regional ecological programs as well as in projects, contests, lectures and workshops conducted by hygiene and nutrition specialists or addiction specialists (for both parents and children). And this is still a very incomplete list of activities. One other (possibly unique) example of the program’s projects is the so-called "Smiling Planet” Day of graphic arts and murals. On the 1st of April during one of the classes students of all grades make ecological posters in the >

Every teacher in our city understands that a St. Petersburg inhabitant should not just grow – he/she must be educated. Educating patriots who will later become the guardians of our cultural legacy and the keepers of their unique city traditions is one of the school goals. The "My Beloved City" Program is aimed at achieving this goal.

Its program objectives are:

  • to provide conditions for increasing students’ interest in the city’s history;
  • to facilitate students' skills and development of their creative abilities;
  • to develop students’ personal responsibilities for the school and the city;
  • to organize community work at school, in the neighborhood, and in the region.

Our school is located in the downtown area of St. Petersburg. This factor plays an important role in the students’ civic education. Guided by the history teachers and students study the school and the city history and learn to comprehend and appreciate the cultural and historic role their school plays in the city life.

Starting from the elementary grades, students have an opportunity to explore their native city by taking part in an extensive tour program offered to them by the teachers. All the elementary grades have special St. Petersburg History classes. St. Petersburg-related contests and amateur art exhibitions have become a school requirement. But to make the project even more interesting and complete, and in addition to these activities, we developed “team creative games” (TCG) during which students can demonstrate how well they know the city history and, of course, how much they love St. Petersburg.

The tour program for older grades is even more extensive since these students are able to endure longer city tours and travel agencies provide a greater variety of oriented programs for the older students. It is also worth mentioning that our students prepare and give school neighborhood tours on their own, and they even received a district award for it. Regional Studies Readings, the school, regional, and city art contests – this is not a complete list of the events, in which our students have participated. And to save the children’s impressions and to let them express what they have seen and learned we developed a novel form of reflection called "Travel Sketches." Each class writes them and students add their drawings, photographs and essays covering the tours, the trips or the walks they have taken.

But the core of the program for the teenagers is the game, developed and organized by the student members of the School Council. They called it "The best of the best! St. Petersburg future!” To be able to pass through various rounds students have to show their teamwork, knowledge, talents and keenness of wit. In the final round the students show their personal achievements.

We all understand that there is no love without care. That’s why the “My Beloved City” Program includes the “Clean district” project and meetings with the WWII and the Siege1 veterans. One of the major events is the “City Service Day” in which students of all grades take part. During this day students make and put up posters calling for keeping the homes and the district streets clean.

It is necessary to mention that any educational institution, claiming to have a holistic system, pays great attention to how the students spend their free time. If the school doesn’t interfere and doesn’t spread its influence on the students in this area, all the attempts to “educate” children will fail. Keeping this in mind we developed another program called "Students’ free time.” One of the major aims of our school is to influence student life not only during class periods but also when classes are over.

The program objectives are:

  • to create conditions for:
    • multi-facetted student development during extracurricular time;
    • student involvement in various community-oriented projects;
    • refining students’ leisure culture;
    • successful socialization of students;
  • to increase pedagogical influence over adolescent free time use and leisure behavior;
  • to prevent negative social phenomena in child and youth environments by employing educational methods;
  • to enrich a student’s productive experience in his or her extracurricular time.

We understand that any school should become a local center of culture and leisure. A school should not only suggest various ways to spend free time (a number of things to do during your free time), but also teach children and their parents how to organize their free time outside of school.

1 The Siege of Leningrad, also known as The Leningrad Blockade was an unsuccessful military operation by the Axis powers to capture Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg) during World War II. It was one of the longest (872 days) and most destructive sieges of a major city in modern history and it was the third most costly in terms of casualties [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Leningrad].

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