Volume:4, Issue: 1

Apr. 1, 2012

The Use of Song and Poetry as an Intercultural Communication Tool at the International "Our House" Camp
Nailya N. Akchurina [about]

DESCRIPTORS: Korczak, song as an educational tool, education principles, stimulating communication.

SYNOPSIS: The author describes the use of song and poetry as devices for furthering communication among children of various ethnic and national backgrounds at a Russian International Janusz Korczak “Nash Dom” (Our House) Summer Camp.

In 1997, UNESCO declared the first decade of the 21st century to be a decade of “A Culture of Peace and Nonviolence toward Children of the World.” This program was to create global educational concepts whssssose purpose would be: to advance the values and goals necessary for a culture of peace; to develop tolerance in the young; and to develop the skills needed for intercultural communications and readiness for international cooperation [4].

We are able to observe at this time how, under the influence of the process of globalization, the cultural diversity of the world has intensified and the utilization of contemporary information technologies has enabled people of various countries and nationalities to introduce their cultural values to other nations. However, many researchers note that although technology can enhance the exchange of scientific and cultural achievements and ease international cooperation between countries, at the same time, it can also lead to a loss of the social and cultural identity of an individual. That is why the Russian educational system has selected the “formation of the personality” as one of its goals. It believes that the individual should not only have a "global vision of world processes," in other words, that one perceive himself as a citizen of the world and subject to the influence of many cultures, but one must also be aware of one’s membership in a particular culture, know its roots, and share its values ​​and traditions.

In our opinion, these conditions are met well by the camp ‘Nash Dom’ (Our House) which is the main project of the public organization known as the “Moscow Regional Youth Center, Our House.“

The aims of this particular project include:

  • the social and emotional development of children;
  • the adaptation and integration of children of different social groups in a single community;
  • the acquisition of life experiences for children in a humane, friendly, warm and respectful atmosphere.

Project tasks include:

  • the creation of conditions wherein a child may develop greater self-awareness;
  • the creation of opportunities for experiencing success;
  • raising children’s tolerance towards other people and other cultures;
  • expanding the boundaries of their inner world through familiarity with other cultures and subcultures [5].

As a counselor in this project, my mission includes, among other things, thinking through and organizing activities which should not only be entertaining and educational but should also provide for the active participation of the campers. As a researcher who studies the phenomenon of songs and poetry in work with children, it was also important for me to find out how successful these might be if they were applied to situations where children of different social levels, and/or with health limitations, as well as children of different ethnicities and nationalities live together for relatively short periods of time.

The greatest value to be achieved from these goals, in my opinion, is that they seem to be the kind of activities, sing-songs and poetry readings, which may be successful if they were to be used at our camp. So, at the “Evening Gathering” when all of our campers are standing in a circle of inter-locking arms and the day is summed up, announcements made, and everyone who wants to say, "Thanks" to friends and group leaders for this or that aspect of the day has had the opportunity, we provided songs to be sung together so that the “highs and lows” of the day could be shared together. It was our hope that this type of activity would also help "new campers" to begin to feel a part of the larger community.

Without songs and poetry, it would be hard to imagine us conducting our traditional “camp candlelight” and “family candlelight” assemblies. This is when our “camp families" gather to communicate and exchange impressions about the past day, to play, and sing. Please notice that the "family" has not been chosen as the basic structural unit of our camp by accident. It is integral to our idea of camp as a home, “Our House.” In each of our “families,” there are 10-12 children of approximately the same age and 2 leaders whom the children call "mom" and "dad". Great attention in the "family" is given to the encouragement of mutual help and development of close relationships. We try to create the best possible conditions for developing a good emotional situation for each child in the "family." We have found that group singing of favorite songs helps greatly.

Last year our “Poetic Candlelight Assemblies” were very popular. Our campers were encouraged to select their favorite poetry while still at home and to bring these verses to camp so that they could be shared with all the other campers along with songs and stories during “candle sessions.” Since the camp is “international,” there were children and their leaders from Holland in attendance as well as our own Russian children who represent various ethnic groups in our country such as Tatars, Armenians, Ukrainians, Russians, as well as others, and that is why we recognized and celebrated such diversity with traditional activities on “Holland Day,” “Tatarstan Day,” and so on.

On these special days children from the featured ethnicities or nationalities are eager to share their dearest and most interesting holidays and traditions. As experience has shown us, the best method for helping develop an emotional bond between campers is through singing their songs. We believe that a song becomes a "bridge" connecting all these representatives of different cultures who are living under the one, camp-roof of “Nash Dom” (Our Home.)

You may ask, “Why song?” The basis of any nation and/or culture is its language. It is what forms the spiritual, intellectual, and strong-willed potential of the nation. It is the pivot and “soil” of national existence and development. This thought is confirmed in the statement of the German philosopher, M. Heidegger: “The essence of the person grows from his language.”

Another form of existence for a language is in its poetry which allows for its greatest creative potential and a maximum concentration of its national spirit. In addition, the poetry of all nations is a primary form of knowledge. U. Lotman expresses the following relationship: "Poetic speech (as well as chant and singing) was originally the only possible speech of verbal art." In his typological ladder, he moves from simplicity to complexity in his placement of genres: “spoken language, song (text/tune,) classical poetry, and then fiction.” [2]
Thinkers from various epochs and people throughout history have spoken on the subject:  

  • “Poetry is the enormous accelerator of thinking and conscious possibilities.” (I.Brodsky)
  • Language organized poetically, a poetic language, is the tool of the spiritual and intellectual creation of the nation. [3]
  • In all times, in all peoples, the tool for uncovering poetic language and generating the basic moral principles of a society was a song. All pre-literate cultures were carried forward through songs: The ancient Sanskrit hymns of the Rigveda, The Odyssey, the Norse sagas, Russian bylinas, folklore, etc.
  • Aristotle once said, “The singer is the tutor of the people.”
  • “By means of fine songs, we become virtuous and prosperous.” (The Rigveda)
  • “Poetry and song are the teachers of adults.” “The soul owing to its nature expresses itself by means of music. This is its natural expression …” (Aristotle.)

Many scientists confirm the fact that songs powerfully influence the sub-consciousness of a person, "coding" it according to its content. “What we have gone through in song becomes personal experience.” [1].

Poetic and song texts used in the educational process are powerful tools for the development of the intellect, ethics, and esthetics of the “student.”

That is why many researchers who take up the issue of the esthetic education of their students study national and folk songs. Because these types of songs focus on the “good” and the happiness of the people, they have absorbed the higher values and priorities of the people. All the important events of life: holidays, work, games etc. were always accompanied by songs. They influenced the feelings, consciousness, and behavior of the individual developing in him moral guidelines and esthetic tastes.

As one of the youth leaders of “Nash Dom,” I took all these ideas into consideration when organizing the activities of our camp. Realizing that children from many different countries come to our camp, we chose English as our official communication tool. Since musical language is understandable to everybody, we decided to hold a concert featuring English language songs. However, we didn’t want only children and leaders who consider themselves “singers” to participate. We wanted all the children to become part of this event. So, we suggested that each of the "families" make a “video-clip” using one of their favorite English language songs. The result surpassed all expectations as the children demonstrated not only their creative vision through theatrically presenting their chosen song, but also amazed us with their ability to work with audio-visual media in preparing original computer presentations of the "clips." Solo performances weren't limited to singing only English language songs, however. A boy from Holland sang his favorite song in his native Dutch while a girls’ Russian/Dutch duet combined two languages, English and Russian into their number. At the end of the camp, the results of the questionnaire filled out by the campers indicated that many children considered this event to be one of the most pleasant and well remembered of their experiences. 

These are some of the reasons why we consider the inclusion of poetic texts and songs in our educational process at Camp “Nash Dom” to be very helpful in solving not only the problem of developing a dialogue among cultures by bringing together the cultural and spiritual values of one culture with those of another culture, but also by actively promoting tolerance and humanistic relationships. We also believe that this phenomenon demands a separate and thorough research within a theory of education.


  • Gadamer, A. The Relevance of Beauty. Moscow: Arts, 1991. 116-146.
  • Lotman, U. Poetic Text Analysis: The Structure of Verse. St. Petersburg, 1996. 18-252.
  • Mirzayan, A.Z. At the Beginning of a Song. Moscow: APART, 1996. No. 1. 2-4.
  • “Learning: The Treasure.” Report of the International Commission on Education for the XXI Century. Paris: UNESCO, 1997.
  • http://mcnd.ru - Official website of the Moscow Regional Public Organization “Youth Center ‘Our House.’"

Akchurina, Nailya Nailyevna [In Russian: Акчурина Наиля Наильевна], English Language Teacher at Secondary School No.756, Moscow, Russia, and a post-graduate student at the Academy for In-service Training for Educational Faculty, Moscow, Russia.

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