Rural school, school garden and village in the era of globalization


During the autumn holidays, 40 representatives of schools from Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova gathered for a forum-dialogue “Rural school, school garden and village in the era of globalization”. During three days from 4 to 6 November, 2019 the participants had time to discuss the challenges faced by rural areas in the post-Soviet space in the XXI century, to identify relevant and effective areas of education for rural youth in this situation and sum up the results of the II open competition “School Garden as an educational platform for modern safe agricultural technologies”.

The first  discussion day began traditionally with greetings. Andriy Pavlovich, head of the EU4Youth support team, in his welcoming speech outlined the current challenges in working with youth and spoke a little about European Union programs aimed at this target group. In particular, he outlined the general objectives of the EU4Youth program, described the possibilities of educational exchange programs and internships, such as Erasmus + and Salto. Vladimir Shevtsov, head of the project “EU4Youth: “School Garden" for the Development of Agricultural Entrepreneurship”, which included a forum-dialogue, reminded the audience about the project’s objectives, introduced the results of the first year and outlined the main issues of the forum.

After a short introduction, it was time for acquaintance and discussion. A small exercise “Retrospective”, suggested bythe invited facilitators Medea Akhvlediani and Nadezhda Adamovich, helped the participants to learn the occupations of each other, their common interests, aspirations, activities and plans. Many participants were aquanted ralready, so there was no need to break the ice, everyone immediately got into work and in just 8 minutes created small presentations, from which it became clear that all participants were united by love for their small homeland, the desire to make life in the village attractive and return youth to the village.

The participants were encouraged by the team building and continued the group discussions. In the format of the World Café, divided into groups, representatives of schools discussed the following issues: what the village can offer to the city and how exactly can attract citizens, what professions, types of work and services should be developed today in the village, what a school garden can give to teachers and students. A lot of ideas were born in the discussions, but the main thing is to address the interests of rural schoolchildren and young people themselves, showing them the experience of agro-ecotourism, organic farming, opportunities for promotion and marketing, introduction of it-technologies, as well as interaction in the local community.

The second day of the forum-dialogue was a kind of test for the Belarusian participants. Representatives of 28 schools shared the results of work at their school gardens in the agricultural season 2019 and took part in a full-time tour of the II contest among school gardens in Vitebsk, Gomel and Minsk regions. The jury evaluated not only the level of the development of the garden, but also the degree of involvement of the schoolchildren into the work on it - research, production, business. School business ideas, both already implemented and planned, were brought to the jury's attention. Among many, it is worth mentioning the business project of the  "Luzhkovskaya secondary school of Sharkovshchina district", “From the school garden to the school canteen” implemented this year, a clear example of which was the vitamin garlic-pepper bouquet, as well as the idea of the “Slobodkovskaya nursery-kindergarten - secondary school of Braslav district” “Modern Garden” for the joint cultivation of vegetables, herbs and flowers and herbal teas. Among the educational ideas, the use of the school garden not only in biology but also in other disciplines, such as Information Technology, attracted attention. The task may be to develop software for crop rotation control. This idea was proposed by a representative of the Kholopenichsky secondary school . Late in the evening, the jury summed up the results of the competition, and the results were announced the next day.

But before receiving the awards, the participants discussed another important topic - the development of school gardens in the context of cooperation between rural schools. The basis for the discussion was the initiative “Watermelon and its Friends”, implemented this summer in Gomel region. The forum participants got acquainted with the results of the network experiment “Water-melon Growth Testing”, and the experience of joint marketing during the holiday “Day of the Watermelon and His Friends”, and also learned about plans for cooperation in conducting experiments with onions and garlic growing on the basis of rural schools in Minsk, Vitebsk and Gomel regions. The guests from Ukraine and Moldova shared their impressions of the two-day work and thanked their colleagues for the opportunity to exchange experiences, new knowledge and ideas.

The participants were excited and enthusiastic about new achievements and achievements. The result of the forum was a closer association of schools of participants. “We have become not only a team, but a big and friendly family, where they will understand you, give you the necessary advice, guidance and support, and this is the most valuable gift of destiny for each of us,” said one of the forum participants, Alexander Pleshkunov. Now schools think not only about their development, but also about the options of interaction and joint implementation of their ideas in the field of agrotourism, handicraft, marketing and, of course, the involvement of young people and schoolchildren in this process.

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This publication has been produced with the support of the European Union and the Green Cross International. Responsibility for the content of this publication lies with the public organization “Green Cross Belarus”, and it can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union and  Green Cross International.