Visi projekta jaunumi:

(Latviešu) Jaunsilavieši darbojas no Dzejnieka dārza līdz Ķīnas mūrim

Priedes sāk dzīvi Dzejnieka dārzā-w2012./2013. mācību gads Līvānu novada Jaunsilavas pamatskolā aizritēja UNESCO un Sorosa Fonda – Latvija iniciatīvas „Pārmaiņu iespēja skolām” zīmē. Latvijā ir 20 UNESCO asociētās skolas, kas viena otrai palīdz un cieši sadarbojas. Mūsu tuvākie draugi ir Jēkabpilī, Riebiņos un Daugavpilī. Jaunsilavas skolas izvēlētais darbības virziens ir pasaules un nacionālā materiālā un nemateriālā mantojuma izglītība. Liels ieguvums ir SFL atbalsts mazajām lauku skolām, jo projekta „Kaskurkadis kāpj kalnā” radošās darbnīcas palīdz realizēt UNESCO skolas daudzās aktivitātes. Turpināt lasīt…

Briežuciems: Impact is our password

Some three years ago the Briezuciems primary school was among those small rural schools in Latvia who faced a real closure threat as a result of the small number of pupils. While several schools were liquidated indeed, the kids from Briezuciems and the vicinity still study in their local school, but the teachers have gone as far as real participation in legal initiatives. Why was it possible? Thanks to the local self-starters. Silvija Locmele is among them. Turpināt lasīt…

How to Make a Film and not Only That…

Asare Elementary School Project group

Asare Elementary School Project activities are mostly aimed at improving free time opportunities for all the social groups of the local community, promoting the development of the community and strengthening togetherness. It is being implemented in cooperation between the municipality, local entrepreneurs and the school.

Insufficient funding for education reduced the offer in interest education sphere therefore a new approach and methods were necessary to provide free time opportunities to schoolchildren and youths and to promote cooperation between local people and educational establishments. Schoolchildren, youths and local inhabitants show interest and support this kind of cooperation but there are no people who would be interested and could organize and lead the activities. Thanks to the Soros Foundation – Latvia Project and Asare Elementary School teachers’ initiative the inhabitants of the parish have been given opportunities to spend their free time meaningfully, acquire new knowledge and skills, get experience and positive emotions and improve their health in physical activities. Schoolchildren, youths, local inhabitants and entrepreneurs, institutions and parish administration have successfully involved in the Project activities.

As one of the aspects of the Project we implemented was improving free time opportunities for local community we set up Schoolchildren and Young People Leisure Club which offered various interest groups for schoolchildren and former school leavers: drama group, video amateurs’ group; visual arts, sport and computer groups.

Activities of drama group and video amateurs’ groups were joined together implementing the idea of making a film „Meistardetektīvs 2” („Master detective 2”). The script has been written based on A. Lyndgren works. Interest in making of the film greatly exceeded the activities of the two interest groups and even those of the Club. Schoolchildren, teachers and school leavers, parents and those local people who have no connection to the school took part in the filming process. We were helped by the police and home guards. Local people and entrepreneurs let us use their private property for filming – dwelling houses and other buildings, fields, woods, private cars and a lot of other requisites. The idea implemented on such wide scale brought closer the community. As soon as somebody was asked for help the person was ready to get involved in the filming process. It seemed so special that a video film can be made in our parish; that actors are people from among us. Everybody followed the filming process very carefully; some people even came to the film set to watch the shooting of separate episodes.

But we must confess that making a film as a means of enriching leisure opportunities (not as a separate Project) has several drawbacks and causes the following difficulties:

– It was difficult to arrange filming as the actors found it difficult to arrive for the shooting of an episode all at one particular time. If only a few actors are necessary for an episode it is easier of course but if there are more actors necessary (moreover – they are from different social layers) it is hard to find time to meet as each of the participants needs time for their work, social life, family events or solving health problems. This is why in most cases the choice of episodes to be filmed depends on the „actors” who can arrive for the filming. As the actors are not Professional episodes have to be shot several times due to mistakes made ( forgetting the text, mixing it up, making slips, choosing wrong gestures or facial expressions, etc.). Consequently filming takes more time as „actors” can meet only one to three times a week. Work on the film set lasts two to three hours. It cannot be more than that as all the participants have limited time resources and eventually their concentration ability decreases too;

– Problems with clothes and hairdos arise to the same above described conditions. As the events in the film take place within approximately one week external changes of the characters can be very slight. It was difficult to provide as the filming process took seven months. Therefore due to various circumstances changes in the outlook of the characters were unavoidable (clothing and shoes wear out or even tear up; hair grows, it is dyed or cut, etc.);

– Filming possibilities are greatly limited by the weather as well as the film is made in open air. The film takes place in summer, so early in spring or in autumn we could only film those episodes where there is no need to show the nature (interior scenes). But in summer we had to follow the weather forecasts to meet in the most favorable weather conditions;

– Finances is a problem too – how much each participant can afford to spend on the common benefit (getting to the film set, requisites, etc.);

– Due to the above mentioned problems we constantly needed to make some changes in the script. For example, somebody who has been casted for a role refuses to participate; some actor is ill for a long period of time or has gone somewhere on a trip; the necessary equipment breaks down or is not available for filming;

– There were some technical problems during the filming process too. A camcorder’s microphone provides total sound recording. It is not acceptable if a secondary episode is being filmed (even worse if it is a long-shot) and there is a need to record a dialogue. There is an air layer between the camcorder and the actors which significantly degrades the audio recording quality as the wind can be heard and other unexpected side noises and sounds. The unfavorable natural background dominates in several episodes. If a qualitative audio recording is necessary we need a special stereo microphone with condenser especially designed for this kind of recording or external hands-free microphones;

– We experienced difficulties with video montage. Because of the above mentioned difficulties and shooting at random as well as filming one and the same episode several times extensive video material has been made. First, this material has to be watched, estimated and successful episodes marked in compliance with the script. Secondly, the chosen material must be entered on the computer. The computer needs to have a 1 TB hard disc for storage and processing of the material. At the moment we do not have such a HDD so it will influence the montage time. It will have to be done in parts. After successful completion of separate parts they will be turned into a video film.

The solution of the above problems is in thorough, regular, patient and selfless work. It means an ongoing communication, coordination, arrangement, negotiation, flexibility and ability to make decisions quickly according to the situation. In order to have less problems main characters must be warned about the choice of clothing, bearing the min mind and keeping; about the need to keep to one and the same haircut during the filming process; about a possibility that private plans can have to be changed to go to the filming, etc. Practical problems like the weather, changes in funding or lack of it can be solved by introducing changes to the script, changing dialogues or filming conditions.

Children at the visual arts group had an opportunity to work with some non-traditional materials and means of expression acquiring new skills and abilities which could not have been done only during classes at school.

The sports group started its activities with board games tournaments. Taking into consideration community interests we purchased exercise units which are actively used by senior students and adults.

Schoolchildren in the computer group learned installation and removal of popular application software, OS installation and acquired practical abilities in working on the Internet. Intellectual computer games were also used at the computer classes.

Schoolchildren are willing to engage in the activities organized in the Schoolchildren and Youths Club and would like to continue creative activities in the interest groups.

One more of the Project activities are the Practice and Experience Exchange Club for Adults where all the community groups are represented. They have celebrated the Easter and the Midsummer Night – Latvian national celebrations – together which had been celebrated separately in every house with families and relatives for a long time in Ancene. It turned out that organizing and celebrating together the feelings are different. The following aspects can be mentioned:

– Refreshments – it was possible to spend time when meeting not sitting at a richly covered table but getting by with small treats brought by everyone;

– Arranging a place for an event, decorating it – the joint work created festive feelings. For example at the Easter ornamental gates of natural materials were made and people were happy to take photos at these gates. Participants themselves were eager to decorate rooms for the Midsummer Night – they brought field flowers and oak branches, made wreaths and get ready a Midsummer bonfire as well as decorated premises;

– Participation in a concert – a local women’s vocal ensemble „Atbalsis” („Echoes”) delighted everybody with songs. Active and attractive local ladies entered into the spirit of Easter bunnies, fox and hens’ roles wearing self-made masks. Pre-school children sang, danced and played games;
– Leading and getting involved into games and amusement – these activities during celebrations united people of various ages and they were not led only by the Project group but by local people themselves. Parents together with their children participated in family relays, felt up and cheered each other. The spirit of competition, unity and fun were consistent allies to everybody. The Recitation competition for men must also be mentioned. We saw so many attractive men in one place. It is fun to remember the Easter dancing and playing where the young were rejoicing together with the old;

– Charity – local people and entrepreneurs must be praised who let us use their private property for social events;

– An opportunity of being together – references and thanks testify that people enjoyed what they did; it was interesting and fun, they had an opportunity to dance, to be together with their children and get positive emotions;

– Ability to exit awkward situations – for example, while celebrating the Midsummer Night Līga is called to be congratulated but Jānis comes; a woman asks a man to dance but he declines. These awkward situations were solved delicately, with humor.

Difficulties we faced:

– The weather – several possibilities must be planned for a social event;

– The script for an event must be written by a working group;

– an event leader must be ready for unexpected situations where decisions have to be made immediately – clothing, mask or requisites must be found; the necessary person has to be found, etc.;

– The feeling of insecurity in people. They must be encouraged, supported and helped.

Local people were pleased about an opportunity to celebrate holidays together well-organized and meaningful. They expressed their wish to keep this as a tradition.

Other activities of the Club were mostly practical – sharing experience in gardening, cooking or handicraft.

Life-long Learning Club was attended by adults and schoolchildren. The themes for lectures were chosen according to the wishes people had expressed in a questionnaire. People could listen to both, theoretical and practical lectures. Summarizing the evaluation of the lectures we could see that they had been successfully chosen and people had liked them. The lectures have provided new information, encouraged to self-improvement; people have expressed a wish to continue this activity. It was not easy to coordinate time of them with lecturers and potential listeners. Lecturers often charged more for their lectures than we had planned within the Project framework and travelling expenses also exceeded our estimates.

Within the Project framework there is an Interactive Information Center. People in Ancene can Access the Internet (do internet banking, internet shopping, Exchange information and learn the news, etc.). Women and men, children and young people are willing to attend the Center; they acquire basic computer skills, set up e-mail addresses and write e-mails. People are responsive; sometimes we are even short of computers. It is really great that middle-aged people also want to learn to work on a computer. In summer and during the study year those schoolchildren who do not have computers and/or the internet Access at home come to the center. Those people who do not wish to work on a computer have a possibility to read magazines and newspapers which have been brought to the center by others.

During the Project implementation the role of the school and teachers, their abilities to work, cooperate and involve adults into the school and community culture life has increased considerably. The Project activities have helped to raise awareness of the variety of the school activities.

The Project was a great challenge for the local community; teachers, local entrepreneurs, children, young people, municipality workers and other groups of the community were interested in it. The Project activities were always aligned with the interests of local people. The Project implementation allowed solving problems, acquiring new skills and abilities, raise people’s self-awareness and reduce depression.

An Opportunity of Spending Free Time Meaningfully for Local People at the Leisure Center „Upmala”

Viktorija Roščupkina, Project manager

Since 9 November, 2009 Dagda region Bērziņi parish Porečje village inhabitants have had their own Leisure Center „Upmala” in the place of Upmala Elementary School which has been developed with the support of the Soros Foundation – Latvia. Before that, compiling statistics for 1 August, 2009 we saw that in 2009/2010 only 26 schoolchildren are expected to attend Upmala Elementary School. In compliance with the new funding model further existence of the school was impossible. Therefore Dagda Regional Municipality decided to close Upmala Elementary School on 31 August, 2009.

The school building remained empty and unoccupied; teachers became unemployed; schoolchildren had to think what to do and where to study. Parents were worried about their children; how they would be able to adapt to their new schools. On seeing the growing tension in the community the school management had an idea to transform Upmala Elementary School into a Leisure Center where local children and young people, as well as their parents could get involved in various activities, as the school had always been a place where life had been vibrating. Even after the closure of the school children’s parents had addressed the Bērziņi parish administration and asked to restore the interest group activities so that children could spend their free time, realize their interests, acquire new skills, find like-minded and support others in this difficult transition period. Since the opening of the Leisure Center „Upmala” various events and classes have been taking place in it. Children, young people and adults are invited to them. The offer is very versatile and it is based on the review of the needs and wishes of the local community. We offer interest education classes to children and young people (sports, studies of local history) and public internet Access point. In their turn all the adults have an opportunity to learn on life-long learning programs – computer courses and the English language on beginner’s level. Families with children have Access to psychologist’s and speech therapist’s consultations; a playroom is also available for children.

From December, 2009 to May, 2010 psychologist’s consultations were offered twice a week to schoolchildren in our Center. These were with the aim of more successful adaptation in Ezernieki High School. A positive moment was the fact that all the schoolchildren went to a new school simultaneously, so they were not parted from their friends. At the very start of her work the psychologist did a survey „How do you feel in your new school?” to find out the feelings in that new environment and obtain information about the most topical problems schoolchildren are having. 13 schoolchildren attending the Leisure Center „Upmala” (Grades 2 to 9) participated in the survey. From their answers it could be seen that most schoolchildren had successfully adapted to the new educational establishment (68%), but quite a considerable part of responders answered they felt insecure and miserable. All the children judged the relationships with teachers as positive, sincere, good. Evaluating mutual relationships in the class 72% of the children also admitted they had good relations with their classmates. Anxiety and tension in schoolchildren is often caused by the assessment and teachers’ remarks. Almost half of the responders admitted they did not experience any fear at school. However they mentioned name-calling, beating and threat from the others as negative factors.

From the results obtained the psychologist made a conclusion that social stress is characteristic of the schoolchildren – emotions which they experience when they are trying to fit in social environment (present themselves in a peers’ group, take up a certain place, be positively evaluated); fear of tests which are an integral part of school life. To help the children the psychologist used variety of methods in her work: elements of fairy-tales’ therapy, games, visualization, art therapy, role playing, group discussions, modeling and analyzing problematic situations, associative methodology. These activities aroused interest in children; some of the schoolchildren had individual consultations with the psychologist. Adults were also interested in psychological support; they attended both individual and group consultations. If the psychologist continues her work, we are sure the number of her visitors is going to increase.

The Center has a good material and technical base that was left over from the former Upmala Elementary School – renovated and equipped facilities with a local wood heating. In 2008 internet access for the needs of schoolchildren and teachers has been established in the computer class on the European Social Funding. When closing the school the internet access was suspended. We are happy that thanks to the SFL financing two new computers were purchased for the needs of the Leisure center and a public internet access point with all the necessary equipment continues to operate. It provided free of charge printing and copying services to the local community. Nowadays the internet and a computer are of great help in everyday work, studies and they help to broaden the horizons of everybody.

Within the Project framework 22 local people of different age acquired basic computer skills. We had not expected such an interest in the activities of the new Center. Computer classes brought about understanding on the opportunities offered by information Technologies and practical experience was provided. The courses were attended by people from various age groups; mostly they were farmers who need computer skills to prepare their reports, make payments, get the latest news, learn about the latest regulations and laws in the legislation and communicate with their friends. There were some participants on the course who put their hand on the computer mouse for the first time. The courses provided an opportunity to meet others, exchange experience, acquire new knowledge and learn to use the internet. Thanks to the teacher Olga Brenča the participants acquired computer skills, passed a test and received a certificate. A wish to continue the studies and learn more about computers was expressed in the end of the course. Evaluating the computer courses participants accredited that the courses had been on a high level, the organization was good too; the time suited everybody as the participants were divided into three groups taking into account their real possibilities to attend the classes.

Only positive references and wishes were heard about the computer courses. People wished not only to continue computer studies but not to interrupt the activities in the Leisure Center in general after the end of the Project. „Our community needs such center very much. It would be great if it could exist further on,” one of the questionnaires filled in by the participants said.

One of the rooms in the Center is arranged as a playroom with a variety of developing games. It is very popular with young mothers and their children. Parents can leave their small ones here and children are looked after every day except on Sunday and Monday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. A very efficient and responsive teacher Irēna Čapkeviča looks after each child and helps to acquire different skills paying individual attention to him or her. Children have possibilities to play, as well as to draw, make greeting cards and ornaments for various celebrations. They usually do it with great pleasure and interest. As the teacher is a pre-school and home economics teacher children are not afraid to come to her to ask for some advice or help when doing different things, for example, knitting or crocheting, etc.

We are happy to provide sporty active environment to our community. With the support of the Soros Foundation – Latvia we have purchased a Novus table, a tennis table and ten pairs of skis. Children, young people and adults of our parish are happy to do winter sports and this year we have already made a conclusion which activities are more popular in winter and which – in summer. In summer when days are long and schoolchildren have their school holidays outdoor activities are especially popular. In the yard of the Leisure Center „Upmala” a volleyball court was set up and it was actively used by young people. Players formed teams where everybody was equal – both children and adults. To widen the range of sports activities the leader of the sports group Jevgēnijs Igaunis offered to organize football games too; a lot of local people participated in those. In the beginning of August a youth team from our parish participated in Dagda region Olympics.

In cold winter evenings everybody loves to be inside, in the warmth. Table tennis, Novus and backgammon are popular then. A lot of people wish to do some sport in winter. Some of them know only a particular game, but learnt the other games from other participants and the sports group leader. All winter long the participants of the sports group played their favorite games and then in spring they could compete in a tournament. Table tennis tournament was organized for all the age groups – from children to adults. But only schoolchildren dared to demonstrate their backgammon skills.

Within the Project framework we offered to learn the English language at the Center. It was interesting how the teacher created the first impression about the language with the help of various creative activities and helped the participants of the course to master a variety of everyday English topics. The teacher, formerly a teacher at Upmala Elementary School Jevgēnijs Igaunis is very skilful and has a great experience in teaching. It was highly evaluated by the participants too who were very thankful for the opportunity to learn something new and enrich their knowledge. There were not too many participants on this course, but those who came really wanted to learn the language.

There is also a local history club in the Leisure Center „Upamala”. The aim of this club is to gather as much materials as possible on the school, the parish, its population, and the sights in the parish and the culture life in it. The club is actively attended by the former students at Upmala Elementary School and their parents. They get involved into various activities, help to organize exhibitions and gather materials for them. With the help of former students, their parents and teachers an exposition „Drawings by Former Upamala Elementary Schoolchildren” has been established. Drawings created by schoolchildren within many recent years were collected and sorted for this exposition.

An exposition „”Study Materials” has been set up in the local history club. There are plenty of books on the shelves which can still be used for studying. Participants of the club are making an album „Our School Leavers” where they collect photos with schoolchildren and class teachers. Even photos of those who left our school in the 50s of the previous century can be seen in this album. The participants wanted to get to know more about life in our parish within a longer period of time. Collecting materials they were able to organize an exhibition „Our Parish Inhabitants in the News”. The exhibition shows articles from newspapers about local farmers and their farms, as well as about other inhabitants of our parish.

Local people were very supportive to the initiative of the Parish librarian Olga Brenča who voluntary organized a paper folding interest group „Origami” in the Leisure Center in December, 2009. 13 adults and schoolchildren attended the first class. There were also retired people among the participants. The interest group was active through all the winter until farm work was to be started. Participants of this group made various interesting works in versatile techniques which were later exhibited in Bērziņi People’s Center, Asūne People’s Center, Krāslava People’s Center and in Robežnieki, Krāslava region. The youngest participants of the group participated with their pieces of work at a Book Festival in Krāslava.

Children and young people in the parish are very responsive, active, curios; they get involved in various events and spend their free time actively. On 29 December, 2009 we had the first big event – a Christmas celebration in the cozy premises of the Leisure Center „Upmala” which was organized for pre-school children together with Bērziņi parish territorial administration. There are only seven children at the pre-school age in the parish. Supported by the Bērziņi parish administration the Santa gave all the children small, but lovely presents. The children and their parents were very happy. Surely the celebration did not do without poems dedicated to the Santa, songs sung together and games.

At the time when short winter days are becoming longer, when the weather starts to change for warmer and more spring-like, the Latvians celebrate Meteņi# – seven weeks before the Easter, at the time when the Fasting starts for Catholics. It is important in spring to ensure the harvest of the next year with the help of various magic, fertility raising rituals. A pre-condition of good harvest at Meteņi is sledging. So we had a lively celebration of Meteņi at our Center too. Big and small ones, old and young ones were gathered. As Meteņi is celebrated before the fasting the table is richly covered in food. It was possible thanks to our sponsor – a local Alla Kalnače. There was abundance of pies and pancakes at Meteņi.

On 29 September when the Latvians celebrate Miķeļi# we organized an exhibition of autumn flowers and vegetables in the Center. The response was great. Adults and children participated in the celebration. The compositions exhibited were fantastic!

On 9 August, 2010 foundations were laid for cooperation with Rīga Catholic Gymnasium. Pilgrims from Rīga Catholic Gymnasium who went to the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Ascension Day at Aglona Basilica visited the Center and stayed here overnight.

Within the framework of the Project „Change Opportunities for Schools” preparing for the Summer School all the Project participants had to do homework – write an essay „What does Latvia mean for me and what can I give to it?” To do this homework we questioned inhabitants of different age groups in our parish. Children, young people and adults from Bērziņi parish in Dagda region expressed their ideas about Latvia, their native country where their ancestors had lived for hundreds of years. Answers were quite similar: „Latvia is beautiful; it has beautiful nature, culture and traditions. Latvia is a place where my heart and soul belongs, where my family and friends live, a place where always return to. Latvia is associated with oak trees that are symbols of power, strength and mightiness.” Children and young people acknowledge that they will do everything to help the Latvians live dignified and decent lives. „We give our love to Latvia; we offer our working hand to it. We are for a clean and tidy country!”

During the Project implementation overall mood of the rural community was improved in Bērziņi parish. The Center became an active gathering point for the local community, a place for searching innovative solutions in education, employment and social sphere on a little developed border area. After the end of the Project Dagda regional municipality will continue supporting the „Family Center” on the pre-course of the Leisure Center „Upmala”. The opening of the Family Center for further activities is very important not only for the community of our parish or region, but also for the whole Latvia as such centers can dissociate young people from the impact of ill-disposed environment – youth is our future! Involvement of family members into the activities of the center helps parents to understand their children better and find the right way in their upbringing. When parents are involved into social processes together with their children correlation between children and parents is strengthened, trust is built between parents and children which is a key to successful solution of problems.

To reduce the risk of exclusion in the country the team of the Leisure Center established an NGO „For the Future” on 5 May, 2010 with the aim to create favorable conditions for families with children, for the personality development of children and youth of various social groups supporting their initiatives and promoting young people’s participation in public processes on local, national and international levels. We submitted a Project „To School Together with a Family” to the Community Initiative Fund. Dagda regional municipality supported our initiative and decided to provide co-funding. In cooperation with Dagada regional municipality a Project application for an activity within the LEADER program „Developing New Natural and Cultural Attractions and the Arrangement of the Existing Objects for the Purpose of Diversifying the Public Activities of the Local Population” is being prepared. Activities within the framework of Latvia and Switzerland Cooperation Program have been supported as a result of which office premises for „Nākotne” are going to be renovated, furnished and equipped with a computer and a multi-functional device. The Society „Nākotne” in Bērziņi parish takes part in Project competitions, raise the community awareness with the help of the media, actively participate in social events and help to organize the min the parish, as well as cooperate with local entrepreneurs and children and youth in the parish.

Improving Meaningful Leisure Time Opportunities for Local Community

Andris Punculis, Gārsene Elementary School Project director

The project supported by the SFL is coming to an end, so it is time to summarize our results, achievements, challenges and experience gained within the Project, therefore my article is going to be very practical and maybe can be of some use to others when working on various projects.

Every project starts with a hope and ideas that we might participate in it too. When I found out about this particular project I shared my ideas with colleagues and got encouraging support to go ahead. It made me think of the answers to the following questions:

  1. What should I start with?
  2. Why do we want to participate?
  3. What the main directions of the project will be?
  4. Who will implement the project?
  5. Who will support the project?
  6. What the outcomes and achievements of the project will be?
  7. What is the potential sustainability of the project?

 

To my mind the most difficult and time consuming part of any project is its development and preparing for submission, therefore I would like to share my experience of this. Although the SFL project is a grant project and no co financing is necessary first of all I informed Aknīste regional municipality about the project. Understanding the difficult situation small rural schools were in and seeing perspectives of small school survival in the SFL project the municipality provided unequivocal support to us. Only after that work on project development could start. Certainly one person can have a lot of great ideas but to develop this kind of quite big projects a good team must be organized first. I must confess that personally I did not have any experience with such huge projects. The core of the team consisted of teachers, parish administration manager and the manager of the Culture House; later potential leaders of activities were attracted to the project. As I have already mentioned we asked the regional municipality for advice and suggestions. The project team already during the first meetings tried to formulate an answer to a seemingly simple question – why do we need it and what benefits will the project bring to the school and Gārsene community? This was why we analyzed the local situation after the forced implementation of the Administrative and territorial reform. We made a conclusion that our parish has its traditions and peculiarities.

The most vivid peculiarity of Gārsene Parish is the location of Aknīste Mental Hospital in its territory. There are about 400 patients and 250 people operating staff. The patients are very different but part of them could participate in the community social life. The staff also would have an opportunity to spend their free time and improve themselves. Gārsene parish has traditionally been famous for its good order and has been accredited the best kept parish in Jēkabpils district, as well as has gained recognition at Zemgale regional shows of parishes. Pleasant and well attended nature tourism trails have been developed with local people and Gārsene Elementary School students’ efforts. A major contribution in developing the trails has been given by senior schoolboys who worked on setting up places for recreation and carved wooden signs and object names. Their professional should be developed and a possibility to acquire wood working and metal working skills should be given to other people too (the unemployed, young people in the parish, patients at Aknīste Mental Hospital). Gārsene Elementary School is famous for its amateur and sports traditions and has always been a culture, sports and social life center in the parish. Close cooperation with Catholic and Lutheran pastors must be mentioned. Talented and experienced teachers work at the school. The teachers are culture, sport and tourism leaders in the parish therefore they can give their contribution to the implementation of the project. Due to demographic crisis the number of students at the school has fallen dramatically. In 2009/2010 57 students attended our school but in 1999 there were 102 students there. Unfortunately projections showed that in 2010/2011 the number could decrease to less than 50 students. Due to the educational reform principle „money follows a student” the funding for the school had catastrophically decreased both for teachers’ remuneration and amateur, sports, technical innovation and other interest groups. Due to the administrative and territorial reform the parish had become a remote part of the region; public facilities have moved away (Social service, Custody Court, etc.). Children and the whole community are pessimistic. We decided that school premises, including sports, home economics and IT classes could be widely used for schoolchildren extra activities and for drawing in the whole community in education, social needs, sport, amateur and other activities. Making use of the opportunities provided by the SFL project and improving resources for the needs of home economics, sports, IT and culture Gārsene Elementary School could become a multi-functional education, culture and social support center.

Having made these conclusions and estimated the real situation in the parish we faced the first difficulties and a question aroused – will schoolchildren and local inhabitants want to make use of the opportunities provided by the SFL project and what activities are they interested in? Theoretically we could plan even classes in ballet or space research! As there was little time for project development we did not have time to do proper polling of the community. So we made use of the advantages a school has – we sent questionnaires to our schoolchildren’s parents and very soon got their answers with ideas and suggestions. It was not a problem of course, to investigate the needs and wishes of our schoolchildren. We also met the management and staff of Aknīste Mental Hospital and investigated their interests. It was easier to get to know the community opinion because the manager of the local culture house was in the project team and we were supported by the parish administration. As our parish is small and we know each other quite well we simply met or called local inhabitants. The Pensioners’ Council and the Regional Social Service expressed their ideas too.

After reviewing the real situation and the community interests we could formulate the aim and objectives of the project. So, we decided that the aim of the project is transforming Gārsene Elementary School into a multi-functional education, culture and social support center. We saw expanding and updating the school facilities in order to meet the main aim, ensuring that needs and interests of various inhabitants’ groups are met and maintaining the school and teachers’ potential in order to provide qualitative education and harmonious development of children in Gārsene parish as basic objectives of the project.

After setting the aims and objectives the project team divided responsibilities – the vice project director undertook the difficult task of fixed assets and inventory procurement planning, others worked on planning a summer camp for children. All together we discussed and made decisions about potential leaders of project activities who immediately would become members of the project team. I personally met the potential leaders and we were happy – everyone addressed (even those people who do not work in the school) were full of enthusiasm to participate in the project and soon after they already were giving their viewpoints and proposing activity programs.

Writing a project application after all these preliminary actions was just a technical job the most difficult part of which was drawing up the budget estimates. In order to draw up a fixed assets and inventory procurement estimate the vice project director investigated offers on the internet, went to biggest shops and warehouses in Jēkabpils and Daugavpils as well as made use of his own experience with sports, home economics and IT inventory. The project director used his experience with music inventory. In their turn activity leaders, investigating the real situation submitted lists of their inventory, stationery, tools etc. needs.

Developing the project the team asked a question – what the project outcomes and the project sustainability are. To find answers to these questions we looked for help at the regional administration. We must thank the Mayor of the Regional Council I. Ielejs. Together with him we tried to predict and play the possible options for the continuation of the project. Of course, we understood that very much depends on the financial situation in the country and region, but the support to the project sustainability was unequivocal. We expected that the activities started within the project framework after the end of the project could be partially financed by the municipality, potential sponsors as well as participants could co finance them themselves. Our trump is the fact that the school is situated in Gārsene Palace therefore its maintenance is a concern of the whole region.

The message about nomination of our project for the second round and later about the project approval brought happiness and enthusiasm. Before starting the project implementation we had to address a number of practical issues: planning and adjusting the timetable, arranging activities and participants’ recruiting, organizing classes and getting feedback from participants, recording the project activities, publicity issues, compliance with legal norms when recruiting activity leaders and adding facilities (purchasing fixed assets, inventory, stationery, etc.), etc.

As the emphasis is on improving meaningful leisure time opportunities in the local community the main task was to organize various classes. We met all the activity leaders and class teachers once more and together with them planned class times. As some classes are held in the Culture House which has been adapted for the needs of sports activities too, the timetable had to be coordinated with the manager of the Culture House. Afterwards we showed the possible timetable to local people. Once more the school advantages were made use of and we sent invitations and timetables through our schoolchildren to their parents. We also placed notices on information panels (they can be found in all the settlements in our parish). We spoke to people and invited them to classes whenever we met anyone, and called them to tell about the opportunities. Activity leaders were actively involved in recruiting their „teams”. We made use of the local newspaper „Aknīstes Vēstis” and the regional newspaper „Brīvā Daugava”. Surely the social network „draugiem.lv” helped too. We had some difficulties as well. Interests of workers had to be considered so most of the classes were planned after work or in the evening. The most active local people started attending classes in 3 – 5 interest groups; thus the first week passes in trying to coordinate the timetable and solve other organizational issues. Taking into consideration the interests and the number of participants we changed the specifics of classes. As a result starting from the first week we could offer the following activities and groups which were very soon full.

Class, Interest Group Time Leader Number of Participants
Computer Basics Monday   15.00–19.00 L. Mažeika 20
Christian Values Group Tuesday     16.00–19.00 A. Lenšs 11
Vocal and instrumental ensemble (schoolchildren) Tuesday      15.00–16.30 A. Punculis 7
Vocal and instrumental ensemble Tuesday      18.00–21.00 A. Punculis 8
Volleyball Tuesday      17.00–18.30 P. Stalidzāns 15
Floor ball Wednesday    17.00–18.30 P. Stalidzāns 17
Communication Psychology Wednesday    16.00–18.00 Dz. Vanaga 24
Home Economics for Young Women Thursday   15.00–17.00 J. Krasovska 16
Conversational English Thursday   18.00–20.00 I. Ķiķēna 19
Sports group (fitness) Thursday   16.00–18.00 G. Geida 8
Wood Working and Metal Working Basis Friday     16.00–19.30 G. Geida 7
Youth Dance Group Friday     15.00–17.00 M. Caunīte 9
Physiotherapy Friday     18.00–20.00 I. Vārna 16
Total 177

Group leaders started the classes in compliance with the programs and arranged a class register. We held a view that feedback is very important. After each class participants did some evaluation work (gave marks, drew pictograms, etc.). The project managers met participants during classes and at other times daily. Thus we could take into account recommendations of the participants (ex. on classroom times, separate topics, etc.). We also asked the participants to give more detailed evaluation after the first semester.

We also started making a project portfolio – classes and the summer camp were photographed. A description of the summer camp was written and a video material made. Children and their parents were present at the camp closing. Materials on the project are available at Gārsene Elementary School at any time. There are only positive references on all the classes. Communication psychology, computer basics, physiotherapy and others were especially popular with the participants. However the specifics of rural life must be taken into consideration and during farm work periods in spring and autumn attendance decreased. At the request of the participants and taking into account the specificities of the school we suspended most classes during summer but in autumn we increased the number of classes.

    During the project implementation we continued work on the project publicity and promotion through regional press, arranging meetings with local community and individuals, etc. We regularly informed Aknīste District Municipal Education and Culture Committee and the District Council about the project. The full scale support from the municipality must be mentioned. Good cooperation was promoted by the fact that the project director and vice director both are members of the district local government. We also have a possibility to promote the SFL project to thousands of people (and we make use of this opportunity) as Gārsene Tourist Information Center is situated in Gārsene Elementary School.
This year Gārsene palace participates in the campaign „Visit Castles and Manors”. All the multiple visitors surely are interested in the fate of our school, and we had an opportunity to tell everybody about the project and its significance as the tourist guides and the TIC manager are members of the project team.
Lack of experience on our part caused a situation in the beginning of the project that we did not know how to legally provide correct pay for activity and course leaders. We consulted the district municipality, the State Revenue Service and lawyers. It was possible to conclude an agreement on the employment contract for additional duties with teachers of Gārsene Elementary School. Terminated employment contracts for particular duties were concluded with others.

The second direction was restoring and improving material resources. In January and February we already started purchasing fixed assets. We faced difficulties because of lack of experience and procurement regulations. During procurement process we complied with the project contract requirements. Luckily the internet made the procurement easier, as we could investigate the most advantageous deals and coordinate purchases with the SFL. Taking into account price differences, planning the budget and choosing really most advantageous offers we could save money and purchase more or more useful fixed assets. Comfortable IT and home economics classrooms, fitness hall, musical instruments etc. are indicative of the project sustainability.

Although the project is still continuing we have tried to answer a question – what we have achieved.

Certainly it is raised community activity in our parish. The project team was surprised at the great number of participants at various classes. We even had to organize three groups for IT classes and classrooms became too confined for communication psychology classes. Classes and interest groups are attended by local people from very different age groups. So grannies together with their granddaughters do needlework at handicraft classes; the school team competes with local „seniors” in floor ball and volleyball. We have achieved also tangible and visible results – participants of the handicraft group took part in a regional exhibition with their works; the dance group delighted people while participating at various concerts; just an ill luck did not let our volleyball players achieve higher results in „Lāse” Cup Tournament; the vocal and instrumental ensemble has performed at several parties; the school team has got the first prize in the Landlords’ Tournament organized by the Association of Latvia’s Castles, Palaces and Manors, etc. It can be seen in the timetable that there are several activities every day and the light at Gārsene Castle and Culture House does not go out until late at night. The school has become „the headquarters” of activities in Gārsene where all the parish events are planned and organized. As an example the regional Olympic Games can be mentioned where 12 teams took part. A lot of young inhabitants at Gārsene are thankful for the project activities. It was planned to accommodate 15 children for 15 days at the summer camp. But already during the planning process we decided that we were going to include a larger number of children, first of all from families with low income and those subject to social risks, therefore we decided to organize two shorter camps. The lists of participants were coordinated with the regional social service and as a result 30 children (most of them schoolchildren) spent a wonderful week and more at the camps. Of course, the biggest achievement of the project is the very fact of maintaining the school and the teachers there. The schools participating in the projects financed by the SFL both in former Jēkabpils region and Aknīste district are perceived quite differently. If last summer we still feared for the existence of small schools, this summer there was no mention of such an issue.

Another important question was – what the project sustainability was.

The project team concluded that even after the project end activities in local community would certainly continue. In September and October we did the participants’ poll. When asked if they were ready to partially finance the organization of classes in the future 95% answered affirming. Consequently, we have managed to come to an agreement with the regional municipality that, when planning the budget for 2011 funding several activities will be included in it. Several interest groups and their leaders are ready to proceed with their activities without any remuneration; the municipality and the school could provide premises (electricity, heating, etc.). The project sustainability will be promoted by the resources purchased within the project framework. If not for the Soros Foundation – Latvia, the school would not have been able to purchase them. The experience gained by the project team who worked on and managed such a big project for the first time, must be also mentioned as a positive outcome of the project. The team gained experience not only from their activities. As out of the three schools in our region Asare Secondary school also participates in the project, we can help each other very much. We communicate or even meet almost every week; it helps to manage the project work. Thanks to the internet site www.parmainuskolas.lv we learned about other projects, could make use of other schools experience and ideas.
Approaching the project end we can see some drawbacks and ideas for new projects in the future. Possibly we dispersed the activities too much, as 13 different ones maybe were too many for our small parish (there are 680 permanent inhabitants in our parish), as the most active local people who participate in 3 – 5 interest groups are too busy and they had to quit some of them. To organize social life of the community a larger team should have been arranged who could regularly plan the activities in the parish in the form of discussions, brain storming, forums or some other way. It could help to eliminate the „peripheral syndrome” and further activate the social life in our parish. Classes in project writing would be very useful as that way we could help farmers, cultural workers, teachers, etc. Our experience shows that the specifics of rural life must be taken into account more thoroughly.
Here are some conclusions on the project made by the participants.
Uldis (a participant of vocal and instrumental ensemble, 44): „Great. A dream of mine I have had for so many years has come true. I have been able to come together with others and play an instrument in the evenings. I wanted to start a long time ago, but the project came in the right time and served as a jerk to start doing things. The main thing now – I must not stop!”
Regīna (physiotherapist, 56): „I am full of positive emotions. It was a great opportunity to devote the time to myself. We had a very nice teacher – helpful, young and pleasant. A very good young teacher; it was a pleasure to work under her guidance. We must continue what we have started by all means!”
Lūcija (communication psychology, 38): „I came to the classes with great pleasure. I could go on with them, and they would never be too much for me. I can apply my knowledge at work; it helps me to understand various situations, communication with my colleagues, patients and family members better. I will be looking forward to the continuation.”
On the whole the project testified:

– The community is interested and supports the project activities; local people wish to proceed with the activities;

– The renovated and improved material and technical base is indicative of the project sustainability;

– The project is supported by the regional municipality and the parish administration;

– When planning activities the community interests and rural specifics must be taken into consideration;

– Projects must be flexible (both, with reference to the use of resources and activities);

– The project has helped to maintain the school and the teaching staff;

– The school is being transformed into a multicultural local community center.

Project Brings Changes to Dunava Parish

Gunta Dimitrijeva, the Project Director, Astra Liopa, the Project manager

Implementation of the Project „Transforming Dunava Elementary School into a Multi-functional education, culture and social support Center” has ruffled the quiet life of people living far from big cities. Attending classes and events within the Project, active involvement into its implementation, generating ideas and looking for solutions have become everyday life for people in Dunava parish.

The aim of the activity „Developing and Equipping a Social Resource Center, Setting up Local Network” was to organize and teach local community to cooperate and to provide the necessary infrastructure. Within the activity two seminars took place – on 29 January and 26 February, 2010. Each of the two seminars was attended by 22 people. Participants at the seminars exchanged their ideas of social justice, discussed team development and working in a team, the role of a leader in a team, the principles of social networking, looking for allies and attracting them to the Project; studied the needs of local community. The class leaders encouraged the participants to study the local community needs and think of how to make life more interesting, how to escape the depression of changes. At the conclusion of the seminars the participants admitted that it was a „great opportunity to learn for everybody who wishes to”, „exciting practical activities, an opportunity to get to know oneself and the others”, „an opportunity of working in a team, Express one’s thoughts and listen to others” and „useful information and good materials were given to us”. Sharing ideas a hope is expressed that the new center could become a place where everyone feels expected for, where new ideas and possibilities are born. It is very important that the classes are free and they take place close to the participants’ homes. A lot of people express their hopes that because of the Project activities local inhabitants (not only parents of schoolchildren who have real interest in keeping the school) will become more open, more active and will realize their importance. Elderly people are happy because classes are attended by young people too. It means life in Dunava is not going to stop. The information on the Project and events organized within its framework was provided through a local newsletter, announcements and posters in the parish center but the most effective way was to addressing people personally both by telephone and when meeting.

Within the activity „Center Support to the School and Families with Children” an aim was set – by the help innovative activities to support families with children; children with learning difficulties and children from social risk groups.  Within this activity on 17 and 18 March, 2010 seminars „Preparing five and six years old children for school” take place where teachers and parents are acquainted with preparing five and six years old children for basic education and latest techniques for promoting children’s learning activities. 23 participants were present at the seminars – basically parents, grandparents, teachers and students. The audience was motivated to learn more about preconditions of qualitative pre-school education, clarify peculiarities of five and six year old children development and recognize the vision, goals and objectives of pre-school education. Thinking of practical things it is important to know how to help a child to learn to read/write, form mathematical concepts, see and understand nature coherencies. Cooperation between school and parents, parents and school has an essential role in all the above mentioned.

The participants of the seminar recognized that the classes were very fascinating; they got practical advice on how to help children learn and how to encourage learning with pleasure. A suggestion was put forward to organize classes where participants could learn how to find contacts with teenagers and help the min the study process.

Within this activity two more seminars took place on 6 and 7 May „Qualitative Education for Children with Special Needs”. 25 people, mostly teachers from Dunava, Dignāja, Asare, as well as Jēkabpils participated in it. There were also parents who care about their children among the participants. The main topics discussed at the seminar – developing partnership between the school and families, opportunities and methods of qualitative education in an inclusive school, inclusive education in Latvia and basic principles of adopting learning materials.

Commentaries by the seminar participants – „a lot of practical ideas for working with children with special needs as the knowledge acquired can be used in lessons and class teaching”,  „a fascinating recommended system of learning concepts – I will use it in my lessons”, „thank you for the materials and stimulating games – I will try to play them with my grandchildren”. As Dunava Elementary School implements study programs for children with special needs these seminars were very useful and educating. Participants had opportunities of sharing their experience, talking to each other and listening to other teachers’ opinions. The biggest benefit of the seminar – interesting methods of teaching as teacher’s efforts of supporting children with special needs very often meet lack of specific knowledge. Successful teacher’s work starts and finishes with attitude. The seminars were concluded with optimism and a wish: let all of us – parents, grandparents, teachers – have the strength and patience for working with children with learning difficulties.

Within the framework of this activity a unique, unprecedented event took place in Dunava – Summer Academy for Schoolchildren with the aim of creating meaningful, creative and interesting leisure time opportunities for schoolchildren, giving them possibilities of mental and physical improvement, as well as developing their skills of team, group and individual work. Every day had a specific theme, aim and objectives. Schoolchildren had a Sports Day, a hiking tour „Heritage sites of Dunava parish center and its neighborhood”, creative workshops „Making Puzzles”, „Developing one’s Book”, science Experiments Day, an excursion „Private Local History Museums in Dunava Community”, A Little School of Cooking, a Day of Intellectual Games and Artistic Creativity Day. 23 schoolchildren at the age from 9 to 15 took part in these activities – mainly they were schoolchildren from Dunava Elementary School but 2 schoolchildren were from Jēkabpils and 2 from Dignāja Elementary School. Everybody was a winner as a lot of interesting places were seen, participants learned to play table tennis, novuss, floor ball (which was bought within the framework of the SFL Project), make different puzzles, hands were tried in cooking, application of principles of physics, chemistry and mathematics in life was learned and many other useful skills and abilities acquired. Schoolchildren themselves admit that these two weeks passed very quickly; they did not regret that participated in these activities while others were doing nothing on their holidays; they were proud of being the first to learn the principles of table tennis and novuss, playing „Monopoly” and „Are You Smarter than a Fifth-grader?”, having hot and tasty lunch every day. It did not matter that some day they drenched in rain on their way to classes, it was difficult to get up in the morning, but they gained so much, the emotional experience and pride in them was really great. It was even intensified by the fact that every participant received a certificate testifying their attendance at the Summer Academy, from hands of the Chairman of Jēkabpils Region Town Council E. Meņķis, and a notebook for friends’ addresses. In the end a common photo was taken and everybody was enjoying the satisfaction of the Summer Academy.

To provide the sustainability of the Project and to promote cooperation between an educational establishment, non-governmental sector and entrepreneurs, as well as activate parents and local community members, events within activity „Support of the Center in Strengthening Community with Regard to Education and Employment” were implemented.

On 23 August, 2010 a seminar „From an Idea to the Project” took place. The aim of this seminar was to provide insight into Project work, show how to write an application and develop a Project. 25 people from Dunava, Dignāja and Jēkabpils participated in the seminar. Participants dividend into groups and wrote project applications. There were ideas of developing a handicraft museum, restoring a family house – half a manor, organizing sports games for children, improving primary schoolchildren leisure time activities, arranging a lounge for teachers to improve their work quality. Many participants came to a conclusion that it is difficult and labor consuming to write a Project application so that it gets support. Good ideas must be planned and worked out to be implemented.

Within the framework of this activity practical classes in housing arrangement and home economics take place. In July and August training in repair work was organized. As a result of this redecoration was done in the Center. Participants admit that the major benefit was an ability to do repairs by themselves and to improve their own environment and living space. Respondents thanked for the possibility of learning and acquiring new skills and abilities; they confess that theoretically everything seemed easier before. They recognize as valuable the ability to use different tools and work with modern materials. The most boring and labor consuming was preparation of walls, ceiling and floor for further processing, but after that one could see the result and feel the satisfaction on the progress. Most participants were willing to proceed with the activity. Now we know that the training has given the expected result – in the end of the summer participants of at least three practical trainings have done redecoration work in their homes as well, and the knowledge and skills acquired during the trainings have been of great use.

Practical trainings in cooking also took place within the framework of this activity. People present at the trainings not only learned how to cook but also exchanged recipes and spend their free time meaningfully, interesting and tasty. Participants made different cookies, which were tasted also by those people who had come for the Poetry Day in Tadenava. Two more trainings are still planned. Trainings in cooking and repairs were carried out by local teachers; they developed programs too. These teachers have gained wonderful experience now. In order to help local people be active in the future appropriate trainings were considered.

As a culture support activity on 2 June, 2010 a seminar „An Ethnographic Method as Means of Local Culture Accumulation and Generation Cooperation” took place with the aim of learning to preserve culture heritage, investigate a community or ethnic group, its culture, gather information on it and record this information very accurately. 19 people participated in the seminar; they got an insight into folklore collection process, investigating a piece of handicraft with the method of critical thinking, learned new ways of drawing children, parents and teachers into investigation process. Participants admit that they learned very much interesting and new about craft research; it encourages them to look through family crafts and keep them for the next generations. The knowledge acquired at the seminar will be of great use when doing small projects at school, setting up and arranging exhibitions there. The participants are satisfied that classes pass unnoticed; theory is alternated with practice which makes them especially interesting.

Within the activity culture events to promote cooperation between generations in the community and to activate culture life in the community are being organized. On 10 September, 2010 the Poetry Day in Tadenava was organized. Young writers from Jelgava under the guidance R. Urtāne; Dunava Elementary School students read poetry by Rainis, Dunava Women’s Vocal Ensemble and Folklore Group from Rubeņi sang. The event was very sincere and nice; it was attended by people of different generations from the neighborhood and schoolchildren from neighboring schools. There was a tea break with biscuit tasting which made the event even more sincere. During those days there was a flowers‘exhibition „Autumn. Poetry. Flowers.” in Dunava Elementary School and a Poetry lesson took place.

On 29 September, 2010 Dunava Elementary School invited everybody to „Miķeļdiena Garden Party”. People were encouraged to make compositions of vegetables and other nature materials and place them in the lawn in front of the school. We could enjoy a big hedgehogs’ family, flower carpet and other figures. Each class prepared a CV for a vegetable, an advertisement and a performance about it. Inhabitants of Dunava who had come to the event were also drawn into the games and activities. In the end of the event we all together enjoyed Miķeļdiena soup.

An afternoon organized within the Project framework, „From a Rye Grain to a Bread Loaf” got an unexpectedly high response. It was devoted to one of our traditional national value – bread. Participants at the age from just one year to a very old age enjoyed schoolchildren’s performances – theatrical tales, charades, songs, and dances, listened to beliefs on bread, stories about bread making traditions and its role in people’s lives. The event was enriched by the presence of Aglona Bread Museum manager and her narration; a local community representative Stankevičs exchanged his experience on bread making who had brought three types of self-made bread with him.  More than 70 participants joined together in a song; the atmosphere during the event was made even more sincere and non-formal by feasting with tea, different types of bread and sandwiches made by participants.

If we were asked what we gained from transforming Dunava Elementary School into a multi-functional education, culture and social support center, we could say: „New cognitions, ability to realize we can do more than we could imagine before; we got to know each other better.”

Our gain from the Project is responsiveness of local community as more than 70 people participated at seminars and practical trainings – adults who are economically active, retired people, the unemployed, people with low income and the poor, large families. It is important for everybody to feel needed and useful in Dunava.

Contemplations of the Project Director Gunta Dimitrijeva on the experience gained and the Project sustainability:
Developing and implementing this Project the municipality has gained new and unique experience. As Jēkabpils District Municipality was formed as a result of territorial reform combining seven smaller municipalities any activity that strengthens inner cooperation within the administrative territory of the municipality and supports local inhabitants is extremely important. The SFL supported Project „awakened” local representatives’ initiatives, motivated them to be active to participate and be able to see the opportunities of development corresponding to the present situation.
People in Dunava parish did not have any previous experience of Project implementation therefore a Project administration model where a Project Director with previous experience and a Project manager who had no such experience was developed. An accountant and a manager of the prospective Center also work in the Project team; they have not had any experience of Project work before either. Such solution provided for the Project implementation in compliance with the plan, SFL terms and demands of LR laws and regulations. As a positive fact must be stressed that developing the Project a survey was done and the Project team focused on the problem identified. This promoted further steps – development of Dunava Elementary School as a multi-functional center because there was no recreation center in the parish before but local community had Access to sports infrastructure. This Project served as a basis for another ELFLA Project as a result of which the school has revived and its further existence is connected not just with general education but also opportunities of adult education and versatile leisure time activities. It can be seen from the Project manager’s notes that local inhabitants have approved of the development of the Social Resource Center and other results of the Project activities.
The project implementation has promoted good cooperation between Dunava local inhabitants, regional administration staff and school and parish administration. The fact that the Chairman of the Council and the Executive Director participated in the most topical activities organized within the framework of the project is very remarkable.
Teachers, who developed programs, planned an assortment of materials to be purchased and conducted lessons have absolutely new experience. The administrating staff – the Project manager, accountant and the Center manager gained experience which increases their competitiveness in the labor market. They have better understanding of compliance with different laws and regulations, Project management, ability to achieve the desired results, providing the publicity for a Project; this list can be continued.
Summarizing the benefits of the Project it can be concluded that it took place at the right moment in the right place as the work started will go on and new ideas will appear which will provide for the sustainability of the Project. Already now there are some signs which are indicative of that. Improvement of local people’s self-esteem, new general and vocational skills, the beginnings of social network, improvement in mutual trust and communication – these are just a few aspects which can be noted as intangible benefits of the Project. Besides, cooperation with the SFL representatives and the seminars organized by them gave the Project team opportunities of getting new knowledge and experience, let us feel equal, not controlled or closely monitored from „the above”. The requirements of the SFL were well-grounded, reasonable and necessary.

The further plans after the end of the project:

– developing new projects and attracting funding for life-long learning;

– using the social resource center for expression of interest groups initiatives and trainings;

– joining together libraries and accommodating the premises of the Center implement the assumption that a library is an island of light which joins, informs and educates all possible groups of community;

– adult learning making use of volunteer work (supervisors of the classes are municipality employees); the first class on 4 November, 2010, the theme of it „From an Idea to Documentation”. Inhabitants of Dunava and other parishes will have an opportunity of learning how to generate their ideas, ways of their implementation and accountancy basis.

The Project implementation shows very clearly that every community has the potential for initiatives, personality development and mutual cooperation; it is just necessary to help the community to realize it.

Balvi Elementary School Project „A Lot of Hearts – One Land and Language”

Balvi Elementary School Project team

The aim of the Project was to develop integration and intercultural community center that:

– provides educational, culture, leisure time, social and other events;

– promotes tolerance by the means of informal communication and mutual respect;

– encourages formation of a democratic and open society;

– provides meaningful leisure time activities for interest groups, acquainting with Latvian and Russian cultures, their traditions in organizing events, cooking and making national folk costumes;

– promotes removing language barriers by teaching the Russian language to Latvians and the Latvian language to Russians.

In order to implement the Project it was necessary to improve the home economics classroom of 49,2 m2; purchase the necessary equipment for the wood processing shop; purchase modern equipment for learning languages; buy the necessary equipment for interest groups.
The Project team consists of experienced specialists from the municipality, the education board and the school. The municipality specialists solved the problems at the municipality level, teachers – in the school, but the specialists from the education board – in the establishment they represented. This kind of team is a very good combination for successful implementation of the Project.
We started the implementation of the Project by redecoration of the home economics classroom. At the same time we also initiated negotiations about making furniture for this classroom. During the negotiations two entrepreneurs simultaneously presented their offers and they managed to convince the Project team that their offers were the most advantageous. „Fagor”, Ltd. from Rēzekne was chosen. The representative of this company offered us delivery of raw materials and hardware for the needs of wood processing classes free of charge. As a result during the negotiations a three-sided cooperation agreement was signed within which the cooperation will continue after the end of the Project too. This cooperation is very important for the school and the municipality. So the necessary equipment and raw materials were bought for the home economics classroom.
Household classes for mothers and daughters, and grandmothers and granddaughters take place twice a week; each time they are attended by 12 to 14 participants. At the moment the participants are making a constituent part of a Russian national folk costume – sarafan#. In order to do the job as professionally as it is possible a Professional seamstress has been invited to participate at the classes. These garments are being made especially for the girls of folk dance group. During the classes also aprons are being embroidered which are another part of the folk costumes. Eight units have been made and embroidered so far. During the classes 30 pillows have been made for music classes in a pre-school group. The participants come to the interest classes from 6 to 8 p.m. Mothers and grandmothers are happy to help, teach, consult and work together with younger girls. The classes take place in a warm, light and cozy home economics classroom which has been redecorated within the Project framework.
A computer class was created and equipped with 11 new computers in the elementary school premises. The parish administration computer specialists were of great help in choosing the right computers. At the moment two interest groups are studying in the newly equipped class – „E-environment” and „Computer skills for Beginners”. The classes are led by an experienced teacher Rita Hrustaļova; they are well-attended. It has happened that there are more people interested in these studies than it is possible to accept in the groups. 40 lessons have been planned for computer studies within the Project framework. The teacher considers that it is too little to acquire computer skills from the very beginning. The classes are attended by adults who are very happy about the possibility.
The resources at the wood working shop were significantly expanded. We purchased a dust – particle hood, woodworking lathe, electric circular saw, electric jigsaws, grinder and other equipment. Wood working interest group classes take place in this shop; they are conducted by an enthusiast of his work Aldis Voits.
Within the Project framework a Russian language course is done too. Latvian schoolchildren from elementary school learn Russian there. The interest group leader is Svetlana Pavlovska. The classes are very interesting; it is evidenced by the increase in the number of participants – every time it increases by 2 or 3 participants. The classes show that Latvian children like the Russian language and they are willing to learn it. This depends on the teacher and the methods used when teaching a language.
Initially there were only three children in this group; now there are 16 people at the age from 8 to 17. The teacher Svetlana Pavlova stresses that the children like the classes very much, they want to learn more and more, are active and full of creative ideas. At the moment they are already able to read in Russian. They experienced a lot of fun and interesting situations while learning the Russian alphabet. While doing it children had to think of a dish to treat a friend the name of which starts on a particular letter.

Various games which make the study process interesting were used in it. Children
– travelled in the world of colors; getting to know the whole rainbow they drew colored things;
– spoke about themselves, about their school, music and hobbies in Russian;
– played „Guess who?” where they had to ask each other „yes” and „no” questions;
– competed who knew more words in Russian; the winners got prizes;
– put the names of participants in alphabetic order and studied men and women’s names.

The participants of this interest group are very diligent; they attend every class. Classes are held on Wednesdays from 3.50 to 5 p.m. Schoolchildren are very happy they are not given marks and do not have homework, so they can go to the classes with real pleasure.
Terēza Čudarkina, the teacher of the interest group „Latvian for Non-native Speakers” comments on the activities of the interest group: During the first class each participant received a file where he or she could later develop his portfolio. Participants will compile all the materials and work sheets they have received during the course. In order to promote cooperation and favorable atmosphere within the group during the first class both, me as a teacher and all the participants created our business cards.

My name is……………………………………..
I can be characterized by

We wrote our names on these and with the help of symbols tried to show our interests, hobbies and the things each of us likes most of all. After that we got to know each other telling the group mates about us. These cards are also useful for the teacher to remember the names of the participants.
Everybody received quotes on learning and languages in their files too. This material was later used in discussions about the significance of a language and the fact that one can study a language at any age. This discussion was very important because several parents had not been at school for a long time and it was very important for them to be able to get over the „barrier”, as well as the language barrier.
We also created an „idea map” on languages where we showed associations we had with a language. I use such „idea maps” to start a new topic. They help the participants to learn vocabulary and serve as „warm-ups” („ice-breakers”) to initiate successful study process and create favorable environment in the class.

Language

To promote understanding of mastering the Latvian language I have used the method of SWID analyses:

My Latvian

Strengths (+) Weaknesses (-)
Opportunities Threats

During the classes I make use of various brief or five-minute activities. The above mentioned „idea map” also belongs to these brief activities. It is useful to enrich the vocabulary, promote the ability to involve separate words in sentences and build a narrative. In order to enrich the vocabulary, improve the pronunciation and simply to relax during a class I make use of an activity called „Microphone”. We imagine that a felt-point pen is a microphone; it is passed from one student to another alongside with a special task. For example, the teacher asks a question „What did you do yesterday?” and passes the „microphone” to the first student. The student answers: „I watched TV”. The next student repeats the previous answer and tells the others what he or she did: „Ann watched TV, but I studied Latvian yesterday”. So the „microphone” is passed all around the class until it returns to the teacher.
Before starting the course I wrote a plan for the course and agreed upon it with the participants of the course at the first lesson. Questioning the participants I made out their needs in order to be able to plan the classes more successfully so that the participants could benefit the most from them. The participants are interested in developing conversational language and improving their writing skills. To achieve these goals I made use of the above mentioned activities, as well as lexical and grammatical exercises („complete the sentences”, „arrange the sentences and the text”, fill in the gaps”, etc.) and various questionnaires.
Difficulties arose because of the very different language level of the participants. That was the reason why I used discriminative exercises and individual approach. I was very pleased by the interest participants had in learning the language and their understanding of the necessity to study the language. So, well-planned classes and versatile exercises are the key to success in mutual respect and cooperation skills, as well as in eliminating the language barrier, when mastering the Latvian language.”
During the Project implementation Balvi Elementary School was transformed into a multi-functional resource center where improved free time opportunities and life-long learning activities for adults were provided in Balvi. We would like to thank the Soros Foundation – Latvia for that very much.

Working in the Parish and District Interest

Inga Leikuma, Izvalta Elementary School Project director

Since the 18th century Izvalta has been a culture and historic center. Local people who are the soul and pride of the parish have always been doing their best to bring their parish out into the open. It is under human control to make any place and anything heart and eye catching – or on the contrary create an impression of desertion and indifference.

2009 was a year of changes. The territorial reform had just been finished, funding for schools and interest education was cut down. A lot of questions and contemplations appeared; solutions were being looked for.

The Project application competition for the Soros Foundation – Latvia Initiative „Change Opportunities for Schools” was announced just in the right time for our school. A working group was organized. We can only look up to the people who, trying to make life more and more colorful and exciting with each moment, were into the Project with all their heart and soul.

We set a target for ourselves as to what we were going to promote within the Project framework; main target groups we were going to cooperate with; events and how we were going to arrange team work. Meeting our targets we managed to transform Izvalta Elementary School into a multi-functional education center.

The cooperation within our Project went on in several directions:

– with children, schoolchildren and young people;

– with adults, including retired people;

– with Krāslava State Gymnasium, Sauleskalns Primary School, Auleja Elementary School and Krāslava Elementary School;

– with Izvalta parish administration and Krāslava region deputies;

– with organizations on the territory of Izvalta.

So inhabitants of Izvalta were involved into improving their life quality, encouraged to cooperation and creating lasting values for themselves and the community.

To our minds, the cooperation with the parish administration is the main asset of the Project which, thanks to the Project was much quicker and more effective; we would like to mention the Soros Foundation – Latvia care about all the 53 projects – seminars, informative letters, Summer school and very responsive coordinators. When writing the Project application we thought that everything was clear about its implementation. But we must also confess that we did not have experience in working on a Project of so wide scope. But a person finds the new, chooses the best and implements it in practice exactly when doing things.

We advise:

– arrange the working group from real enthusiasts;

– at the beginning decide on everyone’s role or job, and evaluate the potential burden for every team member;

– provide for adequate costs for goods and services, checking the optimal pricing before;

-It must be taken into account that sometimes it is very advantageously to make use of municipal partners who already have signed agreements and give discounts;

– there can be one main educator or activity leader and his or her assistant; it would be more effective when working in groups;

– alternatives for unplanned cases must be foreseen;

– transport issues must be planned before – for participants and activity leaders;

– when planning improvements, the municipality must be consulted. Don’t make sole decisions;

– poll local inhabitants; find out their wishes and needs;

– state working hours taking into account possibilities of the particular interest group;

– content – original programs;

– draw in all groups of people;

– cooperate!

 

Our Project team discusses the current actions regularly; we listen to Project participants’ opinions, give consultations and help each other. Now, when so much has been achieved positive changes are going on; there are financial gains as well – the whole team understands the process and has suggestions for Izvalta further development through families, through the school and well-being of every particular parish inhabitant. Great part of local people got involved into working out and developing Izvalta future strategies: specialists from the municipality and local organizations, farmers and simply active people. Being engaged into the Project is an invaluable experience at work not only for the company good but also in the whole parish or district interest.

The role of the school increased in the parish in the spheres of culture, sport and education. Cooperation between organizations started. Our Project experience is that cooperation between community, parish administration and school must be developed within the region. We have understood that when planning representatives of various groups must work together. That way you can get the best! Working together life is getting better! Invite others to visit you! Don’t hold a candle under the bushel!

The work input and responsiveness of local people have justified the purpose. This year the municipality has granted a little funding to children’s interest groups in order to proceed with the work started.

Main cognitions we have learned during these activities:

– Organizing interest classes for children and young people in the afternoons and evenings is very important to avoid differences in the opportunities for rural and urban communities. It is a possibility for the so called „bus-station” children to get involved into various activities. Need for communication was the reason why we organized tea parties and chatting after the classes.

– Interest classes and further education for adults (parents, grandparents, and lonely people) gave them an opportunity to acquire necessary skills and abilities of working on a computer, communication in English; they had a possibility to learn different crafts. It was an opportunity to leave house, get to other people who long for knowledge and communication. All the groups developed like a kind of clubs.

– Before organizing an event we always sent information to neighboring schools, published it on the Internet or communicated it personally so that as many people as possible attended the event. It always paid. The events were attended not only by local people but visitors from the USA, guests from Denmark and others. The most attended event was Miķeļdiena celebration (Michaelmas) (approximately 400 visitors in two days). For a school with 72 students it was a great event.

– The main society cell is a family – it does not matter if it is big or small one. What matters is several generations united in one common event. All the concerts were nice: Easter, Mothers’ Day, Midsummer Festival and Michaelmas. The evaluation of relatives is very important for children; every child is the very best for his or her parents. Having rest together on an excursion, working together or cleaning at home – these are the ways how they can devote time to each other.

– Folklore and drama circles delighted Krāslava Town Festival guests.

– Within the framework of the Project two rooms have been redecorated. One of them has become a home for interest groups and circles, the other one has been arranged as a Monk’s Room – museum. This is because the school is situated in a building of a Jesuit monastery.

– We have bought fixed assets which were used during the Project implementation and will remain in our resources further on too.

– We have our own MEC logo and a charm Bee. A wonderful outfit has been made for her. It must be noted that since the first „flight” on 24 September this year the Bee has already twice been invited to different district events.

This Project encouraged, opened for cooperation and new ideas every single its participant – a child and a granny, a teacher and a municipality servant, a parent and a visitor to Izvalta. People now find time for being together even in everyday hurry – both small and big ones. If we had an opportunity to get a glimpse of the deepest corners of every person’s soul we could find and see so many amazing things there. Every person has a value. Some of them will stay in their place of birth and they will be the ones who build the parish image and the future. Joy picks up people above the commonness and fills up their souls.

The Project „Phoenix: Briežuciems Elementary School Rescue Mission”

Briežuciems Elementary School Project team

When starting the Project „Phoenix: Briežuciems Elementary School Rescue Mission” in January, 2010 we chose the following spheres of activities:

– Further education for adults (computer courses, English courses, educational lectures);

– Meaningful free time activities for schoolchildren, their parents and all the interested (cycle of classes „Raibās pupas” „Motley beans”);

– creating an „Information Bank” in order to make the internet and computers as a source of information and self-education easier accessible for all the local inhabitants;

– cognitive-creative summer school „Experiment 2010” – an opportunity to acquire new skills and spend free time meaningfully for 60 children at the age from 11 to 17.

While being actively involved in the implementation of the Project activities we have come to several conclusions and acquired enormous experience in Project implementation, in gradual transformation of a school into a multi-functional resource center; initiated cooperation between the school and the local municipality; investigated and estimated local resources and challenges for further increasing of the productivity.
Summarizing our experience for the experience collection of the Initiative we, the Project managers’ team chose three areas which will be analyzed and estimated with reference to the compliance between the original intentions with the real work done within the Project framework:

– Meaningful free time opportunities for schoolchildren and their parents;

– Development of the „Information Bank”;

– Project administration experience (we consider this to be a very essential area, taking into consideration wide range of our Project activities) and knowledge and skills acquired during the Project implementation. This is one of the most valuable gains although it has required unexpectedly much patience, persistence and skills to adapt to some unpredictable situations, which arouse during the whole project.

The Cycle of Educational Classes „Raibās pupas” for Children and Their Parents and the Cognitive – creative Summer School „Experiment 2010”
The intention – while organizing various activities provide for culture, sport and social needs of local people, especially children, youth and their parents, as well as the unemployed.
25 different classes have been organized within the Project framework; at least 200 people (from others regions as well) have been drawn into and activated during these classes. Organization of the classes did not cause any problems as it did not really differ from the basic function of a school – teaching and lesson planning. Lesson participants interviewed were also a hundred per cent satisfied with the choice of themes for these classes and their quality.
Organizing the summer camp was one of the biggest challenges for the Project team as it was the first time when classes were organized during the summer period. During the summer camp some practical tips for those who are only planning to organize this kind of camps sometime in the future, emerged:

– all the documentation on participants of the camp must be prepared until the start date of the camp as there are too many other formalities to be done later;

– one person must be nominated from the camp leaders who undertakes the role of the „caterer” – the raw materials stock, toilet paper, towels had to be supplemented; we regularly missed something for a class or another;

– Everybody must be in the mood for a lot of unpaid hours which have to be spent together with children (unplanned but asked for discotheque, night camping, excursions). Thus we may say that a summer camp is not a well paid job but a way of life which one can be taken to during one single camp. There are two summer camps already included into the next year plan for Briežuciems Elementary School (one for children under 11 and the other for young people from 18 to 23);

– vasaras nometnes neatņemama sastāvdaļa ir brīvprātīgie jaunieši, kuriem ir daudz vairāk drosmes un prasmju, nekā to bijām iedomājušies. Viņi bija vislielākie palīgi nometnes realizēšanā;

– neformālas mācību metodes ir lielisks veids skolēnu apmācībā, aktivizēšanā un saliedētības stiprināšanā.

The pleasant atmosphere, a great sense of unity and spirit of adventure that characterized the summer camp gave glory and happiness for the coming days not only to us but to children as well. Although we were worried before the camp the progress surpassed our expectations.

Creating an „Information Bank”
The intention was to arrange a special place in the school premises with Access to the Internet where everybody could acquire the latest information on job seeking and further education opportunities free of charge.
This idea which originally was meant only as a possibility to provide the Internet Access to the local people has also changed completely:

– local people use the Internet much more than we had planned – they check emails, do internet banking and make use of consultations given by our computer teacher for free (just an example from everyday life at the „Information Bank” – an elderly lady from the parish came to look for photos of a health resort in Turkey where her son with his family had gone for a holiday);

– The „Information Bank” is used as a place where advertisements (buy, sell, etc.) are placed; people use a decorative stove as a message board;

– The Internet is now used for lessons at school too, for example, great materials (audio visual) can be found on the internet for English classes. They are very important in learning a language;

– On October 28 the first distance learning lesson is going to take place in the „Information Bank” in our school. During the lesson young people will learn the basis of web page development and maintenance under the guidance of a SFL expert J. Baltacis. The lesson will be organized through Skype;

– the „Information Bank” has enriched ideologically and substantively its functions during the first year that from time to time sighs can be heard in this room – it has become too small for all the activities that are taking place in it.

The Project Administration
The intention was to do the Project documentation. But a lot of challenges and conclusions appeared during the Project implementation:

– The Project documentation and its flow in a peculiar quadrangle the school – the parish administration – the regional council – the Soros Foundation – Latvia demanded much more efforts than we had ever expected. Actually the documentation had to be reconciled in three places and, strange as it may seem, the most time consuming and therefore the most obstructive were the relationships „the school – the municipality”. However now we have acquired huge experience. We have started a dialogue with the municipality hoping that we will be estimated as a small but capable partner. Thanks to the Project we have gained recognition not only in our region but also on a much larger scale;

– we have acquired knowledge in writing various agreements and contract, drawing up acts of storage and depreciation of goods, preparing documents, procedures for submitting requests for municipal meetings, etc.;

– We have understood that we do not have to be ashamed to make use of one of the advantages a small parish has – free of charge consultations given by various specialists (a lawyer, an accountant, a member of a procurement commission, etc.).

The most essential conclusion is – we have become stronger, wiser and more able to see.

Live Your Life, Learn Your Life, or Promoting Lifelong Learning on Varakļāni Region Murmastiene Elementary School Project „Murmastiene – Our Home”

Tāle Greine, Project Director

Any schoolchildren learn a lot and acquire new knowledge at school. There can be no abilities without these skills. This is the way children learn for life.
It turns out that adults also learn for life, and they do it life-long. The skills acquired let them cope with difficult everyday situations in communication with others easier; help them to overcome indifference, apathy and melancholy in themselves. It is especially topical nowadays when unemployment, alcoholism and lack of intellectual values rule the society. So we learn something new every day, thus enriching ourselves and finding an opportunity to live creatively. What is a creative life like? First of all it involves joy for what we can, may and are allowed to experience. It is the feeling of comfort at being necessary to somebody. And what is most important – it is fulfillment of life and happiness.
Murmastiene Elementary School has been teaching schoolchildren for 45 years, but last seven years it has been educating their parents as well.  During this time we have organized „Little Parents’ University” the aim of which is to help parents. Our task is to coordinate the school and parents’ attitudes and interests, as well as strivings to provide personality development; promote improvement in schoolchildren’s socialization processes by achieving acquiring of existing social and cultural values, and social norms of behavior; raise the family teaching potential.
Why do we pay so much attention to educating parents? Each of us must learn to straighten out the past and the present, thinking of the future and form a dialogue with the time. We also must be able to create our new EU identity, correct our emotional experience and appropriate inner resources, self-update, build self-esteem and develop self-motivation skills.
As modern pedagogical experience shows, a lot of families face problems in bringing up their children due to various reasons. Limited living room (floor space) does not provide for an opportunity of simultaneous communication in everyday life thus limiting transferring experience to children. Adult family members spend more time at work and organizing everyday life than they used to do in previous decades therefore time of communication between parents and children decreases; children spend most of their time outside families.  Traditional methods in upbringing children have also been interrupted; uncritically assessed „modern” methods have taken up their place which can be characterized by one-sided or marginal tendencies. Parents apply contradictory methods simultaneously which creates additional problems only. Mutual estrangement is characteristic of modern society. It is especially characteristic in towns but these tendencies enter rural life as well. Therefore the school control becomes the only way of controlling children’s social behavior.
Parents have difficulties, but sometimes it is even impossible for them to find answers to a lot of their children’s questions. It brings about misunderstandings and mutual distrust in families. Problems in upbringing are caused also by parents’ pedagogical incompetence and adverse impact of separate features of character in communication with children. Non-supporting parenting approach can be manifested in setting excessive demands, in showing absolute indifference towards children or “blind” love towards them. Personal problems of parents are often solved on children’s account. Parents often try to realize their own unfulfilled dreams and illusions by sending their children to music, art or sports schools at any price. Educational failures are often connected with parents’ strivings to prolong their children’s childhood. As observed at Murmastiene Elementary School, educational failures can arise in those families where children of different gender from that expected are born. Girls’ toys are bought for boys; girls are forced to play with autos, etc. Sometimes parents are not sure of their educational abilities, they are afraid of their own social role. The younger the parents, the more incomplete their experience in educating children is. Very often parents experience exaggerated fear about the health or even life of their child. Children, who can “professionally” in detail describe the reasons and process of their illness etc., come from families like that. And finally – those parents who have underdeveloped parental instinct and feelings usually have education problems; they are mostly young parents who have not reached social maturity yet.
This is why it is so important to find an opportunity for parents to learn what can be useful for their children too, let them know children and young people’s behavioral disorders the reasons of which can be very often found in family education failures. Before the Project „change Opportunities for Schools” we searched financing for educating parents at local farmers and entrepreneurs. It was rather problematic as many of those addressed refused to participate in financing educating parents. Alongside with the beginning of the Project implementation, new opportunities opened for us. Now we have arranged activity system of „Little Parents’ University” at school. We are active in the following areas:

  • issuing leaflets four times per academic year (school administration);
  • thematic parents’ meetings twice per academic year (class teachers);
  • culture events during holidays together with schoolchildren (school administration);
  • „One Day Together with Parents” twice a year (class teachers);
  • parents’ day once a year (teachers);
  • excursions together with children twice a year (class teachers);
  • joint work once a year on Forest and Garden Day (school administration);
  • meetings – trainings with psychologists, lecturers, specialists;
  • individual meetings with subject teachers once a month;
  • individual consultations with a psychologist (at parents’ initiative).

Leaflets for parents. They give topical information on what is new at school in instructional and educational work, thanks to parents for their support and well-educated children, latest cognitions in pedagogies and psychology; there is also a page for reflection and brief news (about assessment, teaching materials, etc.). Leaflets are given to each family (this year children from 53 families study at school). Parents highly appreciate this information.
Thematic class parents’ meetings. Class teachers offer thematic meetings to parents where they discuss various education issues. The school has developed an instructional program, where career education is a part of it. At the meetings parents are reminded to pay proper attention to their children. Unfortunately these meetings are not very popular with parents. They support only those meetings where their children’s marks are discussed as they consider that the most important topic is traditional schooling. Class teachers write a special invitation to the meetings for every family, parents are served tea or coffee as conversations are more natural and parents can feel more welcomed and important.
Culture events during holidays together with schoolchildren. As we do not have a Culture house in our parish all the biggest events in the parish take place in the sports hallo f the school. Parents are invited to take part also at the events organized by the school. The school has been a culture and education center not only for schoolchildren but for their parents as well since the very beginnings. Concerts at Christmas, various exhibitions, Puppet theater performances, concerts given by amateur groups of neighboring parishes, a concert given by the Igauņi family. Those are just the most recent and the most attended events at the school. Schoolchildren’s concerts on Grandparents’ Day, Mother’s Day and at the event which is called „On the School Honor” are popular with local people.
It was exactly during the Project that we had an idea of organizing „One Day Together with Parents”. Schoolchildren themselves and their parents were happy to introduce this form of cooperation. It means visiting museums, meeting the elected executives and entrepreneurs of the new region and school leavers. Lessons are not organized in traditional way on these days. The event takes place in the parish library, local history room of the neighboring parish, vocational school, museum or somewhere else. Sometimes parents themselves conduct lessons – they exchange experience, make salad, decorations, etc. They learn together with their children. Such activities unite families.
Parents’ Day at school. Every year it takes place during the second semester. Parents get invitations – stickers in their children’s diaries. The presentation of the school activities is given on this day; there are exhibitions organized on this day where children’s work can be seen, parents and teachers’ work exhibitions are organized. Meetings take place both ways: for parents together with their children and parents alone. The meetings are always meant to be interesting for parents. We do not arrange open lessons any more, but parents are allowed and invited to visit lessons whenever they want (letting teachers know before). They are asked to analyze the Parents’ Day and put forward their suggestions as to organization of the future work. Mostly all the suggestions are very similar: „Go on like this!” „Thank you for the warm welcome. It was interesting.”
Excursions. As Murmastiene school is situated in 16 km from the regional center Varakļāni and 32 km from Madona it is not easy for us to make use of the town offers. Every year we organize at least four excursions. We always invite parents to come with us. This is very popular as many parents do not have an opportunity to go on excursions together with their children. Family trips are mostly connected with shopping or visiting some relatives. We attend exhibitions at Varakļāni and Madona Local History Museums; we try to combine visiting museums in Riga with circus shows or plays at theaters. And if the travelling expenses are covered by the Soros Foundation – Latvia, responsiveness is really remarkable. Last year we went on a very nice excursion around Latgale visiting metal artist Jānis Lubka and ceramist Pēteris Gailums.
Parents are thankful to the school for an opportunity to see something new, be together with their children and acquire knowledge which was not possible before.
Joint working on Forest and Garden Day. Thanks to this event the surroundings of our school are very tidy, blooming and attractive at any time of the year. We have planted an orchard, decorative shrubs, wintergreens, etc. It is mutual work parents together with children. Every parent considers it to be their responsibility to participate. Tasting soup, joy for the achievements, receiving a certificate „Nature Friend” attracts a large number of volunteers. It is a way of educating parents about nature protection and „green living” too.
Former school leavers and grandparents also take part in joint working. Schoolchildren enjoy this day as the atmosphere is really non-formal. And if the leader is one’s Mum or Dad, the joy becomes double.
Meetings – trainings with psychologists, lecturers, specialists. As there is no psychologist at the school we are offered only separate individual conversations with parents. It is very often not efficient. Parents long for coming together, spending time together as isolation creates indifference. We do not organize meetings for all the parents simultaneously. Conversations in small groups where we invite specialists to give talks are more efficient. Parents listen to Kaspars Bikše with great pleasure. The lecture delivered by the lecturer-mentor Anda Pēkšēna from folk school „Nameda” seemed too difficult for them. To my mind the lecture was well-considered and qualitative.
Now parents understand that schoolchildren have their responsibilities first and only then are their rights.
The children’s rights officer Līga Bērziņa, a healer Jānis Urtāns, probation center workers were very welcome and the conversations with them were very necessary. The parents’ judgments are very different. But what is most important – there are no indifferent participants.
Due to parents’ education the quality of educating children in a family is encouraged where the main attention is paid to the needs of children, the scope and content of restrictions, the style of educating children, the scope of requirements (responsibilities) toward a child in a family and at school.

And finally – thank you for accepting Murmastiene Elementary School Project! Although it was a lot of seemingly extra work, it was worth it. We are the winners! Our main asset is people – big or small.