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Religious education: Youth work programs
Methodology Research Center of Orthodox Pedagogy
Orthodox Youth Center

Methodology Research Center of Orthodox Pedagogy

In recent decades, the state in its desire to de-ideologize public life, but seeking to reserve the system of basic school education for itself, has actually resigned from the task to bring up the younger generation. Children or teenagers, however, cannot cease from being brought up, as they would simply find some other mentors for themselves. In the situation when a wave of mass culture has overwhelmed Russia, forming the cult of violence, sexual all-permissiveness, irresponsibility, indifference and social apathy, we witness an unprecedented rise in crime, homelessness, drug-addiction, alcoholism and retreat to totalitarian sects among children and teenagers.

The Russian Orthodox Church has at its disposal a very large network of Sunday schools throughout the country, which, being actually institutions for additional education, have involved dozens of thousands of children from the age of 4 to 13. In this area the Church has accumulated a considerable experience. However, the attendance of Sunday schools by 14-16 year-old teenagers is more an exception than a rule. This can be accounted for by the fact that the traditional forms and methods of educational work in Sunday schools, except for those used in art workshops, are unacceptable in fact in the work with teenagers of this age group who refuse to accept them. As a result, these teenagers are left out of the church system of additional education. They tend to become indifferent and apathetic and often leave the Church.

In search for ways out of the situation, the Church has blessed the establishment of a Methodology Research Center of Orthodox Pedagogy. It has set as one of its tasks to carry out educational and formational work with teenagers and to develop non-traditional methodologies of education. Being a non-commercial association of volunteers supported by donations, the Center is engaged in developing methods and forms of formation and spiritual guidance.

At present the Center is developing its work in the following areas:

  • Giving a work-out to pedagogical technologies, forms and methods of work with Orthodox schoolchildren in the area of children's additional education.
  • Developing individual educational and methodological aids for various Orthodox-oriented educational institutions.
  • Organizing sociological studies on the religious-moral, civil and patriotic education of schoolchildren.
  • Organizing cooperation with Orthodox public bodies engaged in pedagogical work.
  • Establishing networks for propagation of pedagogical information.
  • Organizational and managerial support of individual educational programs and the material and technical equipment of the Center.
Let us look into each of these directions in the work of the Center.

Developing pedagogical technologies, forms and methods of work with Orthodox schoolchildren. At present, it is the most intensive effort of the Center. The following activities have been adopted as priorities:

  • organizing issue rallies of Orthodox schoolchildren and students under the City of Kitezh program;
  • reviewing studies and conferences of schoolchildren and students from Orthodox educational institutions;
  • exploring possibilities for the project method in the work with Orthodox schoolchildren.
The purpose of issue rallies is to unite schoolchildren and teachers from Orthodox educational institutions, to work out forms and methods of educational and formational work with Orthodox teenagers, to train teenagers for independent work under projects and programs and for organizational work. In 1999-2000, the Center has held summer ten-day, autumn one-day and winter three-day issue rallies of schoolchildren from Orthodox educational institutions in Moscow. It is important to note that the City of Kitezh-Winter 2000 issue rally was organized basically by teenagers themselves, under the spiritual care of Rev. Maxim Pervozvansky and with only miner organizational support from adults. The planning of the winter rally was considered at a one-day gathering held in Autumn 1999. The winter rally itself was held from January 3 to 5, 2000, in Moscow. It was attended by forty 9-11 grade schoolchildren and ten teachers from Orthodox schools in Moscow and the Moscow region. The themes of the rally were as follows:
  • The Church on the threshold of the third millennium. Relations between the world and Orthodoxy in the next 10-15 years.
  • How an Orthodox young person can live in today's non-Orthodox world: Family, profession, state.
  • "The City of Kitezh" as a way of uniting Orthodox youth. Plans and prospects. Planning City of Kitezh winter rally.
Each theme was allocated a separate day, with the rally moving to a new place. The rally was opened at the New Monastery of the Saviour. In addition to issue meetings, an interesting cultural program was prepared there. The participants were introduced to the history of the monastery, visited its icon-painting workshop, wafer bakery, and the burial-vault of the Romanovs. In the evening, they saw a play after The Tsar Fyodor Ioannovich drama by A. Tolstoy.

The participants spent the second day at the Yasenevo Orthodox classical gymnasium. After a talk with the adults who shared their experience of family and professional life, they were divided into groups to discuss "Family", "Profession", and "State". The results of the discussion including conclusions and unsolved questions were reported to the issue meetings, which set up accents and offered ways of solving basic problems. In the evening a tea-party took place at which the two-day work was summed up in a preliminary way.

The third day was spent at the Academy of Slavic Culture (ASC). In the morning, the participants in the rally discussed the progress made under the City of Kitezh program of rallies. They observed that before the project started there were almost no contacts between Orthodox schools. Normally, much more attention is given to specific disciplines, while neither time nor energy is left for the problems of life and choice in life arising during the formation of a person. This situation only confirms the need to hold such activities as the City of Kitezh rallies. Such rallies, discussions and round-table conferences are also relevant because if in the past it was the Tradition that helped people to live and understood the Truth, nowadays, when traditions have survived in rather a meager condition, one has to fill in the gaps in understanding the Truth resulted from the historical developments of the last century.

In the afternoon, the participants were introduced to the Academy of the Slavic Culture. Several senior staff members explained the life of the Academy's preliminary classes, secondary school and higher education students, faculties and the areas in which the Academy works. The participants in the rally visited the Academy's chapel frescoed by students themselves, icon-painting workshop and small museum representing the Slavic way of life and culture.

The Citizens of Kitezh issue meeting discussed plans for the summer rally of Orthodox schoolchildren. The children and adults were divided into 8 groups of 4 or 5 people, each to prepare its own plan for the summer rally. When all the plans were heard out, it turned out that very many believed it necessary to conduct the rally in what tradition holds to have been the place of the City of Kitezh on Svetly Yar Lake. It was a surprise for all when the Academy proposed Novgorod as the place for the rally. On the whole, very many forms for the rally were proposed, including hikes to various places, Orthodox summer camps, etc. The final decision on the place, time and form of the rally is to be made by the Organizing Committee made up of members of the Methodology Research Center of Orthodox Pedagogy and all those participants in the previous rallies who want to contribute. The last day of the rally was concluded with a thanksgiving held in the Academy's chapel.

On the whole, the rally proved to be more productive than the summer one. Some teenager participants wrote reports in which they described their impressions in a fascinating detail and summed up the rally.

The second major direction in which the forms and methods of work with Orthodox schoolchildren are developed is reviewing studies and conferences of teenagers. This year, with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia and the support of Bishop Alexy of Orekhovo-Zuevo, a national review of studies and a conference of Orthodox schoolchildren are to be held under the motto "The Russia's Youth: Orthodoxy. Education. Science". They are organized by the Methodology Research Center, the Board of Orthodox Schools Directors and the Pleskovo boarding school. The primary aim of the review and the conference is to intensify the educational-practical and research work of Orthodox schoolchildren. This project is to be implemented in the two stages: a review of the studies made by schoolchildren and a conference to be held in September 2000. The nominations of the review and the conference are as follows:

  • Studies on humanitarian disciplines: catechism, history, archeology, ethnic studies, pedagogy, psychology, management, enterprise, economy, technology, law, linguistic studies on the Russian, Church Slavonic, Greek, English and Latin languages, literary criticism, arts, philosophy;
  • Studies on natural sciences: biology, chemistry, medicine, geography, mathematics, physics, astronomy, ecology.
The contest commission for the first review has received 15 studies. This is not much, of course. At the same time, the quality and depth of the studies promise the contest a great and exciting future. At present, the studies made by schoolchildren are reviewed by experts. To sum up the contest a conference will be held in the autumn to give the authors an opportunity to present their studies personally. Some participants will be invited to the event of the Center of Orthodox Pedagogy as a reward. They will be given certificates and valuable presents, though the children have already acquired the most important thing, which is new knowledge and skills for research work and ability to view things from the Orthodox perspective.

The work of senior schoolchildren to prepare and implement independent projects appears to be interesting and promising. Thus, senior schoolchildren from the Pleskovo boarding-school have prepared a entrepreneurial project called "The City of Kitezh Creative Center". The project proposes to carry out the following activities:

  • to organize for schoolchildren excursions and pilgrimages to historical places in Russia;
  • to participate in the preparation, publication and distribution of The City of Kitezh, a newspaper for teenagers;
  • to organize educational meetings and rallies under the City of Kitezh program in Moscow, the Moscow region and other parts of the Russian Federation;
  • to participate in the development of educational and methodological aids for the religious and moral formation and cultural and historical education of teenagers and youth.
In addition to these activities, with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia, the Methodology Research Center of Orthodox Pedagogy and students of the Yasenevo and Krylatskoye Orthodox gymnasia, the Pleskovo boarding-school and the Constantine Bogorodsky Gymnasium in Noginsk have prepared and started to implement the project called "Orthodox Youth Newspaper". They have already published the first two issues.

Through participating in the project, many teenagers have joined the really practical work to design and implement various new resources or to use the available resources in a new, non-traditional, way. Properly speaking, it is entrepreneurial work, which has been given special attention since December 1999. The first practical results have already been achieved in this preparation for entrepreneurial activity.

Thus, Alexander Oblog, a 9-grader from the Pleskovo boarding-school, working under the Excursion and Pilgrimage Center project, designed and carried out an excursion to the New Monastery of the Saviour for all the participants of the City of Kitezh Winter-2000 rally.

A group of children from the Pleskovo boarding-school succeeded in preparing and conducting the City of Kitezh Winter-2000 rally of Orthodox youth. The rally had to be transferred from a place near Moscow to Moscow proper on a short notice, but the children managed to change its format in good time, to change the whole program of the rally and to conduct it on a high substantial and organizational level. Interestingly, the pattern of preparing and conducting the rally carried out by the children allowed to attract the necessary funds, which was about 7000 rubles, and to make the event cost efficient. Moreover, from the entrepreneurial point of view, the rally proved to be highly profitable. Indeed, the teenagers profited by acquiring new knowledge, expertise, organizational skills, designing abilities and new resources for realizing entrepreneurial initiatives in the forms of new business contacts and the awareness that with God's help they can work out and implement rather complex projects on their own. It is important to note that all the works to prepare and conduct the rally were carried out according to the design developed by the children on their own.

The Orthodox Kitezh-Grad newspaper for youth, another result of the entrepreneurial training of schoolchildren undertaken by the Pleskovo boarding-school, has already gained popularity in and outside Moscow. Four issues have come out in about 6 thousand copies. The newspaper is cost-effective. Adults still help the children to prepare and publish it. They participate in the making-up and proofreading. The editor-in-chief is also an adult, Rev. Maxim Pervozvansky. It is understandable because the circulation of the newspapers is rather large; it is distributed throughout the country, and it has been blessed by Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia himself, and the responsibility therefore is too great for children.

All the above-mentioned projects are carried out at present on a regular basis. They have been adjusted technologically and can be translated to other educational institutions and other territories of the Russian Federation. We are ready to share our small experience in doing this job with others.

Summing up the experiment in the entrepreneurial training of schoolchildren from Orthodox-oriented educational institutions, it can be concluded that it has been highly effective. Even in the experimental stage when the organizers had more questions than answers to the question how of this should be carried in specialized educational institutions, the Center did more than it was normally achieved in the work with secular schools. We believe it to be especially significant that financial stimuli were not used to encourage teenagers. At the same time, all their entrepreneurial projects are socially significant and cost-effective, if measured not by ruble but by other, really entrepreneurial indications of profitability.

It is desirable, in our opinion, to make a broader use of the experience of children's additional education and to develop the practice of training Orthodox teenagers for the preparation and realization of entrepreneurial projects of social significance as a form social service. It is worth examining the possibility and desirability for groups of Orthodox students to participate in either the Moscow students' contest of entrepreneurial projects or to organize an independent contest for the Orthodox schoolchildren and students.

The development of individual educational and methodological aids for Orthodox-oriented educational institution. The aims of this work are as follows:

  • to provide additional educational and methodological aids for the Orthodox pedagogical community, especially those on catechism and additional education;
  • to promote the formation of creative teams of specialists in various academic disciplines, capable of developing curricula, educational and methodological aids and textbooks.
At present the Center's experts are analyzing programs used in various educational institutions to give religious instruction. A creative group led by Rev. Maxim Pervozvansky is engaged in preparing for print an educational aid on this subject for preliminary school. A copy-book on Church Slavonic compiled by Ye. V. Makarov has been published and distributed in 3000 copies.

The Center has also published an educational and methodological aid for raising the level of teachers' skill in training teenagers for economic and entrepreneurial activity, which takes into account the Russian cultural, historical and ethnic-confessional peculiarities.

The examination of the actual state of Orthodox education in Russia is another major thrust in the work of the Center. Here the Center has set itself the following tasks:

  • to analyze the state of the Orthodox education and teaching of particular subjects;
  • to study the attitude of the youth to religion;
  • to survey the public opinion on various aspects of Orthodox education;
  • to prepare recommendations for educational workers.
The workers and activists of the Center of Orthodox Pedagogy have undertaken two sociological surveys on "Vocational school students' attitude to religion". The first one was carried out in May 1999 among the participants in the vocational shift at the Rising Labour Generation state-run center of healthcare and education at the Sukko settlement near Krasnodar. In the second survey they questioned Orthodox teenagers who participated in the City of Kitezh-99 summer camp.

The sociological surveys undertaken are of preliminary nature. At the same time, the data obtained have helped to become aware of the need to prepare and conduct an analysis of the state of the religious and ethical education of the Russian youth.

Cooperation with Orthodox pedagogical public bodies. Among the concrete results of the work in this area is the active participation of the Center in the Conference on "The 21st Century the Era of Spiritual Enlightenment" which was held by the Heirs of Alexander Nevsky society in October 1999. The Center also managed to take part in the national reflection-action conference on "Additional education for children in Russia: Problems and prospects of development in the 21st century", which took place in November 1999. Among the speakers at the conference were Rev. Sergiy Rybakov and Rev. Maxim Pervosvansky. They managed to give Orthodox sounding to a number of problems discussed.

The Center has become member of the initiative group for a Union of Orthodox Educators, in which its workers are responsible for the theme of developing additional forms of children's education.

To establish a network for propagating information about the development of Orthodox pedagogy the Center has worked in the following directions:

  • publishing Orthodox Youth Newspaper and Orthodox Pedagogy newsletter;
  • providing the Center with e-mail and access to the Internet;
  • participating in major national conferences, seminars, workshops and in the work of the Board of Directors of Orthodox Educational Institutions.
The organizational and managerial support for individual educational programs and the material and technical equipment of the Center. The Center seeks to give all possible assistance in the development and implementation of individual educational programs of work with Orthodox teenagers. Thus, during this Bright Week the Center, led by S. V. Kharlov, held a festival of school drama teams under the motto "Invitation from the City of Kitezh".

As far as the material and technical equipment of the Center is concerned, the minimal conditions necessary for work have been created. With the blessing of Bishop Alexy of Orekhovo-Zuevo, the Center has been given room at the New Monastery of the Saviour. A modern computer with the necessary software has been installed to prepare publications, to create databases and to establish and maintain electronic contacts.

Though the Center has no formal legal status, it has worked actively for a year and a half now. At present it is engaged in implementing educational programs and, through the intercession of St. Sergius of Radonezh, the patron saint of all teachers and students, has made the first modest progress. The work of the Center has been rewarded with a letter of thanks from the Federation of the Independent Trade Unions in Russia.

The Center plans to develop in 2000-2001 the following new activities:

  • a large-scale research in the practice of teaching religion, history and biology at Orthodox educational institutions in Moscow and other regions in Russia;
  • systematization of the experience gained and preparation of curricula and programs, educational and methodological aids and methodological recommendations for teachers on teaching the above-mentioned subjects;
  • participation in the 2001 Christmas Readings;
  • registration of The City of Kitezh newspaper and Orthodox Pedagogy newsletter with the state;
  • preparation and conduct of the summer rally of Orthodox schoolchildren in Kenozerye, Anapa, etc., and other exciting tasks.
In a longer-term perspective, in developing its work in the above-mentioned areas, the Center plans to fulfill, God wills, the following tasks in the next five years:
  • to obtain the necessary legal registration and accreditation and to establish standing courses for training and re-training Orthodox educators in various aspects of today's pedagogical science and practice;
  • to support the foundation of and give academic and methodological support to several centers, including an Orthodox youth cultural center, an Orthodox entrepreneurial training center, etc.
  • to form the Center's network in regions and dioceses;
  • to create and maintain an Orthodox Pedagogy site in the Internet.
The Methodology Research Center of Orthodox Pedagogy is a young and dynamically developing structure. We ask for your prayers and invite all those who wish to participate in the implementation of our programs to join us.

Our whereabouts:

Address: Novospassky monastery, Krestyanskaya Square 10, Moscow, Proletarskaya or Krestyanskaya Zastava metro stations.
Tel: (095) 276-6921 (Spiritual director: Father Maxim Pervozvansky; Executive: Alexander I. Paramonov; Executive secretary: Yelena K. Paramonova; Kitezh-Grad publishing editor: Natalia V. Zyryanova)
Tel./Fax: (095) 219-8008 (A. Paramonov and Ye. Paramonova; from 18.00 to 21.00).

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Orthodox Youth Center

Society in which we live is characterized by a high degree of social and psychological instability. In this situation, grounds would always appear for such negative social developments as crime, moral degradation, drug-addiction and alcoholism. The devaluation of cultural values, uncertainty, the inability of part of the population to cope actively with hardships of life - this is, unfortunately, the typical picture of Russian society today. Standing out against this background are teenagers and youth with their special psychological and spiritual vulnerability.

In this complex situation, it is very important that all those who wish to help in any way to young people who just begin independent life should try to join their efforts.

One of possible methods of work with youth may be borrowed from the experience gained in the city of Podolsk near Moscow.

This spring, an Orthodox Youth Center has been organized in Podolsk. Lying in the basis of its work is the principle of close cooperation between the city administration and the Podolsk deanery. Organizationally, the Center is one of the structures of the city's Youth Committee, and its program is carried out in two major areas.

The first area is the participation of the Center's workers in the youth events held by the city administration. For instance, when the Youth Committee organized a festival devoted the Bimillennium of the Nativity of Christ, the Center's workers participated in almost all the events of the festival. Or another example, there is a hotline run by the Youth Committee to give psychological counsel to teenagers and youth. Under this project, an Orthodox priest keeps vigil once a week, which the hotline invariably mentions in its advertisement, and anyone can call and talk to the priest about his or her problems and receive advice about church life.

Another major task is to get the city administration involved in the events held by the Orthodox Youth Center. For instance, the city administration covered a considerable part of expenditures for the Orthodox summer camp organized at one of the churches of the Podolsk deanery. Besides, the Center has arranged regular pilgrimages and excursions for schoolchildren and students in Podolsk. The Youth Committee has assisted in organizing these activities by providing transport, equipment, advertising, etc.

It is early of course to speak today of any serious success achieved by the Orthodox Youth Center in Podolsk, as it has existed for only a few months. One would like to hope, however, that its work would become in the future a kind of link between the full church life and our society still far as it is today from appreciating Christian values.

Rev. Yevgeny Gening
Secretary
Committee for Youth Work
Moscow Diocese

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