Institute of Education

Research & Expertise to Make a Difference in Education & Beyond

'The Trip Helped Me Realize That My Projects Are Relevant Outside of Russia As Well'

May 12 is the deadline for this year’s Innovations in Education Competition (KIvO-2016), which has now taken place for three years in a row. The winner of the competition will receive a travel grant to study or try out a project anywhere in the world. The first year’s winner, Diana Kolesnikova, has returned from the U.S., where she studied how educational spaces and various other educational projects for children are set up.

Diana won the 2014 KIvO for her project My Story, initially called Hroom. The project aims to provide career counselling to students before they reach college. It teaches them about what the world will look like in the near future, as well as which skills and technologies will be in demand. My Story has held several camps for students from both public and private schools, and part of these camps featured meetings with representatives from various career fields, some of them quite unusual. For example, past participants include a videogame designer, a geneticist, and even a dolphin therapy specialist.

‘We want to talk to people for whom trends and technology are not just futuristic words, but things you encounter every day at work,’ notes My Story creator Diana Kolesnikova. ‘These are the things we’ll look at; we’re going to “touch” them and experiment,’ she adds

Diana decided to use the travel grant she received to travel to San Francisco Bay Area. She says one of the main objectives of the trip was to study the layout of the physical spaces where people can ‘communicate, create, experiment, and try new things.’ This concerns schools, co-working spaces, playgrounds, theme parks, hostels, ‘fablabs,’ and more.

The founder of the Brightworks School, Gever Tulley, decided to create a space where children can take things apart, break them, set them on fire – all without harming themselves

The trip allowed Diana to identify several directions in which these spaces and educational projects for children are going as a whole.

‘The first trend I saw is mobility,’ Diana comments. ‘All projects are becoming mobile, and there are even pop-up schools. There are more and more projects that are not located in just one place, but everywhere, or schools that periodically change their location,’ she adds.

Another trend can be described with the word transformational. ‘If you’re creating an educational space, it already has more than just one function. A museum is easy to transform into a school or an artists laboratory; a game room can become a cafeteria and a cafeteria – a gym,’ Diana says.

‘We also want to transform the My Story project into something that combines all the functions of a hostel, co-working space, and makerspace,’ she adds. ‘This might not be a static space, but instead a network of locations that periodically pop up and disappear.’

In the U.S., educational projects are sometimes housed in buildings provided by private companies or banks, with equipment being installed in areas on the first floor of their office buildings. In addition, we are seeing more and more examples of co-created or co-owned spaces. ‘It feels like the hippy movement is returning not to the streets, but to homes,’ Diana believes. ‘More and more young people are straying from the idea that they live in their own home. They all chip in and rent huge houses where they intentionally switch rooms from month to month. And when they go on vacation, they leave their room and let someone else stay there.’

Diana was particularly drawn to projects that allow children to be more hands-on. ‘3D printers in schools outside the city are not something new; this is becoming more like the norm,’ she says.

In addition, Diana noticed that curiosity and experimentation is encouraged as opposed to just free creativity. ‘My favourite example is the Brightworks School in San Francisco. It began when the founder, Gever Tulley, saw that his friends’ children were not allowed to do some of the things he enjoyed most as a child. So he decided to create a space where children can take things apart, break them, set them on fire – all without harming themselves. Tulley even wrote a book about it called Fifty Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do).’

Diana says that her trip to the U.S. provided her with ‘feedback on a global scale’ and convinced her that the projects she and her colleagues are carrying out are ‘relevant and interesting outside of Russia as well.’


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