NEWCOMB - Newcomb Central School was invaded last week in the best possible sense of the word. The school and community were host to a group of educators from Russia who were visiting the United States as part of the Open World program.
The Open World program is sponsored by the open World Leadership Center and administered by the Academy for Educational Development. They aim to foster global understanding of education in various countries all over the world.
While living with host families in Newcomb, educators met with teachers and students in local schools including Newcomb, Johnsburg and Minerva. They took part in roundtable discussions regarding the mutual problems and issues involved in both education systems as well as the commonalities between the two.
"Our goal is to build a bridge between the two countries through education," said facilitator Evgeniya Leonovitvh.
Local students had the opportunity to interact with the educators and ask their questions regarding an education system from across the world. Students were very interested in the length of the school days and vacations, sports opportunities and what Russian students read, according to Leonovitvh. "We have experienced that students everywhere are the same regardless of race, language or citizenship," said Olga Kravchuk. "They are the same in spirit and heart."
Newcomb Central School Superintendent, Skip Hults, commented on the benefits for both countries of exploring new educational systems.
"Seeing the difference between a completely federalized education system and the localized ones that we have here was eye-opening," he said. "We were very surprised by the variation."
Students and teachers alike at Newcomb were surprised by both the stark differences and the similarities between the two countries, such as similar geographies. The biggest surprise, according to Hults, for many was the absence of budgets in the Russian system.
"Money is such a big deal here and it's not even a part of their system," he said.
Hults also appreciated the opportunity for local students to have a first-hand opportunity to experience pieces of the Russian culture.
"I am a child of the Cold War and I think many of the stereotypes of that time are still present in the United States," said Hults. "We met Russian citizens with warm hearts who are always smiling, this week."
This is the second year that Newcomb has hosted a group of Russian educators through Open World and Newcomb officlas anticipate a growing relationship. Teachers and students in Newcomb are still in contact with last year's group.
The educators spent one week in Newcomb and were also exposed to other cultural events in the region. They were thankful for their hosts families and their meals provided by the Newcomb Lions Club and Methodist Church.
"These communities are great and we wish we could have stayed longer," said Elena Razenho.
For more information on the Open World program, visit www.openworld.gov.