Hello from Chita, or more accurately, the KSK district about 12 km from the city center. I’ve taught several days now in the 3-week summer English program of the “City of Children” Child Development Center. Marie Nicholas of Minneapolis taught in this program last summer when they tried doing it as a camp, but on this third annual effort they’ve switched back to a day school in town. There are around 25 children divided into two classes by ability, maybe middle and advanced beginners, ages 7-13.
We begin at 9 with classroom activities. Breakfast, typically hot cereal or eggs and lemon tea, is at 10 at the neighborhood school about 100 yards away.
The school is staying open after the school year has ended with seniors’ exit exams and summer activities going on, and it looks like the cafeteria is serving other programs besides ours. Each day has followed a different plan, but lunch (soup, potato/kasha/pilaf with a protein and dessert) has typically been two and a half hours later and then the stretch to 4pm and the end of the school day.
Each day has a theme. The 3rd day was a field trip to an Italian restaurant in the city to learn to make pepperoni pizza, and the afternoon was spent learning and using words associated with that and cooking in general.
Today we go to the Chita Zoo and afterwards each student will prepare a short video discussing one of the animals they saw. Yesterday we read and translated the story Marie wrote as a gift for the school, “The Great Big Battle of Mr. Bits and the Inspector.” (It is very funny, and Marie told me it was based on fact. Now I want to know how fictional it is, because the story is crazy!) We’ll be illustrating it later.
I’m adding here a little video the children were willing to make for me to send to my mother on her birthday . It gives a taste of the wonderful energy here (should open in a new tab).
When I first was invited to City of Children in 2015 as guest distributor of diplomas, there was one location and it was four years old. Now, only two years later there are three. I’m teaching in the newest location, opened this June 1st. Besides English for children, there is daycare, dance, psychological help, an early development team and an art studio. The founder, Elena Prusakova, was an elementary school teacher who quit that to start this enterprise. She herself is in a degree program studying psychology.
The KSK district was created as part of Soviet central planning. The initials refer to an enormous textile mill that operated into the 1980s. In fact, my address in KSK is “Textile Workers Street”. Since the closing of the factories and across the difficult period of the 1990s right after the end of the Soviet Union, this district has had a hard time, and while still struggling, recent years have seen new construction and new life.