From 22 February to 5 March 2021, Saint Elisabeth Convent's Ichthys school celebrated an exciting ten days dedicated to the humanities. The themes of this year's humanities days were beauty and joy. The students and teachers went on a breathtaking journey to find beauty in history and languages.
"We aimed to give the students a new, more meaningful perspective of language and literature. We encouraged them to look beyond the textbook grammar rule and see the beauty of their language and literature. We wanted to bring life and spirit to the core subjects of the school curriculum, help every student can discover and develop their inner beauty," explains the school's director, Nun Olga Abramovich.
“There is a lot of joy and beauty in humanities,” continues Nun Olga. “They teach us how to write, speak and think beautifully. They show us how to be respectful and considerate of one another. Respect for one another is also an expression of beauty. We can find beauty in other people, in what they say and do, in artwork and nature. Beauty is a way for God to reveal Himself to us."
Svetlana Shpakovskaya teaches Russian language and literature, and world art. She challenges her students to investigate and reflect on the meaning of beauty in art and their daily experiences. To her, beauty is elusive yet easily recognisable, and also mysterious and complex - just like life itself.
Svetlana explains, "This year, we tried out a new format – a literature lounge for students in grades 4 to 7.We used it to contemplate and discuss beauty in nature, people and art." The students read poetry pieces of their choice in Russian and Belarusian and staged episodes from Exupery's Little Prince. This story has these magical lines about beauty: "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye." "We encounter beauty every day of our lives, and I hope that the students will see more of it and realise that they live in a beautiful world," concludes Svetlana.
In the history section, the students took part in a quest journey to ancient times. The school library became Ancient Mesopotamia, and several classrooms were dedicated to the history of Ancient India, China and Egypt.
Students received their assignments on papyrus scrolls, boarded their time machines and went on their missions. They answered questions, looked for the artefacts to support their answers, and used a map to present their findings.
"We had a great time together, and it was a wonderful experience. The students were excited to roam across the classrooms and look for the artefacts. They had a great adventure. I was pleased to see them apply their knowledge successfully to answer questions. I saw that they knew a lot. As a teacher, I was very pleased," commented Svetlana.
Kristina Gordynets teaches Belarusian language and literature. She hoped to let her students experience the beauty of the Belarusian language and culture.
The students participated in multiple exciting activities. A team translation exercise was one of them. The participants were tasked with translating a text from Belarusian into Russian.
The text was titled 'The legends of old Minsk'."All of our students are from Minsk, and it was one of our intentions to make them more interested in its history. We also wanted to cement their friendships and come into contact with beauty and harmony," explains Kristina. "I think the activity was a great success. Not only did the students experience beauty, but they also lived it, and created it. We gave them a taste of their native language and showed them the beauty of their city. Hopefully, this will leave a trace in their hearts and was an enjoyable experience for them," she concludes.
Elena Shved, a primary school teacher, is convinced that going to school should be more than learning for her students – it should be a lived experience. To make the time spent at school more exciting and rewarding, she arranged for her students a stimulating team activity. Working in small groups, the students performed a variety of tasks and played word scramble. They collaborated and celebrated their success together, and in the process, they practised social skills and virtues such as perseverance, teamwork, ability to listen and respect others.
Each student became a part of a greater whole and a contributor to the success of their team. To them, it was a welcome opportunity to develop a sense of community and co-working present in any Christian community.
Reflecting on their participation in their school's humanities days, some students saw beauty in their families and parents, who loved them and were there for them when they needed them the most. To others, beauty was in making and playing music. All the students felt that they had developed a better eye for beauty in nature and landscape. Yet the most important lesson, as summarised by one of the students, was that all beauty comes from God.
The Saint Elisabeth Belarusian Orthodox Convent runs and maintains the Ichthys Christian Orthodox School. It has been active since 2015. The education offered to students is grounded in God’s truth and has great transformative power.