By Michał Kozień
On August 22-25, 2018, I attended the international conference on Education for Excellence, Diversity, and Respect: Transformative 21st Century Innovations in Seattle with high expectations. As a representative of Korczakowo, a youth camp in Poland, I wanted to see what we could do better in our work with children, and how to gain more from Korczak’s legacy and other participants’ experiences. I got a lot more than that.
First of all, I was astonished by the atmosphere of the conference. I could sense that every participant was ready to act according to the Korczak’s quote: “You cannot leave the world as it is”. It was often clearly underlined that reading and discussing Korczak is not enough. There is a need to work with Korczak’s legacy, implementing his ideas in practice. I liked it, because we in Korczakowo think the same. Even though Korczak lived at the beginning of the previous century, his work is still very relevant in this time and age, and his legacy should be taken into consideration. The variety of perspectives on Korczak was really wide, thanks to which everybody could find something for him/herself. The only disadvantage I would point out is that there was not enough time for a discussion after the lectures, but it was easily overcompensated later in the lobby. Even though the conference was big, with so many participants, it was well organized.
Secondly, I would like to mention the people that I have met. Both, those who have worked with Korczak for the last 30 or 40 years, and those who did not know him before, but worked in his spirit. It was great to see that everyone was open to share their ideas and experiences, and more importantly, learn from one another. There were many discussions about Korczak, who he was and what he did, and how to use the Korczak’s Children’s Court in practice, or how to strengthen children’s self-government. We also talked about working with children during the entire year, not only during the summer. Furthermore, Korczakowo made a really good impression. Many people were interested in knowing more about the camp, and visiting it as well. I hope they will come to see how we work. It was a pleasure for me to pass their opinion to my colleagues, because it is always nice to know that other people consider what you do as meaningful.
Some of the discussions turned into more exact ideas and plans. During the conference, the idea of a Korczak International Camp was often brought up. This is something I feel particularly close to, and I believe that there would be a high need for this. Considering that there are many individuals from different backgrounds, cultures, religions, ethnicities, and so on, it is imperative that we are open-minded, respectful, and learn from one another. The fact that we are so different should be seen as positive, and we should strive for understanding, inclusion, and equality. It was inspiring to experience all these ideas of collaboration during the conference. For example, one of the first steps toward the international camp could potentially be sharing the staff/team and ideas with the Dutch camp “Nash Dom”, or helping to make other Korczak’s camps all over the world.
The conference was intellectually, and even physically demanding, since there was not much time for sleep. However, it was undoubtedly worth coming to Seattle, and I feel like I have grown personally, as well as professionally. The ideas and energy I brought home have already started to enhance Korczakowo, and hopefully the Korczak International Camp will become a reality soon!
To learn more about this wonderful camp, see the video below.
Notes from Mariola Strahlberg:
We now have a beautiful brochure in color of the Korczakowo Camp history and the Korczak’s inspired activities at the camp. If you would like to order a copy, please send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Korczak International Camp is great for Poland, but we also need to start thinking about having a Korczak Camp in the U.S. One such place could be the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Harriman Outdoor Center at 200 Breakneck Rd, Haverstraw, NY 10927. Let’s plan a Korczak Camp for a small group of students for the summer of 2019. If you are interested, please send email to email@example.com.