Stories Exchange Project Phase III: 2001-2002

8/18/01
THE STORIES EXCHANGE PROJECT IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC
Phase Three (2001-2002)
“The Stories Exchange Project is a way of getting people to talk about things that matter to them: things that are in their hearts and in their backgrounds.
People often see each other in settings where they speak abstractly. But the Stories Exchange Project gets them to speak personally. It crosses a lot of barriers.
We’re all a collection of experiences and things that have happened to us. Those are the things that matter the most, and if we share our pain or difficulty, if we can somehow reach across and get some other people to understand those things, then they will relate them to their own stories. And an incredible network of communication will develop: real communication, not just pretend.”
 – John Shattuck U.S. Ambassador Prague 28 November 2000
I. Introduction
The Stories Exchange Project grounds learning in personal experience and integrates electronic communication with real-time initiatives in ways that can help Czech schools achieve four goals designated by the Czech Ministry of Education in its February 2001 “White Book”:
 – to improve conditions for the education of national and ethnical minorities and aliens;
 – to prepare new educational and study programmes which will meet the demands of information and knowledge society, sustainable development, employability and needs of active participation in the life of democratic society in integrated Europe and at the same time respect individual differences and life conditions of those who are involved in education;
 – to promote the international mobility of students, youth and teachers and international co-operation in educational policy;
 – to support a change in the approach and performance of the teaching profession in all institutions of education by creating conditions for teachers’ career development, growth and stronger motivation towards personal development and teamwork.
The Stories Exchange Project combines the perennial need of human beings to tell each other stories with the most advanced medium of global communication. Based at two Czech-English Web-sites, the project enables majority and minority students, teachers, parents, school administrators, social workers, community organizers and representatives of local government to explore together their problems and successes in living and working with people of other cultures.
The Project
1. trains Czech and Romany students in problem-solving, discussion, and public presentation;
2. teaches Czech and Romany students to use the Internet;
3. introduces Czech students to the history and traditions of Romany and other minority cultures represented in the Czech Republic;
4. prepares Czech and Romany students to apply their problem-solving, verbal, and technical skills in helping create mutual respect and tolerance between majority and minority communities.
II. History
The first phase of the Stories Exchange Project in the Czech Republic ran from 1994 through 1997. Romany and Czech teams collected stories about interaction between majority and minority residents of Prague and Western Bohemia. These were presented in a theatrical performance at the Roxy Centre, Prague directed by the African-American playwright Robbie McCauley, and in a video documentary produced by the Fund for New Performance/ Video, New York, which initiated the Stories Exchange Project in cooperation with Nadace Tolerance, Prague. Funding came from the United States Information Agency, the Czech Ministry of Culture, and the Dutch Embassy in Prague.
Funded by the Information for Development Program of the World Bank, the second phase of the project began in December 1999. Thirty-five Czech and Romany participants based in Brno, Usti nad Labem, Ostrava, and Prague collected more than one hundred and fifty stories.
These were placed in Czech and English here at www.stories-exchange.org. This site permits users to respond to the stories with comments and their own stories. It also contains excerpts from the video documentary of the first phase of the project, and interviews with participants.
A second Czech-English Web-site, www.stories-exchange.ecn.cz is being developed as a discussion forum.
The second phase of collecting and discussing stories concluded in September 2000 with ARTS OF TOLERANCE: a series of international discussions, workshops, and performances organized by the project in Terezin, formerly a Nazi transport camp. Participants included: teachers, students, social workers, community organizers and Holocaust survivors from cities throughout the Czech Republic; Romany musicians from Brno and members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra; Monika Horakova, Member of the Czech Parliament; Petr Uhl, Czech Government Commissioner for Human Rights; Martin Palous, Deputy Foreign Minister of the Czech Republic; Nadia Constantini, Delegate of the European Community to the Czech Republic; John Shattuck, U.S. Ambassador; Kumar Vishwanathan, Director of the Romany Social Centre, Ostrava; Cenek Ruzicka, Director of the Romany Holocaust Association of Bohemia; Markus Pape, counsultant to the European Roma Rights Centre, Budapest; Christoph Leucht, Regional Foundation for Foreigner Issues, Berlin.
[Click on "History" in the navigation bar of this page for a five-part Review of Activities 2000-2001: this provides a more detailed and comprehensive account of the initiatives mentioned above.]
In December 2000 the Stories Exchange Project initiated pilot projects in Czech schools. These include the Gymnazium Jan Patocka, Prague, the School of Social Studies and the Business Academy, Usti nad Labem, and the Vranovska Street School, Brno. Students in these schools have used this primary Czech-English Stories Exchange Project Web-site to read, discuss, and respond individually to stories collected during the first and second phases of the project.
Stories Exchange Project curricular offerings are particularly useful in courses on language and literature, computer education, civics, and history.
The project has also initiated active cooperation with several partners in the Czech Republic and in other countries. The former include Nadace Nova Skola; Project Citizen, an initiative of SVOD, the Association for Civic Education and Democracy; the Drom Romany Centre, Brno; the United Nations Information Centre, Prague.
III. Plans for 2001-2002
During the school year 2001-2002 the Stories Exchange Project in the Czech Republic will:
1. involve more schools in the project; 2. complete and distribute a multimedia package to facilitate use of the project Web- sites in Czech schools [see Appendix I ];
3. organize discussions involving Czech and Romany students, teachers and parents; 4. hold after-school activities and weekend seminars involving representatives of minority communities and local politicians and business persons [see Appendix II]; 5. expand and develop the two Web-sites, both facilitating Czech and Romany students’ communication with their counterparts in other communities and other countries.
6. cooperate with partner projects both within the Czech Republic and in other countries; 7. expand the project outside Czech Republic.
IV. Czech partners
A. Nadace Nova Skola
Partnership with Nadace Nova Skola will provide many practical opportunities to use the Stories Exchange Project Web-pages and Web-guide/teaching manual to generate concrete responses in schools and communities throughout the country to the most pressing problems faced by minority residents of the Czech Republic.
1. Community Service Center Schools
Four Czech schools designated as community centers by Nova Skola will be used by the Stories Exchange Education Project during the first term of the 2001-2002 school year as platforms for public discussions and presentations of project Web-page materials and the Web-page guide and teaching manual. These sessions will involve parents and other community members in student activities and vice-versa.
Teachers at the Community Service School in Brno have agreed to cooperate with the project and the Drom Romany Centre in community-based programs animated by intensive use of both project Web pages and the Web-page guide/teaching manual.
2. Training sessions for Czech teachers and Romany assistant teachers
Nova Skola has become concerned by an apparent lack of sustained concern by Czech teachers for problems of Romany students – whom they expect to be totally supervised by Romany assistants, many trained by Nova Skola. The Stories Exchange Project is now devising strategies for bringing Czech teachers and Roman assistant teachers together during the 2001-2002 school year. A series of workshops and demonstrations of project methods will involve both groups in active use of the project Web-pages and Web-page guide/ teaching manual.
B. Project Citizen
The Stories Exchange Education Project coordinators for Prague, Usti nad Labem and Brno have initiated a cooperation with Project Citizen, an initiative of SVOD, the Association for Civic Education and Democracy, a Czech NGO.
As described by U.S. Ambassador John Shattuck in “You pull the levers of democracy” in the Being a Citizen menu on this Web-page, in Project Citizen Czech primary school students – some two thousand strong, in schools throughout the country – identify particular local community problems and try to help solve them. In partnership with the Stories Exchange Project, Project Citizen participants will promote use of both the project Web-pages, and provide stories and discussion materials for Internet presentations.
The partnership will also facilitate electronic pen-pal pairings of majority and minority students throughout the Czech Republic, in Germany, Northern Ireland, England and the U.S. Students involved will use this Web-site and www.stories-exchange.ecn.cz to initiate personal and institutional relationships that can, among many other things, facilitate adaptations of the Stories Exchange Project in other countries.
C. Drom Centre, Brno
The Stories Exchange Project has been working with Drom since 1999, and in mid-200 initiated an international cooperation with the U.K. [see section V below] focused on development of a studio for state-of the art electronic preservation and dissemination of Romany culture.
Drom currently provides an office for the Brno co-ordinator of the Stories Exchange Project, provides the premises for the project’s Brno summer youth sessions, and the project computer at Drom provides public Internet access.
D. United Nations Information Centre, Prague
In September 2000 stories from this Web-site will be part of a children’s photography exhibition accompanying the opening of the new U.N. Central Office in Prague. This exhibition will then travel around schools which helped create the exhibition.
V. International Partners
A. United States
John F. Kennedy Library and Foundation, Boston
John Shattuck, formerly Under Secretaryof State for Human Rights and U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic through the end of 2000, is a long-standing supporter of the Stories Exchange Project. He was also the strongest personal force behind Project Citizen in the Czech Republic. Now Chief Executive Officer of the John F. Kennedy Library and Foundation in Boston, Mr. Shattuck has invited the Stories Exchange Project to develop proposals for applying the work in cooperation with the Library.
One of the activities planned for the fall of 2001 is an electronic pen-pal program involving Czech and Romany students working in the Stories Exchange Project in Czech schools and majority and minority students in Boston.
B. United Kingdom
Directors and staff of Music Business Course Europe – a European Union-funded international network of training facilities organized by the Haringey Arts Centre, London, in conjunction with the Haringey Community Arts Programme and the Selby Refugee Centre – will shortly be visiting the Drom Romany Centre in Brno . The visit will initiate an accreditation process that will allow the recording studio/cultural preservation project developed by the Stories Exchange Project both to compete for European Union funding and to establish other European partnerships.
III. Germany
Following the participation in ARTS OF TOLERANCE (Terezin, September 2000) of its coordinator of Roma and Sinti programs RAA Berlin, the Regional Foundation for Foreigner Issues, has invited the Prague office of the Stories Exchange Education Project to assist in shaping a Berlin-based version of the Stories Exchange Project.
Appendix I
Czech-English Multimedia Package for Schools and Libraries
I. Components
A. Web-page guide/manual for teachers and students
A bilingual printed guide to the primary Stories Exchange Project Web-page and manual for teachers and students will include a generous selection of stories and other materials available in Czech and English at this Web-site.
B. CD
This will be supplemented with a CD containing Romany poems performed in Prague, Terezin, London and Vienna during the first two phases of the project and traditional music performed by Romany musicians from the Drom Centre and music by Jewish composers imprisoned in Terezin performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra during ARTS OF TOLERANCE in Terezin in September 2000, along with a supplementary performance by the Drom musicians and discussions with students at the Vranovksa Street School in Brno in November 2000.
C. Videotape
The third component of the package will be a video documentary of the second phase of the project in the Czech Republic.
II. Format and Use
The pages of the guide-manual will be presented in ring-binders, so that they can be regularly updated in supplemental packages.
The bilingual print/CD/videotape package will adapt the interactive structure of the project Web-pages. It will allow students and teachers to respond by conventional mail to the published stories with their own comments, stories, photos and drawings. These can in turn be posted on the Web-pages and included in future print, CD and videotape supplements.
Any single copy of this multimedia publication can be used by many persons at one time in discussions and exhibitions in computer labs, auditoria and other public spaces. The use of each package can also be coordinated with projections and multiple-computer installations providing access to the project Web-pages.
This multiple format will integrate conventional print-based education and use of information and communication technology.
III. Curricular applications
Presentations of the bilingual multimedia Web-page guide-manual can focus on several distinct curricular applications of both this site and www.stories-exchange.ecn.cz:
A. Language teachers can supplement any Web-page presentation in either Czech or English with use of individual pages of the guide- manual in English, Romany, or Czech which can be used by students either directly or by projection.
B. Computer instructors can use the dual-media low-tech presentation for exercises in using the Stories Exchange Project Web-pages and e-mail.
C. Civics and history teachers can use the package in parent-teacher-student discussions and other community-based applications of the project, including informal exhibitions similar to the stories cafe-tent organized by the project in Usti nad Labem [see "How ccan Roms have a white tent?" in the menu Being a Citizen under Stories and Responses at this site.]
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Appendix II
After-school and Weekend Programs
The Stories Exchange Project will form collective Czech-Romany student groups which will gather information and stories on particular topics during weekends. These weekend programs will help develop cross-cultural friendships and mutual respect.
In cooperation with local media (radio, TV) we will create reports for broadcast.
These programs will be modeled on our initiatives in Brno and Usti nad Labem during the summer of 2001. In cooperation with advertising and public relations and information technology firms in Brno during the summer of 2001 students involved in the Stories Exchange Project are taking part in regularly scheduled discussions of stories and other materials currently available at this Web-site. They will produce short presentations of their own work in story-gathering and musical instruction and performance for local and national radio broadcast.
A similar initiative in Usti nad Labem will focus on further activating the Stories Exchange Project computer installation provided by EDS, a corporate partner of the project, in the Central Library.
(This program in turn is building upon our experience in March 2001, when we introduced the Stories Exchange Project at the Central Library in Ustí nad Labem and the Municipal Library in Prague to young readers.)
These summer projects will give students practical skills in recording, editing and public presentation which can be further developed during the following school year.
Along with the two Stories Exchange Project video documentaries, the student audio presentations will also be excerpted on the project Web-pages and distributed with supplements to the project Web-page guide/teaching manual and will facilitate local fundraising for the project and associated initiatives.
The Brno radio project will develop presentations of stories from this Web-page and exchanges between musicians involved in the Drom recording studio project and students at the Vranovska School – which offers extended courses and specialization in music – documented in the second video documentary of the Stories Exchange Project.
Following a very successful presentation on 20 June on Radio Free Europe by students at the Gymnazium Jan Patocka in Prague of their work with the Stories Exchange Project Web pages, the student story-gathering group being formed in Usti nad Labem will develop the pilot Stories Exchange Project at the School of Social Studies in Usti and previous presentations of the project on the local affiliate of Czech Radio.

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