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Home > Projects > Russian Sampler > 1995 Program

Students Sample Russian Culture

March 27 was a special day for the Central Maine seventh and eighth graders who found their way to Colby College for the third annual Russian Sampler Day. This day was sponsored by Colby's Department of German and Russian and the Kotlas Connection. It was organized by Andrei Strukov, a Russian instructor at Colby, and Mary Coombs, a member of our executive committee and a teacher at Winslow Junior High School.

Over 180 students from schools in Farmington, Winslow, Waterville, Whitefield, Winthrop, Farmingdale, Hartland, Corinna, Newport, Augusta, China, and Vassalboro participated in the wide variety of activities offered. Thanks to David and Patricia Hanson, each student was given a nametag with his or her name in Russian.

Planning for this day had been underway for several months. Area teachers received the initial invitation in December and readings and workshop descriptions in February. Students chose eight workshops from over thirty topics. The idea was to encourage diversity and promote learning about a different culture, to open doors as we become part of a global society.

Alexander Shubin, a school principal from a Kotlas suburb, was the featured speaker at the opening session. He talked about his first meeting with Americans in the late 1970's and his discovery that "they were just like us". Indeed, that's what Russian Sampler is all about—the discovery that no matter where we live on this earth, we are very much alike!

Students then proceeded to their scheduled sessions. Each attended four of the sixty or so sessions offered. Workshop topics included cooking, folk dancing, history, sports, storytelling, language, painting on wood, making clay animals, birch bark art, Ukrainian egg painting, traveling in Russia, the Russian mafia, pen pals, Kotlas, children, music, and Project Harmony, which arranges student and teacher exchanges. Many of the workshops were offered more than once.

Photographers Dennis Marrotte and Carol-Lynn Rössel Waugh ran several sessions to share slides and photographs from their many trips to Russia. An exhibit of pictures by Marrotte of Russian children is currently circulating among area schools.

Another workshop was a panel discussion with Maria Yusakova, a Syktyvkar exchange student now at U.M.F., and several students from Bates College. They shared their knowledge of Russian language and customs.

The final event of the day was a half hour concert for all the students by eight members of the Maine Balalaikas, a Gardiner-based ensemble that plays Russian folk songs on balalaikas, domras, and other traditional instruments.

If evaluations are any indication of success, the day went very well indeed! Who knows what will happen next year? Someday our pen pals may be able to hook up "online via the 'Net". Then the world will truly become a smaller place!

by Mary Coombs

(Note: This article was orginally published in the Kotlas Connection's Spring 1995 newsletter.)