Marek Ostrowski
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Warsaw Education Triptych

Mirosław Sielatycki
Assistant manager of the Education Office
of the Capital City of Warsaw

Emotional introduction
to the Warsaw Education Triptych


Fall in love with Warsaw – this is the official promotion slogan of the city. To some this occurs naturally, others have to get to know Warsaw better if only because many inhabitants of the town were born elsewhere and tied their fates to it only after some time. Yet others know only their own district, and the other regions of the town are to them as if separate localities.

Although there are many elaborations about Warsaw, there are not too many among them that could easily be incorporated into the education system. This is why we are handing the Readers – Warsaw teachers and students – the first volume of a new didactic guide to our town – methodological materials of the Warsaw Education Triptych. There has been no publication like this in the schools of our capital city. This book describes Warsaw in an unconventional and modern manner, with the use of the interpreting reality mode, which is rarely employed in education. The use as of aerial and satellite images as a start point compels on the one hand a more synthetic view of one’s town and on the other a more open view. The use of image perception is in our times a comprehensible, effective and attractive mode for young people for describing and analyzing reality, in this case the life of their own town. The intention of the authorities of Warsaw is to organize Varsovian classes, classes about their own town in schools of the capital city (as a regular element of the didactic offer). These classes would correspond with the Varsovian lectures for students initiated in 2007 at Warsaw University. Such a program brings together the education, academic and urban domains (this too gives a specific Triptych, which can sculpt the careers of pupils: school-university-town as a space for life, research, rest, participation, creation).

The implementation of the project Warsaw Education Triptych would not have been possible without the initiative, knowledge and commitment of the creator and coordinator of the program – Dr Marek Ostrowski, a renowned researcher and popularizer of the Warsaw space (in its different dimensions – from physical to symbolic). The name of the education program and methodological guide accompanying it furthers the idea presented in the Warsaw Triptych – a 3 volume textbook in the form of an album (Wars’s Gaze, Sawa’s Visage and Generation based on the involving the interpretation of aerial and satellite photos of our town. The Warsaw Triptych has been recognized as the best Polish popular science book of 2007/2008. This publication, dedicated to Warsaw, was the basis for elaborating the didactic program Warsaw Education Triptych.

There are several reasons that justify the presence of the Warsaw Education Triptych in the schools of the capital.

First of all, this is a collection of teaching guides for classes focused on local, Warsaw education. The education programs in Polish schools are created for the entire country, their „local extensions” should arise regionally and locally, this being not that simple. The case of Warsaw, being the capital of Poland, is additionally atypical since in its case many things are presented in principle as nation-wide, symbolic for the entire country. This fact causes that sometimes it is more difficult to extract what is specific, characteristic, symbolic for our town, ale co jest more hidden – its local atmosphere, inner differentiation, district identities. In perceiving space this way one can descend to the level of housing settlement orientation points, meeting places for different generations, yards (from Praga to Natolin), „hot spots”, emotional havens and social desserts.

Second, Warsaw is to a considerable extent a town of new inhabitants, strangers, and migrants. In this connection there is a need for the elaboration and introduction of Warsaw education programs enabling better knowledge of one’s town, shaping Warsaw identity, encouraging getting involved in activities on behalf of the town. The authors of the teaching guides for lessons talk about different objects in the Warsaw space, both material and animated, they talk about phenomena and processes, show what we see every day and also that what we can see from a different perspective or with the use of specialized equipment. As a result, we can perceive not only the material „skin of the town”, but also its transient or hidden elements, such as warmth and shadows in the city, bird migrations, streams of traffic, mathematical codes, geometric symbolism, changing colors, as well as invisible from the Earth signs of history, indications of passage and portents of changes. Due to the fact that Warsaw was a completely destroyed town, rapid and large-scale changes are constantly occurring around us. Under our very eyes, Warsaw is (continuously) being formed; this is a chance for the town.

Third, The Triptych refers to a considerable extent to image transmission which is close to young people and makes use of most up-to-date image acquisition and processing technologies – the natural environment in which the young generation communicates. This makes the program friendlier and more attractive for students. We are not dealing here with passive, memorizing assimilation of knowledge but with inviting students to be self-reliant: own analyses and interpretations. The possibility of expanding the program through internet applications creates additional possibilities for its development. Empty urban spaces to be filled (with construction, life, symbols, meanings) invite own imaginary creations. It is also worth breaking away from the everyday „frog’s perspective” and look at the town „as the eagle flies”. We live in a town of constant choices which too, are one of its advantages. The virtual space of computer networks is a good place for autonomous organization In favor of the real space of the town.

Fourth, the program is an interdisciplinary one, the guide is not only a didactic subject aid for geography, history or any other subject, its use is possible for all subject lessons and extra-curricular classes. Teaching guides for classes equally relate to geography and history, as well as Polish, mathematics, the arts – that is subjects that seem to have little in common with messages flowing from an aerial image. Warsaw can be adequately described only in a comprehensive, interdisciplinary manner, and not by individual fields of knowledge. The town is an incredible melting pot, from a symbolic mixture of history and the present, to the diversity of its inhabitants and visitors (also those from the ends of the world). Motion, flows, change should be perceived here and not just the status quo.

Fifth, the program enables young people getting involved in the life of the town and to work for it. It refers to the students’ living, education or recreation environment, is more „hand on” for them. It becomes a specific urban educational game in which pupils moving within a space they know, try to get to know it better, interpret it and as a consequence, attempt to change it. The motto of the Triptych is contained in the triad „see – analyze – do”. We would like the education about the town to transform into action for the town, the social involvement of young Varsovians. The ideas of young people about their town can really change it once they become a larger „river of influence” on reality. There are over half a million pupils and students in Warsaw and most of them are voters. This young group has accumulated positive energy that will be the driving force of the town in the future.

The value of the publication lies in the fact that it was co-created by different authors – teachers, methodological advisers, students, self-government employees, scientists cooperating with the author of the project. In our view, this helped gain a multidimensional image. We count on the pupils of Warsaw, after getting acquainted with the book, becoming the next authors of teaching guides. Let that be the next „critical mass”, this time of young fiends and creators of their own town.

I wish everyone interesting classes, discoveries and projects.

Mirosław Sielatycki
Assistant manager of the Education Office
of the Capital City of Warsaw