The initiative aimed to facilitate the integration of student communities from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and support teachers in facing the unprecedented challenge of providing students from Ukraine with comfortable learning conditions. We prepared and implemented activities dedicated both to students and teaching staff. Gifted Explorers was developed together with our social partner, the Digital Dialogue Association (Stowarzyszenie Cyfrowy Dialog), which specialises in popularising modern education.
Gifted Explorers for primary school pupils
Thousands of children from Ukraine joined the Polish education system following Russia's invasion in February 2022. It remains a principal challenge for schools in Poland. Ukrainian students, very often without a good proficiency in the Polish language, have to find their way not only in the new teaching system, but also in entering relationships with new classmates who speak a different language. Alongside the Digital Dialogue Association, Amazon met these challenges and created a unique educational programme that aimed to integrate students from Poland and Ukraine. The success of the Polish edition encouraged us to develop the programme further and create similar e-lessons for students from the Czech Republic and Slovakia and their Ukrainian classmates. As part of the project, we also prepared special worksheets to download. The bilingual cards are meant to help young people in learning basic phrases in Polish, Czech, Slovak, and Ukrainian, such as greetings, colours or numbers.
From May 2022 to January 2023, we conducted 40 Polish-Ukrainian e-lessons, that had a unique, bilingual form - one of the teachers addressed the children in Polish, and the other in Ukrainian. It was a very rare approach in the Polish education system. Thanks to bilingual teachers, each participant had a chance to fully understand the lessons, which was confirmed by the teachers in comments shared after the classes: “Thanks to these classes, Polish children became accustomed to the Ukrainian language, and children from Ukraine had an easy time understanding the lessons,” - said one of the teachers. Another added: “The children enjoyed the lessons very much. They had fun answering questions and solving engaging tasks. At home, they visited the websites mentioned by the educators.”
Interesting webinar topics, adjusted to the age of participants, were also some of the reasons why Gifted Explorers was enjoyed greatly amongst pupils and teachers. During classes, students learned about the secrets of the universe, virtually visited the capitals of Poland and Ukraine and talked about emotions. Over 100 classes from grades 1-3 and 4-6, from smaller and larger towns all over Poland, participated. And while more than 2,500 children took part in ‘live’ e-lessons on the day of the workshop’s release, all webinars were recorded and uploaded to our YouTube channel, where they are still eagerly viewed. We invite you to get to know Gifted Explorers by clicking on the following links. Watch the webinars for grades 1-3 here and watch the webinars for grades 4-6 here.
So far, the recordings have been played over 10,000 times, and the comments of participants speak for themselves!
· “The classes were a kind of therapy.”
· “Your discussions greatly expanded my horizons and knowledge about such a rich culture of Ukraine.”
· “I enjoyed the variety of activities - from art and sarcasm to war memes to sports and music.”
These are just some of the many words of appreciation we received after the lessons, which were conducted by excellent Polish-Ukrainian duo Julia Bulova and Mikołaj Pecheniuk. The educators emphasised the importance of bilingualism and how much it influenced the positive reception of classes:
“Conducting a series of Polish-Ukrainian lectures on STEM classes is very important for the integration of Ukrainian children who learn together with Polish children in Polish schools. (...) for me as a teacher, conducting this series of classes is an invaluable experience of cooperation with the European education system. Programmes such as Gifted Explorer help me improve my skills and competencies, and broaden my knowledge and ideas,” said Julia.
We would like to thank and congratulate Julia and Mikołaj for conducting such gripping workshops. In addition to excellent ratings and comments from participants, they were praised by the Polish Broad Alliance for Digital Skills committee and honoured by being included in the list of 100 meritorious people for the development of digital competencies in Poland in 2022 - congratulations!
A screen from a webinar about Einstein
Gifted Explorers was not only a programme with webinars for children but also an opportunity for teachers to develop and improve their competencies. Again, with the support of the Digital Dialogue Association, we created a programme where teachers could gain new skills and get certifications recognised by the Polish educational system.
The Ukrainian culture and language course took the form of a conversation between lecturers Maryna Kaftan and Jacek Staniszewski. Together, they prepared a series of ten meetings online, during which they discussed various issues, from the history and culture of Ukraine, such as Ukrainian holidays, to the most important dates in the country’s history.
The innovative, conversational formula of the classes was appreciated by over 200 teachers who participated in the webinars. “Very substantive cultural knowledge. I am very impressed. It will definitely be practical for me in my further activities,” wrote one educator.
Participation in online meetings allowed me to obtain the NODN (Non-Public Center for Teacher Training) certificate, recognised by the Ministry of Education and Science in Poland.
Over 200 people attended the meetings. Even more had a chance to watch the discussions on our YouTube channel.
Conversations between Maryna and Jacek are available here.
STEM course in Ukrainian for teachers
In addition to providing classes for the pupils and teachers from Poland, we made sure not to forget about their colleagues from Ukraine. Ukrainian teachers were able to take part in a unique online STEM, digital and media education course. Thanks to webinars conducted in Ukrainian, educators could learn how the STEM method can help in everyday work with students. They received tips on how to develop the digital and media competencies of their students so that they are safe online and also started their adventure with block programming (taught in training dedicated for children) and robots.
Both the topics and format of the classes, conducted by Mikołaj Pecheniuk, were enjoyed by teachers:
• “I liked everything, and I got confirmation that my work is going in the right direction.”
• “Lots of ideas, lots of inspiration. Thank you. We need to invite our head teacher to your meetings!”
The course was also recorded and saved on our YouTube channel. Classes conducted in Ukrainian are available for replay here.
These are not the only activities Amazon carried out to support refugees from Ukraine. Since the outbreak of war, we’ve provided financial donations and hundreds of thousands of products to local NGOs that have been helping refugees. In April and May 2022, as part of the Welcome to School campaign, we donated 3,600 backpacks for Ukrainian children who joined the Polish education system, often without basic school supplies. Additionally, as part of the Back to School campaign in August 2022, together with the Polish Red Cross, we prepared another 36,000 starter kits for students from Poland and Ukraine.
As part of our volunteering initiative, we cooperated with organisations from all over Poland. Employees from each of the country’s ten fulfilment centres could engage in volunteering and support local organisations helping refugees. The local initiative ‘We Help Ukraine’ received over 1,500 applications from staff willing to volunteer. The most common tasks included, among others, sorting and packing donations, separating parcels or helping to serve meals in canteens.