When I was 9 years old my mum – an English Language Teacher was offered a position at a very extraordinary place – a school that was situated in the Siberian forest, 11 km from our town, with scenery very similar to a fairy tale – wooden houses, a study/dining- room/ hotel/ astronomy observatory building, large lake and breathtaking views of untouched nature.
Siberia, the vast region stretching across northern Asia, is known for its extreme climate, stunning landscapes, and unique cultural heritage. Here are some of the most amazing facts about Siberia:
- Size and Scope: Siberia covers an enormous land area of approximately 13.1 million square kilometers (5.1 million square miles), making it larger than any country in the world (excluding Russia itself). It accounts for around 77% of Russia’s total territory.
- Extreme Cold: Siberia is notorious for its extremely cold winters. The village of Oymyakon in eastern Siberia holds the record for the coldest inhabited place on Earth, with temperatures regularly dropping below -50 degrees Celsius (-58 degrees Fahrenheit).
- Lake Baikal: Located in southern Siberia, Lake Baikal is the world’s deepest lake, reaching a depth of 1,642 meters (5,387 feet). It is also the oldest and largest freshwater lake by volume and home to unique species found nowhere else on the planet.
- The Trans-Siberian Railway: The Trans-Siberian Railway is the longest railway line in the world, spanning approximately 9,289 kilometers (5,772 miles) and connecting Moscow with the Russian Far East, including Siberia. It is a breathtaking journey showcasing the diverse landscapes of the region.
- Taiga Forests: Siberia is predominantly covered by vast stretches of taiga, the world’s largest forested biome. The taiga is a dense evergreen forest that spans across Russia, Canada, and Scandinavia, functioning as a crucial global carbon sink.
- Indigenous Cultures: Siberia is home to numerous indigenous communities, representing a wide range of ethnic groups and cultures. These include the Nenets, Evenki, Yakuts, Buryats, and many more, each with their own distinct traditions, languages, and ways of life.
- Mammoths and Permafrost: Siberia’s permafrost, permanently frozen ground, has preserved numerous remarkable discoveries, including the remains of woolly mammoths and other ancient animals. These findings provide invaluable insights into Earth’s history and prehistoric life.
- Diamonds and Natural Resources: Siberia is rich in natural resources, including significant deposits of diamonds, coal, oil, natural gas, and various minerals. The region plays a vital role in Russia’s economy and resource extraction industries.
- The Altai Mountains: Located in southern Siberia, the Altai Mountains are a stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site known for their majestic peaks, glacial lakes, and rich biodiversity. They are a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and a place of cultural significance for the indigenous Altai people.
- The Silence of Siberia: Siberia’s vast expanses of untouched wilderness provide a unique feeling of solitude and tranquility. The region’s remoteness offers an opportunity to disconnect from the bustling world and immerse oneself in the pristine beauty of nature.
Siberia’s extraordinary size, harsh climate, remarkable natural wonders, and diverse cultures make it a captivating and awe-inspiring region worth exploring and appreciating.
This was a place where talented high school students from the Krasnoyarsk region gathered from small villages and towns to study and get a better start for their future. A year later Mum arranged for me to enter the special class they opened for younger children – I was 10. But since there was only one grade for younger students – 6th grade (they called it an “experimental” class) – mum placed me there. What parent could miss this opportunity for their child?! I jumped a grade, we studied some of the subjects together at home with my mum during our summer holidays. There were 7 of us to begin with, however, later, some of the parents pulled their children to go to the mainstream schools which left 4 of us (FOUR) in the classroom – two boys and two girls. Skipping all the stories of a tremendous amount of fun and adventures we had at this school I would like to move straight to telling the story of project-based learning experiences that were created and organized by my mum – our incredible and talented English teacher. She incorporated Web Educational Projects with schools around the world to teach her students not only the English language but also the Geography, Culture, Literature, Traditions, etc of nations around the world. A large number of teachers united in organizing projects. All projects were run through the Internet and telecommunications. There were several stages of the project:
1. Every participating classroom introduced themselves and talked a little bit about their country, location, and town, 2. Children gave a short introduction of themselves
3. The main part of the project.
The main part of a project depended on a theme. Once each classroom was asked to describe what they saw outside their window, another time we all made one long poem about Peace by adding one line to the poem at a time and passing it to the next participating class.
Once we participated in a project called “Cloth Dolls” to learn the traditions of different countries – Australia, the USA, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Finland, and Russia. The American students from Montana sent two cloth dolls to each participant. One doll was dressed in native Indian costume, and another doll was dressed by the receiving classroom and sent back to the American children. During this process, children exchanged information and photos about the country, culture, and traditions. In the end, a book was put together containing all the materials associated with the project and sent out to all the participating schools.
stayed overnight at school to observe planets and stars through a telescope. Another time we participated in a project with NASA – our names were recorded on a CD and launched to Mars (Unfortunately, it did not reach the planet, however, the experience of participating in this project was incredible).
This was a fascinating way for us – a group of Russian students from Siberia to learn about countries and cultures firsthand using technology and learning to communicate in a different language with children from the USA, England, Japan, Brazil, Spain, Africa, Australia and many other nations of the world. This opened our eyes and respect for diversity and taught us ways to collaborate. The amount of enthusiasm that inhabited my mum’s classroom was insane. No doubt, we had formal classes as well. My mum had such a wide range of resources from all over the world we barely ever used ordinary textbooks. We were learning from songs that arrived from 10 different countries or reading about NASA’s recent discoveries.
One of the fascinating parts of this whole experience was the people we got an opportunity to work with.
In the summertime, my Mum organized international student exchange programs with students we worked with during the year. They came with their teachers to stay with a student from our school and we did various educational hands-on activities, projects, learning, and fun discoveries. This was an extraordinary and out-of-this-world experience.
photo credit: Valentina S