For many years, the Center for Education and Socialization Jajce has been providing volunteer service to young people throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina. This time, young Iva Kosir from Široki Brijeg expressed her desire to do a one-year volunteer service in the Slovenian town of Kranj, where she works with children in the Montessori kindergarten in Kajžica. Read her experiences and expectations below:
-My name is Iva, I am 25 and I have been volunteering in Kranj for a month. The plan is to spend a year here. I come from Široki Brijeg. At the time, I am finishing my thesis and I hope to get my Psyhology degree very soon. For the last two years I have participated in Erasmus + internship programmes in Hungary and Austria.
After positive experiences, numerous friendships and unforgettable trips, I decided to explore if there was more the European Union has to offer to young people and were there any available projects. Slovenia was a random choice. In fact, the project itself took over me because both kindergarten and school were initiated and established by mothers who were trying to get something better for their children. After numerous researches of all offers I almost lost hope that I would find what suits me in the countries that responded. Then I read an advertisement that intrigued me.
I spend my volunteering days in Montessori school and kindergarten named Kajžica. Kajžica means a small and simple house, in one of Slovenian dialects. It is a place that does not feel like work and you do not feel supervised. We all behave and feel like home – so the name is totally justified. My colleagues welcomed me warmly and always make sure I feel welcome.
I have to admit that I was not very familiar with Montessori pedagogy. At college, I have heard about such an “unusual” way of education and its positive outcomes. I never did a lot of research about it, but now that I am a part of a project where I am surrounded by its methods every day, I must say that I am delighted. I am more and more interested in such way of education because I notice that children are more relaxed, more creative and they know how to express their feelings – which is very important. It seems to me that this way of upbringing does not shape their thinking in a manner of familiar molds, but it leaves space for development of an adventurous spirit, creativity and ability of making opinions and decisions in general.
The Montessori method was developed by Italian educator and general practitioner, Maria Montessori, more than 100 years ago. With this approach, children’s individuality is respected, the way of working is adjusted to their interests and possibilities. Materials used in work process are suitable for children and adjusted to their size, so they can easily carry materials, tables and chairs by themselves. They are divided into groups corresponding to different developmental stages, eg group of 3-6 years or the 6-9 years group (those are the ages I work with). Mixed age groups offer a larger scope of development of skills, competences and abilities. Children in such groups develop their emotional and social skills and have more interactions.
Volunteering in Kajžica includes working with children in English and occasionally helping in the kitchen. It is not difficult for me to work because the environment is quite interesting and reasonable.
Kranj is located on a cliff above the second largest canyon in Europe, formed by the rivers Sava and Kokra. It is probably known for its numerous factories. It was the fourth most developed industrial town in ex Yugoslavia. Today, there are fewer inhabitants than there were working places in the past. It is also the resting place of the late Slovenian poet Franc Prešern. You can always attend some cultural events in the town. One of the landmarks is the church of St. Kancijan with a 60-meter high belfry. It is located in the very center of the town and 15 times a day the bells rings one of the church or secular Slovenian melodies. It is also possible to see (if the weather is nice) the highest peaks of all three mountain ranges in Slovenia: Triglav peak, Grintovec peak and Stol peak. Although Kranj is a wonderful town, I have to say that every day is even more beautiful when I am surrounded by smiling children’s faces and their hugs, as well as by cheerful colleagues. It is great to be a part of this project and I am looking forward to the upcoming months.