Romanian project promotes global connection


Doug Mader

INNOVATION. The school in Romania is modeled here digitally, surrounded by a natural landscape. The modern style matches their initiatives in the classroom as well.

 Mr. Doug Mader has a new project on his hands-5000 miles away from SHS. Mader has partnered with educators Silvia Patrascu and Alina Cirja to build a school in an emerging Romanian city.

  Patrascu is the director of Colina Educational center in Cluj, Romania and Cirja is the director of a Finnish school in Bucharest.

 Mader was introduced to the project through Mr. Randall Lothrop’s brother. The initial idea was to build something resembling a Synnovation Lab, but it proved too difficult. Thankfully, the team formed a partnership with Cirja and found they could build a school with both Finnish and American components while respecting the Romanian curriculum.

  Cirja started her own school nine years ago, starting with five kids in kindergarten and adding grade level every year. Next year, she will add the ninth grade to begin her venture into high school.

  “If they get to learn what they are supposed to learn in [this] Romanian school they can have the self confidence that Sycamore students have and have the connection with nature that FInnish kids have. That’s pretty much what we’re trying to build. We have a lot of space in nature, which is usually uncommon for the city I live in, but we really want to bring this to the kids,” said Patrascu on her vision for the project.

  Construction of the new school is set to start in the upcoming months and the process of hiring teachers and recruiting parents and kids has begun. Following Cirja’s example, they will start small with a group of ten kids.

  The partnership with Mader and Sycamore is an attempt to modernize and revolutionize the Romanian system, which has remained essentially the same since its communist days.

     Cirja and Patrascu both hope to enhance the system by adding more personalized learning, cross-curricular activities, and creating an environment that “kids would feel loved in.”

  They envision the Romanian system changing, but they realize it will take time to gain trust from the community and its parents.  

   “ I tell people that we are dealing with the most important treasure that a family has, which is their child, so it’s normal that they need to be reassured that they’re okay and they’re doing well. So the partnering up with Sycamore, it meant a lot of proof that we are not just going because we woke up one morning and had a dream,  but we are saying that people are doing things differently around the world and to learn from them and see what’s important for our context,” said Cirja.

 Patrascu and Cirja look forward to the partnership with Sycamore. The final goal of the project is to build a global classroom where kids at elementary schools in the district can partner with Romanian kids on projects through virtual classrooms.

“Through this collaboration, I really believe that we will make a drastic and radical change in the Romanian educational system. In addition, we are going to have at least four classrooms in the United States and four classrooms in Romania that will be connected virtually, [where they] will read the same books, do the same projects, and collaborate through some type of virtual network, either Google Hangout, Zoom or Skype. This type of collaboration will only improve the way we do things and the way these schools in Romania do things, as well as have students in both places experience the entire world,” said Mader.

  Cirja and Patrascu remain very optimistic about the project.

   “It feels like [we] can get a new purpose for what can happen in the Romanian system. We’re actually going to pilot this, to document it, to get data, and see how people will react,” said Cirja.