Renovation of Kamenyuki General Education Environmental School and landscaping of the area, 2008 - 2009

Events, facts, documents and evidence: There is a general-education school with advanced instruction in environmental subjects in the village of Kamenyuki, the administrative center of Belovezhskaya Pushcha. Built in the mid-1960s, the school consists of two buildings: one for junior, and one for middle and senior, grades. The general economic situation in the country in the post-Soviet period took its toll on the school. The buildings had long been in need of an overhaul. The roof was leaky, the windows and doors were in need of replacing, and so on. The adjacent area, too, could use some landscaping.

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(September 15, 2009)

First, we will show you the appearance of the school prior to the renovation and landscaping efforts, then, after the work was completed.

Below: Pupils are lined up in the schoolyard on the first and last days of the academic year.

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(1 - September 1, 2004; 2 - September 1, 2006; 3 - May 26, 2006)

Below: The building on the left is for junior grades, and the building on the right is for middle and senior grades. The latter currently houses a nursery school, a music school, and a tourism and local history center transferred from the village of Dmitrovichi in the fall of 2008. The centers original building was converted to a hostel.

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(July 18, 2004)

The so-called thick jungle filled with the bright colors of the fall covered the central alley that led the children to the school building. The alley on the other side of the building looked somewhat less colorful.

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(October 19, 2005; Photographs from the school archives)

Prior to 2004, the school grounds were covered with trees and hedge-like shrub. There were few flowers in the schoolyard, although the abundance of flowers in the school garden made up for that. The management has attempted to lend some variety to the landscape by adding flower beds. They chose a somewhat bizarre style in doing so.

The pictures below show the new flower beds arranged around a miniature pile of stones in 2004.

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(July 18, 2004)

These car tire flower beds appeared in several places.

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(July 18, 2004)

Plastic containers like these were installed in some places.

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(July 18, 2004)

Something resembling miniature piles of stones was placed here and there.

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(July 18, 2004)

There used to be a corner of little area of wildlife behind the school - a small birch and aspen grove, home to mushrooms, rare grasses, and an overgrown little pond with crucians and frogs in it.

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(the pond behind the school as photographed on April 12, 2006)

The plan of preparations for the 600th anniversary of Belovezhskaya Pushcha's nature protection provided for an overhaul of the school in 2008-2009.

The pictures below show the renovated school buildings and the surrounding area.

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(1 - September 15,2009; 2 and 3 - August 29, 2009)

Pictures 1 and 2 show the renovated bright facade of the junior school building, and pictures 3, 4, 5 and 6, the middle and senior school building.

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(September 15, 2009)

The back of the building looks apparently much less impressive

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(September 16, 2009)

This is the summer house for preschoolers.

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(September 15, 2009)

These are the sports grounds, athletic track and athletic field.

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(15 2009)

Below: Autumn flowers in bloom on the central flower bed in the schoolyard.
(Allow for seasonal change when comparing these pictures of the flower bed with those placed above. The photographs above were made two months earlier when the flowers were still young.)

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(September 15, 2009)

A view of the schoolyard in front of the senior school building from a second-floor window.

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(September 16, 2009)

The central entrance, fence and recently built gate.

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(September 15, 2009)

Besides the change in architecture, the school underwent some change in landscape as well. Some trees were cut down and some, made shorter. All the shrub that grew in front of the school buildings and along the pedestrian walks was cleared (see left picture, 1). The hedges, low-cut, remained only on the sides and at the back of the school (see right picture, 2).

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(September 16, 2009)

Whereas before the school yard allowed plenty of space for biodiversity, such as trampling-resistant herbaceous flowering plants and insects living on these, now almost the entire area of the schoolyard is "shaved" with a lawn mower. This will gradually result in a floristically monotonous lawn, something that we, however, are used to seeing.

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(A freshly mowed lawn on September 16, 2009)

This is the schoolyard with some elements of Belarusian heritage.

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(September 15, 2009)

Flowers share the nice-looking school garden with vegetables grown for the school cafeteria.

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(September 16, 2009)

It is understood that the students's efforts go a long way toward keeping the area as tidy as it is.

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(September 15, 2009)

These pictures show an area of wilderness, a birch grove with thick bush and motley grass, still preserved today.

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(1 - fly agaric; 2 - helleborine, September 16, 2009)

The overgrown small pond, home to various water life species, is being preserved nearby.

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(September 16, 2009)

This wildlife area used to be somewhat larger. A miniature water body, a ditch overgrown with willow shrub, home to frogs and their tadpoles, bordered on the area. Large asps, birches, young oaks and other trees grew nearby. As the school's shooting gallery was shut down, part of the ditch was filled with sand, the trees were sawed down, and the area was bulldozed. Some of the remaining trees dried up, while a lot of young asp and oak growth appeared on the spots spared by the bulldozer.

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(The remnants of the ditch on September 16, 2009)
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(The area of the former shooting gallery can be seen on the left, and the wildlife area, on the right, September 16, 2009)
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(A large birch, damaged and dried up, September 16, 2009)
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(Nature is healing wounds inflicted by man, September 16, 2009)

Inside, the school looks humble, despite its "environmental" status. As for the pot plants inside, little has changed over the last three years.

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(1 - lobby, 2 - staff room, 3 - the area between the staff room and the principal's office; November 15, 2007)

The interiors, the furniture and the decoration of the classrooms, however, have undergone visible positive change. Left: (1) - biology room. Right: (2) - corridor in front of the front door.

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(September 16, 2009)

Below, we provide examples of other schools, some of these without an environmental status, for the purpose comparison.

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(The exotic greenhouse in Domzheritsy School, Berezinsky Biosphere Reserve, 2007)
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(A collection of orchids and other exotic plants in a Braslav school, Braslav Lakes National Park, 2007)
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(A pet's corner: aquariums and budgerigars in the Braslav school, Braslav Lakes National Park, 2007)
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(Environmental information boards in the Braslav school, Braslav Lakes National Park, 2007)
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(A school environmental museum in Smorgon, 2009)

Below: the 2008 graduates in their schoolyard.

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(June 6, 2008)

Thus, the condition of the school and the surrounding area has, on the whole, noticeably, and in some cases, drastically, improved as a result of the renovation and landscaping efforts.

Finally, we just wish for a similarly drastic reform and improvement in environmental education and management, so that local students and teachers' newly acquired skills and knowledge in environment and preservation of the biodiversity in, and protection of, Belovezhskaya Pushcha, finally meet current criteria and the Kamenyuki school's honorary environmental status.

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PS. The editors of BP 21st Century would like to thank the school administration for the five photographs from the school archives and their help in obtaining information for this page.