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Martina Bodnarova is tackling the challenges of the Slovakian education system in order to ignite a movement of cooperation, empathy, and creativity to spread beyond the classroom walls.
When children do not learn empathy, teamwork and do not acquire necessary emotional skills to master challenges and seek opportunities to grow, aggressive behavior, bullying and indifference are consequences that play out in the classroom and in their adult life. However, very few schools have developed effective mechanisms to prevent it, which inhibits children’s learning and development of emotional intelligence.
SuperClass today is the largest educational project in Slovakia run by a citizen sector organization as an educational activity accredited by Ministry of Education. Since the birth of SuperClass eight years ago, 25,000 kids have completed the program, there are more than 500 teachers involved and 300 classes participate each year. Pupils enjoy SuperClass for its fun, interactive, goal-oriented nature and opportunity to build new lasting friendships across schools and regions, teachers appreciate SuperClass for the clear support model for teaching empathy, creativity and teamwork and connecting them in a large network of like-minded peers, schools and municipalities value the community building aspect and significantly decreased rates of anti-social behavior in their realms. The SuperClass model today is also being replicated by the Slovak Diasporas in several countries worldwide as it has proven an excellent tool to maintain connection to the cultural roots and native language.
Martina’s endeavor is to intertwine teamwork, empathy and responsible leadership into appealing engagement opportunities available to children at every school. Inspired by the format of “American Idol” and the fascination it causes in the younger generation, she is gratifying the process of creating and performing theatre by school classes and is recruiting teachers to be the triggers of change united in a network of inspired teachers. Martina’s project SuperClass is a national festival for school classes which requires an entire class to work together on a particular relevant social topic for the whole year in order to work as a team, reflect on the topic and create their own theatre play which is later staged at the national festival. Children themselves lead each step of the production; the condition of full class participation often changes social interactions and dynamics of the class.
Martina is creating a world where children learn how to communicate without conflict, be empathetic, avoid stereotypes, develop joy from acquiring knowledge, and approach life creatively. Her plan is to deeply embed the approach and main principles of SuperClass in to the Slovak education system, replicate it across the European Union and develop a European network of national SuperClass festivals, all possible thanks to the simplicity of methodology and excitement the program evokes among pupils, teachers and municipalities.
A mother of three, Martina is particularly committed to creating a world for her children and all children that promotes empathy. Rooted in her own experiences as a mother, she recognizes that change must begin in the schools. Her son was regularly bullied in school, and despite Martina’s pressure, the teachers were never able to address the bullying in the classroom. Reinforced by her experiences during the revolution, Martina knew this transformation to free, creative, and active youth and school systems would involve a slow process of change in the way the young generation thinks and the teachers approach children.